Have you ever heard of using the laxative Milk of Magnesia (MoM) as a topical application for the armpits? Many readers have tried it and told us that they have found this an innovative way to manage an odd underarm odor.
What Can You Do About an Odd Underarm Odor?
Q. A few months ago you published an inquiry by someone who used Milk of Magnesia to help with body odor. For the past year or so I have been plagued by an obnoxious odor coming from one (only one!) armpit. The smell resembled the spice cumin.
I tried many different deodorants and even experimented with putting hand sanitizer in my armpit, but nothing worked for more than a few hours. When I asked my internist, all I got was a mystified shrug.
After reading your column, I decided to try Milk of Magnesia. I put a small amount in a little plastic cup. After it evaporated into a paste in a few days, I started to apply it. It was amazing! I had no more odor, even 24 hours later. If I go back to my usual deodorant, the smell returns quickly.
Milk of Magnesia as a Deodorant:
A. This remedy has fascinated us for quite a while.
In 2006 we received a letter from a reader:
“I want to share a remedy I learned about when traveling in Brazil. Just apply milk of magnesia to your armpits. It is the best underarm deodorant!”
We heard later that this remedy was not new to people from Cuba and perhaps from other parts of the Caribbean basin.
“My family has used milk of magnesia as a deodorant for 60 years since Cuba. That is what everyone used, even before the revolution. My family still uses it today in the United States, since it’s better than any deodorant.
“This is old news for us!”
We were thrilled to learn that this remedy goes back at least 60 years. It can be hot and humid in Cuba. People there no doubt needed to come up with practical solutions for odd underarm odor. That’s also true in Brazil.
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Does Milk of Magnesia Work for Odd Underarm Odor?
When we first heard of this remedy we were astonished. Nonetheless, we thought we should give it a try ourselves. To our amazement, it worked. The only trouble is that it is messy! We tried pouring milk of magnesia into our palm and sloshing it on our underarms. Yuck. We tried soaking cotton balls with MoM and dabbing it on. Still messy and drippy. Your solution, letting water evaporate, solves that problem.
Joaquin had a different suggestion:
“I have used milk of magnesia for about 18 years with great results.
The way I use it is diluting it with water at 50% then pouring 2 to 3 ml in to the bottle cup to apply it under my arm. Works great. Not messy at all.
“It was recommended by my dermatologist in 1995.”
Cindy found a travel-size bottle of Milk of Magnesia was ideal:
“I came across a little travel-size bottle of MOM. I discovered all ya have to do is stick the index finger in, withdraw it coated with MOM, then apply to armpits. Neat, sweet & fast. Maybe you have to rinse your finger afterward, or wipe it with a tissue but that’s easy. I never use MOM for any other purpose, so it’s no problem sticking that finger in.”
Creating MoM Deodorant for Odd Underarm Odor:
Hundreds of others have also attested to the benefits of topical applications of magnesium hydroxide (Milk of Magnesia) to the underarms. We decided to enlist a natural product chemist who might be able assist us in creating a roll-on MoM deodorant without the muss or fuss.
We also asked him to eliminate the bleach (sodium hypochlorite) preservative that is found in over-the-counter milk of magnesia liquid laxatives. We never have understood why the FDA permits bleach in something people swallow. And we definitely did not want bleach, even in small concentrations, in an underarm product.
You certainly can continue to use ordinary Milk of Magnesia to banish any odd underarm odor. However, if you would like more detailed information about various People’s Pharmacy products and ingredients in MoM, here is a link.
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. Read Terry's Full Bio.
Aluminum-Free MoM (Milk of Magnesia) Roll-on Deodorant
We have heard from many readers that MoM (milk of magnesia) makes a terrific deodorant that does not irritate the skin. Our unscented aluminum free roll-on is effective, gentle, and contains no aluminum whatsoever.
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