Acne treatment Acne treatment

Milk of Magnesia As a Topical Treatment for Acne


It may not be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to clear up your complexion, but milk of magnesia as an acne treatment has a widespread following. Some people with acne problems swear by the contents in the familiar blue bottle, while others are less than impressed. Milk of magnesia purportedly works by absorbing the oil that causes acne lesions to form.

Milk of Magnesia: What Is It?

Milk of magnesia (magnesium hydroxide) is what's known as a saline laxative, taken orally to relieve the occasional bout of constipation. According to, it can be also used as an antacid to relieve symptoms of heartburn, indigestion and sour stomach. Milk of magnesia, when used for its intended purpose, draws water into the colon, making it easier for bowel movements to pass, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Milk of Magnesia as Acne Treatment

Milk of magnesia as a topical treatment for acne is an old wives' remedy, but surprisingly one that gets the stamp of approval from some skin care experts. Paula Begoun, author of "The Original Beauty Bible," recommends it to absorb excess sebum on the skin--one cause of acne. One of the more trickier problems to control is oil production, she says, as this is hormonally induced and no topical treatments can stop your pores from secreting it. Clay masks may be of benefit, but Begoun points out that the ingredients in these may be too harsh. One product she does recommend is milk of magnesia, which is applied in the same way you would a mask, using the fingertips or cotton balls. After it dries, it is then washed off. Depending on how oily your skin is, you can reach for milk of magnesia every day or once a week.

Other Uses

Some ace-prone women use milk of magnesia as a mattifying base to make their skin appear less oily. This is another tip suggested by Begoun, who advises applying a thin layer of milk of magnesia to oily spots. After it dries, foundation can then be applied and then loose powder (Begoun advises using loose powder rather than pressed, as the latter has waxy ingredients that can make the face feel oily). However, she doesn't advise adding the laxative to oil-free moisturizers, including sunscreens, as this reduces the effectiveness of the product when applied to your skin.

Does It Work?

In theory, milk of magnesia could work as a topical acne treatment, concedes the cosmetic scientists behind the consumer website. The laxative's properties of absorbing water could also reduce the presence of excess oil on your face and give you tighter, smoother skin when used as a base. However, it may cause your skin to feel dry. Ultimately, effectiveness of milk of magnesia as an acne treatment depends on how your skin responds to it. As the American Academy of Dermatology points out, severe acne--cysts and nodules--don't respond well to any type of topical treatment. You'll need a dermatologist's help to resolve severe acne.

More states that this cheap acne treatment warrants a try, "if you`re a fan of DIY cosmetics." Other than dryness and the unpleasant way it feels on your skin, milk of magnesia is unlikely to do serious damage to your skin. Phillips, Haley's and Ex-Lax are some of the more common brand names you may see when hunting for milk of magnesia, although many drugstores, such as Rite Aid, and pharmacies may sell their own generic equivalents. Available for $10 or less, these products are available in mint and wild cherry flavors (just in case some accidentally finds its way into your mouth).

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