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Milk of Magnesia as Home Remedy for Acne

Milk of magnesia is a popular laxative but we have heard from many people that it is also a good home remedy for acne and does triple duty as a deodorant.
Milk of Magnesia as Home Remedy for Acne
Teenager facial mask – happy woman on white background

It is amazing how many uses there seem to be for milk of magnesia. This old-fashioned remedy dates back to 1873 when pharmacist Charles Henry Phillips concocted a milky white liquid of hydrate of magnesia and water. One use for milk of magnesia that visitors to this website recommend is topical application as a home remedy for acne. This mom shares her son’s experience:

Q. Have you heard of using milk of magnesia on severe acne? My son has cystic nodular acne. He is 16 and has been under a dermatologist’s care for many years.

We have spent thousands to no avail. He has recently tried a home remedy: applying milk of magnesia to his face at night before bed. He looks the best he has in four years. Can you tell us why this is working so wonderfully well?

A. Milk of magnesia (aka MoM) is a solution of magnesium hydroxide and is best known for its laxative action.

We don’t know why MoM might combat acne, but we have heard from a great many other visitors to this website that it can be helpful:

MoM as a Home Remedy for Acne:

Dermatologists do not seem to be very interested in MoM as an acne treatment even though we stumbled across this letter to the editor of the journal JAMA Dermatology, Jan. 1, 1975:

“I have found a nightly topical application of milk of magnesia, when combined with 250 mg of tetracycline orally administered four times daily and two daily washes with a fat-free soap, to be highly effective in the reduction of redness from postinflammatory lesions and in the number and severity of acne pustules. Realizing that a laxative as topical medication is not ordinarily prescribed in acne treatment, I write this letter with the two-fold hope that my success in this area may also be shared by those physicians treating this condition, and that this method may become a viable alternative to the abrasion and irritation inflicted with alcohol and sulfur-based compounds.”

We suspect that most dermatologists would have attributed the letter writer’s success to the oral tetracycline. That said, we have heard from a great many other readers that they have benefited from milk of magnesia all by itself as a home remedy for acne:

S. offers another mother’s perspective:

“My daughter’s skin cleared up after she started using MoM. I was convinced that it worked when her occasional breakouts were only along the edges of where she applied it–her hairline and her lips.

“She ran out of MoM while I was out of town and now we have proof–her forehead completely broke out before we got to the store for more!

“When she applies MoM her skin is so smooth that her friends ask her what she uses. They have all tried expensive treatments without the results she gets from MoM.”

C.H.P. says this remedy dates WAY back!

“I am 78 years old and, believe it or not, I used MoM when I had acne problems as a teenager.

“That would be about 65 years ago. I have been laughed at numerous times when I have recommended it to young people since I reached adulthood. Oh well…seems as if I get the last laugh.”

Sydney shares her son’s story:

“My 14-year-old son has been using M of M for several months now and he thinks it’s amazing. He goes to bed with it on his face, shoulders and back.

“He looks funny, but for once doesn’t care! I am often out and get a text “pick up M of M, I’m almost out.” I am now going to try it for my rosacea. I have been using a great herbal soap from a local store, but they have lost the recipe with a change in ownership.”

MoM as a Home Remedy for Acne Rosacea:

Acne rosacea is not the same thing as acne vulgaris (typical teenage acne). Rosacea generally affects middle-aged women rather than teenagers. It often turns the cheeks red, though the nose can also be affected. Some people experience bumps that look a bit like acne. Doctors prescribe lots of pricey prescription medications, some of which can be quite effective. Surprisingly, inexpensive milk of magnesia may also help some people.

C. Saunders shared:

“Please accept my humble gratitude for all the goodness that you do for people like me. I have been at the receiving end of doctors’ indifference. I have been the victim of Oracea, MetroGel, Accutane and laser resurfacing of my face.

“I was very lucky to accidentally find help with my acne rosacea thanks to you. MoM and epsom salt warm water rinses are miracles. I am 66 and am forever grateful to you ‘angels.'”

D.P. also found MoM a helpful home remedy for acne rosacea:

“I had been using a sulfur compound for the last three years to treat rosacea, but it stopped working. The MoM works much more effectively 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 is now: witch hazel, put on with a cotton ball over the affected areas or any areas that appear to be gearing up for an outbreak. Then I apply MoM after the witch hazel has dried and leave it on overnight. My husband says it’s scary looking.

I need to use it between outbreaks every couple of nights. If I go a week without using MoM the breakouts occur. 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 home remedy for acne rosacea.”

MoM for Seborrheic Dermatitis:

We have also heard from many visitors that liquid milk of magnesia can help clear up seborrheic dermatitis. In this condition, yeast on the skin causes redness and flakes, rather like dandruff, but on the forehead and chin as well as scalp and eyebrows.

Here is one reader’s report for MoM against seborrheic dermatitis:

“I have been using milk of magnesia on my face for the past two months and my face flakes are gone! I pour it in my hand and massage it on my face (forehead, eyebrows, around the eyes, nose, cheeks and chin) while showering, and rinse it off at the end of the shower. End of problem. It’s a great, cost-effective alternative to expensive Nizoral, and it works better, too.”

MoM for Body Odor:

Of course one of the most popular uses for milk of magnesia is as a deodorant. We continue to be delighted by how many people report this kind of success:

Karen loves MoM on her underarms:

“I read about the MOM deodorant on this site and saw that you had it packaged in roll-on bottles. I bought 3 and use it every day, and it really works. I have tried many deodorants over the years, and none of them stop underarm odor. This did the trick. Thank you soooooooo much.!!!”

C.C. thinks MoM is a miracle:

“MoM must be the ‘miracle’ medicine! As I have used it for a deodorant for the past 3 years! Ever since “MentalPause” aka 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 or bath. It is much less expensive than the chemicals that don’t work.”

MoM is not just for women. Ed offers this from Austin, Texas:

“I have used this product [People’s Pharmacy Aluminum-Free MoM Roll-On Deodorant] for 6 months now and it is the only deodorant I use. It actually works! It does a great job of controlling odors, yet still allows the sweat glands to do their thing! Especially here in Texas where one is going to sweat anyways!

“I used to buy locally but now two local People’s Rx stores don’t carry it, so I just buy on line which is very convenient. I even got my wife to try it after she tried other natural products with no success. I gave her one of mine and now need to reorder.”

Maria from Portland, OR, was initially suspicious:

“All the positive reviews on this website made me a little suspicious–were the bad reviews removed somehow?–but it turns out they’re accurate.

“This is the only aluminum-free, natural deodorant I’ve ever used that not only deodorizes without having to be reapplied but also keeps you dry. And the unscented is unscented. You do have to wait a moment after applying for it to dry, but that’s a small inconvenience for something that really does work. I also find the bottle to be attractively no-nonsense.”

Let us know how you use milk of magnesia in a unique way. Has it worked as a home remedy for acne or as a deodorant? Share your story in the comment section below.

Revised 7/7/2016

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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