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Will Milk of Magnesia on Your Face Ease Rosacea?

You might find, as other readers have, that putting milk of magnesia on your face overnight can help clear the redness of acne rosacea.

Rosacea is a mysterious inflammatory skin disease. It may start with easy blushing and flushing and proceed to constant (or near-constant) redness across the cheeks. With this, people may get bumps that look like pimples but are not. There are medications that can help ease rosacea, but have you ever thought of an unusual home remedy–putting milk of magnesia on your face? Some readers have tried this.

Home Remedies Help Rosacea:

Q. I’ve been dealing with the sudden onset of rosacea for about a year. The itching, soreness and splotching simply would not go away. It seemed like everything was a trigger: spicy food, alcohol, sun exposure, hot water, etc.

My dermatologist put me on antibiotics for a year. I also used prescription topicals, including ivermectin and metronidazole.

An herbalist prescribed prebiotics and probiotics along with cat’s claw and cod liver oil. I also got pricey laser treatments.

Nothing helped very much. Then I read two testimonial articles from your website. One suggested applying milk of magnesia to the face, followed by aloe and sunscreen. The second testimonial involved using Selsun Blue shampoo suds for the face. I don’t know which is most helpful because I’m using both daily. Now my skin is clear!

A. Rosacea, sometimes called acne rosacea, is an inflammatory skin condition. It usually starts with redness across the cheeks and nose and may eventually cause problems with the eyes and a lumpy appearance of the nose. As you noticed, a lot of different factors might act as triggers to make it worse.

Dermatologists usually expect the drugs they prescribe to calm inflammation. But some people don’t benefit as anticipated.

Readers of this column report that using Selsun Blue dandruff shampoo as a face wash can be helpful. The active ingredient, selenium sulfide, has been shown to kill Demodex mites that seem to contribute to skin inflammation (Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, Oct. 2023).

Other readers have been enthusiastic about leaving milk of magnesia on their face overnight. (Keep reading for more testimonials.) One who found the laxative alone dried the skin too much mixed it with coconut oil. The antimicrobial activity of coconut oil might also discourage mites.

Milk of Magnesia as a Remedy for Rosacea:

Q. I just stumbled upon your article regarding milk of magnesia (MoM) for rosacea. At age 54, I have had rosacea since I was 48. My rosacea definitely responds well to applying MoM, but I don’t like the feeling of tightness on my face as the MoM dries. Plus, the flaking residue can be annoying to dab off.

I have found an easy work-around: I noticed that virgin coconut oil also reduces redness, but it can be greasy. Instead, I tried combining the two, combining one part MoM with two parts coconut oil. This seems to be a very effective rosacea treatment that doesn’t leave my skin feeling tight. My skin looks great. Hope you find this tip useful!

A. Dermatologists haven’t determined the exact cause of rosacea, which makes the face red and bumpy. They suspect, however, that Demodex mites that live on skin may trigger an immune cascade leading to this inflammatory skin condition  (Dermatology and Therapy, Dec. 2020). We don’t know how MoM affects mites, but it might discourage them.

An Hypothesis About Milk of Magnesia:

As we admitted above, we don’t know how milk of magnesia might work for rosacea, but here is one possibility. People with rosacea have a weakened skin barrier (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Oct. 2020). Some magnesium compounds aid skin barrier recovery (Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, Nov. 1, 2002).

What About Coconut Oil?

We appreciate the idea of coconut oil to keep milk of magnesia from flaking. Coconut oil also has antimicrobial properties that could be helpful (Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Jul-Sep. 2019).

Milk of Magnesia on Your Face for Rosacea:

Other readers also sing the praises of milk of magnesia to ease rosacea symptoms.

Q. The only thing that has ever helped my rosacea has been milk of magnesia (MoM). Over two decades, I have tried prescription Metrogel, prescription antibiotics, Prosacea, tea tree oil, jojoba oil, sea buckthorn oil, various “healing” muds, splashing my face with apple cider vinegar (ouch!), snail slime, IPL lasers, homeopathic remedies, Chinese herbs, and more “redness” creams and lotions than I can remember.

I’ve eaten yogurt and banished gluten, taken supplements, including magnesium, and used anti-histamines. In the end, MoM was the only thing that worked for me on a lasting basis. The IPL laser treatments helped for about one week before the redness returned.

I applied the milk of magnesia at night about five minutes before going to bed (to give it a chance to dry) and rinsed it off first thing in the morning. There was a noticeable difference after the first night and within five nights my skin was clearer than it had been in twenty years. I now do “maintenance” by using the MoM about once a month.

Everyone’s body is different. MoM may not work for others, but given its low cost it could be worth a try.

What Is Rosacea?

A. Rosacea (also called “acne rosacea”) is a skin condition associated with flushing, redness and bumps on the face. The cause is unclear, but some dermatologists suggest it is an overreaction to Demodex mites that live on everyone’s skin. There is also evidence that Helicobacter pylori infections of the stomach can trigger rosacea (BMC Infectious Diseases, July 11, 2018).  Treating the H. pylori seems to help as much or more than the usual rosacea treatments.

We could find no clinical research on using milk of magnesia on your face for rosacea. You are not the only reader who has found it helpful, however.

Dandruff Shampoo for Rosacea:

Some people use the dandruff shampoo Selsun Blue containing selenium sulfide to wash their faces. They report noticeably less redness. Dietary restrictions that avoid personal rosacea triggers such as black pepper, yogurt, canola oil, citrus fruits or tomatoes may also be helpful for some individuals.

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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..
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  • Heczko J et al, "Evaluation of a novel treatment, selenium disulfide, in killing Demodex folliculorum in vitro." Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology, Oct. 2023. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcjo.2022.04.012
  • Forton FMN, "The pathogenic role of Demodex mites in rosacea: A potential therapeutic target already in erythematotelangiectatic rosacea?" Dermatology and Therapy, Dec. 2020. DOI: 10.1007/s13555-020-00458-9
  • Medgyesi B et al, "Rosacea is characterized by a profoundly diminished skin barrier." Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Oct. 2020. DOI: 10.1016/j.jid.2020.02.025
  • Denda M, "New strategies to improve skin barrier homeostasis." Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, Nov. 1, 2002. DOI: 10.1016/s0169-409x(02)00115-1
  • Devan K et al, "Antimicrobial efficacy of medium chain fatty acids as root canal irrigants: An in vitro study." Journal of the Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry, Jul-Sep. 2019. DOI: 10.4103/JISPPD.JISPPD_63_19
  • Yang X, "Relationship between Helicobacter pylori and rosacea: Review and discussion." BMC Infectious Diseases, July 11, 2018. DOI: 10.1186/s12879-018-3232-4
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