The People's Perspective on Medicine

Milk of Magnesia for Odd Underarm Odor

Applying milk of magnesia to the armpits helped a reader get rid of an annoying and odd underarm odor.

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.

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About the Author
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. .
Aluminum-Free MoM (Milk of Magnesia) Roll-on Deodorant
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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.

Aluminum-Free MoM (Milk of Magnesia) Roll-on Deodorant
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I’ve tried this for the last 2 weeks, and it worked from the very first application! I am allergic to so many products, and this was like a miracle to me. No irritation at all, in fact it was soothing. I have noticed I have had a lot of watery diarrhea since I started using this. Can it be absorbed into the skin?

It is possible that some magnesium is absorbed. Please do a personal experiment and see if the diarrhea clears up when you stop using the product.

I’ve used MOM deodorant for the past 6-7 yrs., with great results. My armpits don’t smell at all. After reading about aluminum in underarm deodorants, I preferred something that, I believed, wouldn’t be harmful. As a breast cancer survivor, I consider it a great choice.

I love the GOODSENSE brand of Milk of Magnesia because it is the only brand of Milk of Magnesia I could find readily available that doesn’t contain sodium hypochlorite which is a chemical found in bleach.
I just shake the bottle before I pour it into an inexpensive spray bottle ($1) which I use to spray the stuff on.
No muss no fuss! I bought that sprayer at a retailer that carries travel sized plastic bottles and sprayers.
After months of successful daily use (my husband and myself!) even through the hot and humid summer of the south I will rinse the spray mechanism out with plain water for a minute to get it to spray
a bit better.
This is so inexpensive plus gentler on the environment since you are not throwing lots of empty plastic
deodorant bottles out with each use.
No odor even with a very sweaty workout ever!

My husband and I have both used plain old Milk of Magnesia from the Dollar store for several years and it makes the best underarm deodorant we ever used.
Having said that, we also notice that it seems to become less effective after using it for several months. We simply switch to another deodorant for maybe a week and then return to Milk of Magnesia and it works well again. We love it and it’s the best bargain I know about. Some of our friends have complained that it is
“messy.” I say, “Get over it! Just rinse your fingers and then put the lid back on.”

For me, MOM controls my Hidradenitis suppurativa for the last 50+ years. Works better than any antibiotics or other remedies I have tried. Also, used as deodorant & for my plantar hyperhidrosis.

I use xantham gum to thicken the MOM. Works even better than the MOM without it!

Milk Of Magnesia is great for a deodorant. I too have used it for a few years. It also works GREAT for rosacea!!!!!!

I’ve used Milk of Magnesia as a deodorant for a long time and I apply it with a roll-on bottle that once held a name-brand. I pry the ball out, refill with M of M and I’m good for weeks before I have to refill again.

I never had underarm odor until after menopause. I also developed a sensitivity to antiperspirants.

I have been using milk of magnesia for almost a year now. I apply it straight from the bottle with a round cotton pad with no mess. It lasts at least 24 hours. The brand I use does not contain sodium hypochlorite.

I often follow the MOM with a product deodorant, which does not bother my underarms and has a fresh scent. It helps keep me drier, but not quite as effective as an antiperspirant.

I have used it for years as a result of People’s Pharmacy. I buy it at the $1 store. It’s equivalent to brand name. Works like a charm. I just put my finger in the bottle after I shake it up a bit and apply it to underarm. Other than wiping off my hand on paper towel, no mess. It dries within a minute or two

Does the magnesium hydroxide in the milk of magnesia absorb into the skin and act like a magnesium oil?

We don’t know.

I have been using milk of magnesia for 3 or 4 years as a deodorant. It works better than the roll-on I had been using…more effective…lasts longer. I keep it in a little jar and just dip a couple of fingers in it and apply to my underarms after showering. No muss, no fuss.

Milk of Magnesia has been the perfect deodorant solution for me. I have scent and chemical allergies. Other deodorants made my underarms itch and the more natural ones I tried did not prevent odor. Now I buy empty refillable deodorant containers with roller balls online and fill them with Milk of Magnesia. It dries quickly and honestly works better than any other deodorant!

Antiperspirants with aluminum compounds cause intense itching in my armpits after only 3 days of use, so I had to find an alternative. MOM plus a baking soda deodorant is quite effective. The combination is more effective than either by itself. Joe and Terry have said there is a microbiome in your armpit, so it’s reasonable to expect varying effectiveness depending on your resident bacteria.

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