two bottles of Milk of Magnesia (MoM) laxative

In September of 2007 we first heard from a reader that a common laxative, milk of magnesia (also known as MoM), could be good for the face and scalp if someone suffered from the skin condition known as seborrheic dermatitis. This is sometimes described as super dandruff. It can also cause red, scaly, flaky and itchy skin on the face. Dermatologists don’t really know what causes it but they suspect it is a reaction to a yeast infection (fungus) of the skin.

Some months later we heard from someone that MoM could also be helpful against acne. Although a dermatologist took us to task for such a silly remedy, we did find a letter from Randy Sigal published in the Archives of Dermatology (June, 1975) titled “Milk of Magnesia Treatment for Acne.”

Since then we have heard form lots of folks that MoM is amazingly effective, safe and inexpensive. The most recent message came in the other day and we just had to share it, with you. We welcome your experiences with MoM and your comments about these reports.

Joe & Terry (The People’s Pharmacy)

I have been using milk of magnesia (MoM) for some weeks now. It is a miracle worker. I would probably have saved my face from cystic acne scars if I would have known about this some months ago. I put it on any pimples before I go to bed after I wash with my regular cleanser.

I spot treat usually. I apply it several times a day if I am home. I also use it under my makeup. Hopefully my face will fully clear to the point where I wont have to wear makeup anymore. It also seems to work in exfoliating/fading acne scars. My face is about 98 percent clear.

S. P.
Jan. 7, 2010

Regarding Milk of Magnesia as an acne remedy. I read about this a couple of weeks ago in the paper. I am a 44-year old woman who has had acne (regular and cystic) since I was a teenager.

I took Retin-A when I was 18. It helped but did not clear it completely and you were correct about the side effects: depression, sensitivity to sun, redness in the face, cracked skin.

My skin actually got better when I took birth control pills, but when I quit taking them, the acne resumed. I and my son (age 12) tried the Milk of Magnesia after reading the article. We are having excellent results – not completely clear but really helping.

It seems to slough off the skin and remove the redness. I have tried everything: Proactive, Retin A, Cleocin-T. etc. I have also taken countless antibiotics to no avail. I enjoyed your response to the scoffing doctor. He needs to have an open mind if he really cares about and wants to help his patients with acne. Thank you so much for your column.

IL, Gilbert, AZ

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 milk of magnesia 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.


Please add your own comment or experience below in our comment section.

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  1. d.s.

    I think the problem with odour was that you were using anti-perspirant and not deodorant. Anti-perspirant only controls wetness/perspiration. It is deodorant that takes care of the smell. You could use a combined deodorant / anti-perspirant, but most any anti-perspirant seems to have aluminum in it. Aluminum is quickly becoming an element that people are being warned to keep away from. They have even found that people with Alzheimer have higher concentrations of Aluminum in their brain. So keep up the MOM if it works for you.

  2. Lori B

    After reading your column about 2 weeks ago, I started to use MoM every morning as a deodorant & have been very pleased with the results. I had been getting an underarm rash at certain times of the year (low humidity, high temp) but because of body odor & perspiring heavily, I didn’t want to risk being without a deodorant & needing to use a steroidal cream for the rash. But now, the MoM has been a highly effective natural deodorant & no rash has appeared thus far. My perspiration is not noticeable now.

  3. KH

    Hi Dorothy
    I tend to agree with Julia here..Stasis Dermatitis on my lower legs requires a lot of moisturizers and not M.O.M. A good moisturizer is cetaphil lotion or moisturizer cream. Never put lanolin, alcohol based creams, witch hazel or fragrance type creams or anything with parabens on your dermatitis. Parabens is in everything it seems.. Since I use moisturizers daily on my lower legs I am careful not to put any paraben type cream there.
    Vanicream is also good or any basal cream used for making up other creams. When the skin gets desperately itchy, I put desitin baby diaper cream on it.. It is loaded with Zinc oxide and that is a very good healing cream. If it is good for babies, it is good for me. Parabens can be in Desitin or any diaper cream but sometimes you just have to get zinc oxide on your skin for healing. I have never seen a zinc oxide cream with parabens.
    I have tried so many products and even have resorted to paying a naturopathic doctor for her natural solution creams.

  4. Julia

    Hi Dorothy. I don’t know. My totally uneducated guess would be that it would not help. Athough, MoM is inexpensive and it shouldn’t hurt to try it. MoM is drying and I don’t know if seborrheic dermatitis prefers that type of treatment.

  5. Julia

    It’s for topical use. It dries out the area and, I believe, it helps your immune system fight the acne.

  6. Dorothy

    Will all of the different types of MOM be successful in trying to treat seborrheic dermatitis? Thank you

  7. Julia

    Hi NC,
    I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think so… that is if it’s an allergic reaction to the clindamycin. If it’s acne, it should. MoM is very drying. So, I think it depends on what your breakout is really from. The problem that I’ve had with clindamycin is that it is a very strong broad spectrum antibiotic. For me, it tends to kill everything… including good bacteria. If that’s the case, I don’t know how you can restore the natural flora of your skin.
    Please keep up posted. What you find could help one of us MoM users.
    By the way, MoM didn’t help for my leg rash (a steroidal ointment worked… and I’m sure it was because my legs were uber dry). However, it did wonders for my daughter’s acne. Bravo!!

