Q. My face looked like a dry glazed donut for eight years, until I read your column about using milk of magnesia on the face and scalp. My dermatologist had been treating my scalp but I got nowhere. Both problems disappeared after one application of MoM.

A. Milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide aka MoM) has been used for more than a century as an oral laxative. More recently we have heard from readers that if this chalky liquid is applied to underarms it acts as a deodorant.

Someone else told us that topical applications of milk of magnesia on the face while showering could be effective for flakes. Another reader shared her success story: “ I tried the milk of magnesia on my daughter's terrible seborrhea after using countless remedies and prescription shampoos, and it has made a real difference. We were already using Lotrimin and Nizoral shampoo (prescription strength). MoM has really helped and it is inexpensive. Hurray!”

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  1. Anonymous

    For the individual who’s intrigued about creating a balance between MOM and H2O, substituting the H2O with a few drops of “Real Lemon” juice creates the perfect balance. The lemon juice acts as an oil inhibitor to balance the oil and shine associated with oily skin. I hope this helps.

  2. ASAN

    Great forum. For those who have rosecia, use MOM or a soaked bath cloth, in warm water, to remove dead flaky skin from the infected area. Then apply Castor oil, found at some local stores like CVS, with a q-tip directly on the affected area. I do this before bed once a week to control my symptoms. Apply daily if you have worse conditions. MOM helps relieve the affected area of dry dead skin, while Castor oil is an anti-inflammatory.

  3. trj

    My husband has been suffering from Seborrheic Dermatitis for about 10 years now. He has it severely on his scalp and two huge spots on his legs. He has tried everything from the pharmacy. He has gone to the doctor who put him on steroid cremes and specific shampoos with tar (the same thing from the pharmacy) but none of it helped. After reading about Milk of Magnesia, he applied it to his scalp “heavily”, and to the places on his legs.
    He puts it on and lets it completely dry for about an hour and then showers. After the first day, he said his head didn’t itch at all. There wasn’t much crusty scabs either. After using it the second night and applying it the same way, he said he just feels so much better. It isn’t healed yet after just 2 treatments, but a lot of the redness from his legs is gone and he doesn’t have any crusty, flaky stuff on his head.
    This is a really big deal! His flakiness was so extreme, that when he would wake up in the mornings, his pillowcase would be covered in flakes. This is not an exaggeration! The couch where he sat at night would have flakes on the back of it where he reclined. Now, nothing! The flakes are gone! Hallelujah!
    This stuff really works. He just coats his entire scalp in the MoM and lets it dry before taking a shower. Tremendous results! I have rosacea on my face. I am going to try it to see if it can work on me too. I will reply if it does. But once again! It does indeed work on Seberrheic Dermatitis…

  4. N.H.

    My daughter has had seborrheic dermatitis for years. The dandruff and the sores around her hairline were terrible, and none of the shampoos really helped. Then we read about using milk of magnesia. I apply it to her scalp using a medicine syringe (the kind used for “injecting” liquid medicine into a child’s mouth). The first time, I repeatedly parted her dry hair and covered every inch of scalp with MOM (no need to get it on the hair), then shampooed and conditioned as usual. It worked! Now I just comb through her hair looking for any trouble spots and just treat those. A tremendous, lifestyle-changing difference.

  5. TWR

    I’ve been reading a lot about MOM on websites like this one and thought I’d give it a try. I have VERY OILY skin, and the closest thing I’ve found to hide the shine is Proactiv’s mattifying gel. That stuff works great for hiding the shine, but it doesn’t keep the oil from producing and it becomes oily again within the first hour. I applied some MOM last night and did notice that it kept my face from shining for longer than usual, but it was like having chalk all over my face… I read today that some people dilute with water to thin it out so it doesn’t leave the visible residue behind. I did that just now and it did work, but now it’s too thin to hide the shine.. AHHH
    I don’t wear make up, I’m using MOM to mattify only.
    Has anyone found the right balance between MOM and water to make a good mattifyer that won’t be visible when dry and will keep shine away?

  6. rjs

    My wife heard about MoM and suggested it for the light but persistent roseacea on my face, something I’ve dealt with for about six years. In the shower, I splashed some on, and it left a not unpleasant chalky residue on my skin. The results were immediate. The roseacea is just gone with smooth, supple, non-itchy skin left behind. Prior to this, the best luck I’ve had is with hydrocortisone cream. Apparently magnesium has got some kind of calming property.

  7. GBC

    I’ve read that magnesium calms nerves and can help with insomnia; also that there are topical products that allow transdermal absorption of Mg. How about if I just rub some MOM on my skin? I intend to try it.

  8. sab

    As a result of one of your readers using MoM for keratosis I too have started to use it. It stopped the itching and though I have not been using it that long I am enthused. I wonder though how long it takes and what the results are initially when using this “medication” I have been applying it at night. Before this I have heard of chemical peels and wonder whether the same occurs with use of MoM?