  8. nc

    I was prescribed clindamycin for a abscessed tooth. Two weeks after completing the antibiotic I noticed my face and neck broke out in what looked like pimples but there were so many of them that it looks like a rash. The dermatologist i went to after having this reaction said that it was a rash. It’s been 3 weeks since the rash occurred and it’s still not going away and it looks more like acne now. Will MOM work for this?

  9. Peggy

    I read about using MOM for a deodorant when my finances were low, and I tried it! Not only did it work, but I sweat a lot at night and it helped solve that problem as well!

  10. Kathleen

    Hi Julia
    If you have stasis dermatitis on your lower legs, you should see a physician. He can’t do much but he should know about it. the best remedy is lots of exercises to help the circulation move the blood back to the heart. You must get your legs up above your heart when you sleep… I have difficulty doing that because my legs fall off the large pillow that I use. It isn’t easy to keep your legs above your heart. It is impossible most of the time.
    Compression stockings will help if you can stand them. I tried the ones to the knee but they cut into my leg. I tried the thigh high kind but they tend to slip down. It is a never-ending battle.
    Sometimes I just give up and don’t wear any compression stockings at all. I know that isn’t wise but I can’t stand them. They are very expensive too.
    I must ask another question, are you legs swelling? That is a definite indication of stasis dermatitis. If you have found a remedy that works to reduce the redness, please let me know. I am using a special formula of moisturizer that has been custom made for me by a lady in Toronto. She makes up natural solutions for skin conditions. It has reduced the roughness that develops and the itch. Hopefully she will come up with a way to reduce the redness. The rash will gradually spread unless you look after your legs every day, there is no cure as far as I know.

  11. Julia

    Hi Kathleen,
    I missed your note…I think you’re right…and the MoM didn’t work for me at all. I finally used a steroidal ointment (rx) and finally stopped the itching. I do have vericose veins (yick!!). I’ll take a look at the stasis dermatitis. I’d never heard of it. Thank you!!
    The funny thing is, I finally talked my 16 year old daughter into trying it on her acne… and now she’s a believer, too. She has me treating her back almost nightly.

  12. Jand

    I had a very bad case of acne/blemishes/pimples from age 12 until 2 years ago. I had tried almost every published remedy available. I am 72 now and am almost blemish free. Finally!! The reason is bananas. I eat a banana about 3 or 4 times a week and rub the inside of the banana peel on my blemish(es), if one should occur. The results are amazing.
    A very inexpensive way to be able to look yourself in the mirror without dread.

  13. Kathleen

    Hello Julia (answering the previous comment made by Julia)
    May I suggest you might have stasis dermatitis on your lower legs? I have that and it can itch terribly. Try coconut oil from the health store.. it isn’t an oil in the true sense of the word. It is a pasty substance that calms and moisturizes your skin. Do you have varicose veins? If so, you may have a condition called venous insufficiency. Blood is pooling in your lower legs and causing the red rash to form there. This rash is stasis dermatitis.
    I am guessing but I think you may have this condition, same as me. My lower legs can itch really bad unless I moisturize them well… MoM might work but only if it is a minor rash. This condition is chronic and will not go away. You need compression stockings to help support your veins and prevent the rash from getting worse… I could be wrong but I just felt I had to mention this as it might be the cause of your lower leg itching.

  14. Julia

    I get occasional intractable itching on my lower legs… seems to be caused by dry skin? I have found nothing that cools the itch. As a last resort, I’m trying the MoM today. I’ll check back in, in a few days.

  15. tasha

    Magnesium is crucial to humans, especially skin. This treatment sounds very reasonable and worth a try. I was told I had acne. After 10 years of humiliation the “acne” became so bad I refused to leave the house. Sometimes the “cystic” (really deposits) would be so inflamed they changed the shape of my face. The usual allopathic remedies made my condition worse.
    I used to be a model. Finally an ER Doctor turned natural told me in one second my problem was a food allergy to gluten. I am not saying everyone with acne may have a food allergy, however, I am finding that many people do. My allergy is severe and I have been given the diagnosis of celiac sprue. Enzymes are my new best friend, especially helpful for my damage is the pancreatic enzymes.
    Of course I consult my Doctor as all of us should do. It is my opinion that people who suffer from Acne should communicate with their Doctors about food allergies. Within weeks my new protocol has cleared my face. I almost looked like I had Leprosy. Now I can go back to work. I no longer need make up. I no longer have pain, physical or psychological. I now have my face back.
    Sodium bicarbonate (Baking Soda) is one of the best anti-fungals. I dusted the powder on my face twice a day or spot treated. This worked the best, be careful not to let it get wet or the power intensifies and could burn your skin. One cup in a bath does wonders for your body, just read the box. For normal Acne not an allergy, topical hydrogen peroxide or iodine prove beneficial.
    For those with sensitive skin Burt’s Bees baby dusting powder is extremely beneficial. These remedies saved my life and have allowed me to live again. I hope this may end the agony of acne. You have to make your wishes come true and find the right Doctor. Instead of thinking impossible thoughts think I M Possible. Have a good day.