  9. Sonetto

    I used MOM on my scalp (I have seborrheic dermatitis caused by overactive oil glands, not infection) after catching a hint about it in the Graedon column. In the shower I simply poured it on my hair after wetting it, left it until I finished showering, then rinsed my hair & used Selsun Blue to take out the MOM that was left. I applied shampoo a 2nd time & rinsed. My hair was very manageable using the 2nd application of shampoo. Layers of dried oil that I had been unable to eliminate started coming off. Out went the steroid oily mess prescribed by my dermatologist. I am down to my real scalp. My hair is fine & I find that MOM gives it more texture.
    Then on a whim because I have some oily areas on my skin, I tried it on my face, arms & hands with amazing results. My skin looks firmer & has become lighter. Leaving a little bit of MOM on my skin seems to protect it from dryness–previously I had to use moisturizer, but not now. I’ve had no bad effects at all & now it’s just routine to brush a little powder over the thin layer of MOM, then add blush. Amazing. Tip — dollar stores sell MOM for much less than drug or grocery stores.
    Shampoo has to be used after MOM–otherwise when it dries it feels sort of like straw. It doesn’t substitute for shampoo, & helps, in my opinion, only with removal of oil from the scalp. Scalp will cease to itch after using MOM several times because you probably, like me, may have a build-up of dried oil on your scalp. I discovered that the itching is actually from dried oil pulling on hair at the roots–not something my doctor told me, but that I found out from experience.

  10. njk

    After being in intensive care for several weeks, a friend developed a bed sore which was not healing. His nurse told him to use MOM and a heat lamp on the sore when he got home. The nurse said that they used to use this remedy all the time in the hospital and that it was very effective. He did this and the bed sore healed within a week.

  11. jm

    For roseacea, the answer is yes, yes, yes. After my only cleanser was discontinued, I begged the manufacturer to help me to no avail. It was the ONLY thing that had not caused a flareup. I then remembered a famous model talking about milk of magnesia. I washed with it, using a soft cotton ball, let it set and then rinsed with cool water, followed by putting ice in bottled water into a bowl. I have not had a problem since. However, I have had to give up all makeups and eye mascara. Anyone out there have a suggestion? I have tried them all from Clinique to Prescriptives and nothing works.

  12. Sandra Macmillan

    I decided to try MOM for my face. I had a facial in January, but since then, I’ve been using Milk of Magnesia and a cleanser with retinol. After I put the MOM on my face, I can feel it taking off some of my dry skin. Ever since I started using it, I haven’t had the “glazed donut” face any more.

  13. pd

    I would like to know if Milk of Magnesia helps rosacea?

  14. JPG

    Has anyone had success using MOM for eczema? Someone told me to apply it directly on the skin.

  15. PAT

    I have a condition called seborrheic keritosis. I have little oval patches on the back of my hands, top of my feet and legs. The ones exposed to sun get brown and look similar to raised age spots. After bathing I can rub dead skin off these patches.
    I used milk of magnesia this week and have had amazing results. The spots on my hands are 90% gone and the ones on my feet are 75% gone after 4 days. I used a little ten cent sponge brush from the hardware store to paint the liquid on, just like I would with calamine for poison ivy. I do it twice a day and cover the feet with socks.

  16. Ria Sedberry

    Since hearing it on your radio program, I have used Milk of Magnesia as a deodorant and it works. Also used brack pepper to stop bleeding when I cut myself in the kitchen and put white glue on a steam burn. I love your program.

  17. LGF

    If you have oily skin, MoM works great to keep the shininess from coming out. I put a thin layer on before I go to bed, and it seems to help for a few days. If you have extremely oily skin, ladies you can put a thin film right under your foundation.

  18. terry

    The way I apply MOM for dandruff on my head and in my beard is: I use it full strength, I get my head and face wet, and then rub it into my beard and hair, making sure it gets down to my scalp/face. Then I leave it there as I wash the rest of my body 5 mins or so. Then I rinse and shampoo my hair and wash my face. I was thinking about mixing it 50/50 with a shampoo but haven’t tried that yet.

  19. PW

    Has anyone used MOM on rosacea? What are the results?

  20. ew

    I also would like to know how to use the MoM on the scalp. My hair felt like straw after using it too.

  21. Bill

    I too have seborrhea with no good results from OTC or prescriptions. How is MoM applied, how long on, before, during or after shampoo? I am a big fan of your column. Keep the info coming!

  22. gh

    I too have had dandruff for years on my head and on my face in my beard and eyebrows. I tried everything, all the medicaded shampoos, etc. Then I tried MOM–wow, what a difference. The flakes and dry scalp went right away after the 1st week. I use it about 2 or 3 times a week before I shampoo. I can now wear a dark shirt and not worry.

  23. CLM

    Can any one give me an idea of how to use the Milk of Magnesia on my scalp? I put it on yesterday and my hair felt like straw. I rinsed it out and used cream rinse and it still felt dry. Today I put it on and used shampoo and conditioner, it felt better. My scalp still itches.

  24. JF

    Article did not give specifics on applying it to the scalp–how long it should stay on, how often, etc.

  25. JB

    I too have Seborrea, and use medication and shampoos. Do you suggest using Milk of Magneisa as a shampoo?
    thanks, JB

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