  16. Amanda

    Do you use MoM all over your face or just as a spot treatment for acne? Also, how long do you leave it on for?
    I’m excited to try this out! :)

  17. Health Care Advocate

    Is this a topical treatment or should MOM be ingested to fight off acne?

  18. Lee

    MOM made me a believer!
    I have had an itch under both arm pits for several months. I tried many of the popular itch medications, such as: Anti-itch spray Rite Aid, Equate Anti-Itch Cream (extra strength), Curel Itch Defense, and Lanacane Anti-Itch cream. None of these worked. I even discussed with my dermatologist who had no answers. After reading all of the success stories in Joe and Teresa Graedon’s articles, I decided to try it. In two days my under arm itch was gone. I believe in MOM!!

  19. wendy

    I am as Nurse and we use to heal bed sores with MOM and a heat lamp. This was a economical method which worked. Now we have to use expensive medications and dressings. What a waste of money.


    I have been using MOM for fungal outbreaks under my breasts for years. My doctors are amazed when I tell them this. It works much better than prescriptions for fungal infections. Wash with antibacterial soap, AIR dry then put on MOM and again air dry. I do this periodically and no out breaks, I have also used this on my face for allergy out breaks. MOM rules!

  21. Morgan G

    It isn’t surprising that MOM works!
    It is based on Magnesium … which most americans are deficient in.
    Magnesium is the most important mineral in our diets… an enzymatic cofactor for hundreds of vital reactions.
    My mother had “intractable” heart problems that stumped the doctors, until she started increasing her magnesium intake. The heart problems vanished. Miracle? No, it is quite simple: we don’t get enough of this in our diets!
    So it is no wonder that it is also a “miracle” cure for acne.
    Some time ago I heard you comment on the show to someone that they only needed 400mg per day and that if they took more they’d get diarrhea … this isn’t true for everyone. The RDA does not reflect individual needs or deficiencies. I’ve recently been taking 600 mg/day with only positive benefits to report (better sleep, weird pains in my side gone away, more focused, less food cravings, etc). Some people need more than others.
    You guys might want to have Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of “The Magnesium Miracle” on your show – people need to learn how vital Magnesium is in health (particularly for heart health). My mother’s doctors didn’t have a clue (and still don’t – they are flabbergasted and are looking for every other explanation BUT the fact that this one simple nutrient changed her life!)

  22. nancy p.

    My granddaughter was helped but it dried her skin out too much. Any suggestions on that?

  23. KH

    I have stasis dermatitis on my lower legs due to venous insufficiency. Would MoM help this condition too? I have tried many products to get the red rashy areas to go away but nothing seems to work. Vaseline does help to keep the itch down a bit. I have used Cetaphil lotions and many creams from Vitamin E cream to diaper creams.. nothing takes away the rash. This condition will never go away totally but I sure would like to get the rash to be less noticeable.
    I wear prescription support hose to keep the swelling down but that doesn’t really help either. It is important to keep the legs from developing ulcers and I try very hard to keep them moist at all times and free from itching. The rash is spreading over the last 10 years or so. No doctor seems to know how to stop it. They all tell me to wear my stockings and keep my legs up above my heart. I have to find extra wide shoes and boots to wear because my feet swell up so badly. Maybe this MoM is worth a try..I will try anything once.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated. You can read about stasis dermatitis on the net..

  24. C C

    MoM must be the “miracle” medicine! As I have used it for a ‘deodorant’ for the past 3 years! Ever since “MentalPause” a/k/a menopause, I have have been plagued with a severe case of ‘body odor’. No “Clinical” strength OTC antiperspirant worked, not to mention the dangerous side effects of using such chemicals. Then I read (at this web site) about using MoM, and I am now “odor” free and happy! I just place some in a spray bottle and use after every shower/bath. Much less expensive than the ‘chemicals’ that don’t work.

  25. dp

    I had read several months ago in your column about useing MOM for skin problems. i had been useing the sulfur compound for the last 3 years for 15 years of Rosasea. So I finally tried it and stopped the now ineffective sulfur.
    The MOM works much more effectively than the sulfur and doesn’t leave me with a red nose and cheeks. It seems to dry up whatever causes the rosacea. After much experimenting, my regimen now is: witch hazel, put on with a cotton ball over the effective areas and any areas that appear to be gearing up for an outbreak, then I apply the MOM over the witch hazel and leave it on over night. (My husband says it’s scary looking).
    I need to use it in-between outbreaks every couple of nights. Because if I go a week without using it, the breakouts occur. So it seems to be preventive as well as curative. Must be the magnesium. Whatever, I’m really, really happy with the results and it sure is cheaper than prescription sulfur! Thank you once again for the wonderful safe remedy for a very annoying condition.

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