Why You Shouldn’t Use Milk Of Magnesia As A Primer (But It’s Ok As A Deodorant)

milk of magnesia oily skin

If you have super oily skin, a friend has probably suggested you use Milk Of Magnesia as a primer. Yep, Milk of Magnesia. The common OTC laxative. You’re supposed to slather that all over your skin. Gross, isn’t it?

“Not as gross as a face slick with oil,” I hear you oily-skinned gals say. And if Milk Of Magnesia really were the amazing cure for oily skin it is touted to be, I’d agree with you.

But it isn’t. What seems like a godsend in the short term can really cause havoc on your skin in the long run. Here’s why:

Milk Of Magnesia Is An Effective Oil-Absorber

I get why so many ladies turn to Milk Of Magnesia to keep their oily skin under control. The active ingredient in MOM is Magnesium Hydroxide, a substance that has the ability to absorb lipids on the skin. The degreasing action of MOM is also enhanced by another of its components, Sodium Hypochlorite, commonly known as bleach. So, if you smear Milk Of Magnesia all over your oily skin, it’ll stop shining so much. Great, isn’t it? Not so fast.

The Problem With Milk Of Magnesia

If Milk Of Magnesia works so well, why shouldn’t you use it? Because of its alkaline ph. It’s not good for your skin. Let me explain.

Your skin’s natural ph is slightly acidic. This allows the good bacteria that live on our skin to thrive and those nasty ones that constantly attack it to shrivel and die.

When this acidic mantle is damaged, those bacteria can get past skin’s defenses and harm it. Skin also becomes dry, prone to irritations, and even acne. That’s why good skincare products are formulated within the skin’s pH range (from 5 to 8).

Milk Of Magnesia has a PH of 10.5. This is way too high. If you use it regularly, it can do some serious damage to your skin.

I’m not the only one who thinks so. Skincare guru Paula Begoun, which used to recommend MOM before learning of its side effects, agrees with me: “Milk of Magnesia has a very high pH, which, over time, is not ideal for skin to use frequently. Using once an awhile, however, is ok!”

Use It As A Deodorant Instead

Ok, so I’ve just finished telling you how bad MOM is for your skin, and now am recommending you use it as a deodorant? Am I nuts? Nope. Just hear me out.

The underarm area can get pretty sweaty and moist, especially in humid, hot weather. This moistness creates the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive in. By absorbing excess moisture, MOM makes sure that doesn’t happen.

In other words, if a high ph can increase the risk of a bacteria infection, the loss of sweat can reduce it. So, in this case, and this case only, the benefits of MOM are greater than its side effects.

The Bottom Line

There are lots of ways to take good care of oily skin and reduce shine, but using Milk Of Magnesia is not one of them. While MOM gets rid of oil in the short term, regular use can cause havoc on your skin. Only when used as a deodorant, the risk is worth the benefit.

Do you use MOM on your skin?

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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Amanda, you’re welcome. Once in a while won’t do any harm. And do try it as a deodorant, it works really well. :)

    • Celene Ivette says

      Awwwww man :( I really love using milk of magnesia as a primer :( bummer..they should make a real primer out of it with a lower Ph

  1. Janessa says

    Hi Gio! I’m back from my trip and I have to comment!! When I heard of MOM, I was very curious as to what it was. Milk? Magnesia?..sounds like some fantastical place haha. I have read raves about how wonderful it performs to keep skin matte and after reading this, I’m shocked so many people use it daily (I read this back in April but didn’t comment so sorry)! Good for me I’ve never used this stuff since I have dry skin. I’m sure if I had really oily skin that I might have at least tried it once. Since of course, I was very intrigued by the name and its magic.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, hi! Welcome back hun! I hope you had a wonderful time on your trip!

      MOM is such a cool name, isn’t it? Unfortunately, because it is a “great” quick fix, many people don’t realize how bad it is to use regularly until it is too late. Just because something works, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

  2. Norma says

    I’ve been using MoM for several months with great success (as a deodorant) I just use the cheapo store brand, plain. I keep it in a squirt bottle and just pour a tiny amount on my fingers and rub on, then I dry it with a hair dryer. I’m amazed out how well it works. No odor by bedtime AND even the next morning, still NO odor at all! I’m 58 years old.
    My question is this. Is it aluminum free? I’ve switched to using MoM rather than antiperspirants but am now unsure about the aluminum issues after reading this link below. :(

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Norma, MoM is a very effective deodorant, isn’t it? I’m glad it is working so well for you. And you won’t have to stop using it. MOM contains only magnesium hydroxidet, water and sodium hypochlorite.

  3. Tina says

    So that explains why after my first use, my face began to breakout in these little bumps almost like hives…my face was so irritated. I immediately washed it off and quit using it

    • Gio says

      Tina, oh no! I’m sorry you reacted so badly to it. MOM is no good as a primer and people should be more careful about what they recommend online.

  4. manon says


    Does it have the face affect, when applying it after your moisturizer, like most do?
    I’m curious about that. I think it has an other effect when applying it on your skin directly or applying it after you put on your moisturizer.

    • Gio says

      Manon, if you use it as a primer, you should be applying it after moisturizer. But it’s not really a good idea to do so.

      What do you mean with “face affect”?

      • manon says

        *Face affect had to be Same effect. LOL

        Yes, that’s also the way I’ve seen it been used. I haven’t tried it yet myself. As it is with most products, if it does work for some it can be the case that it doesn’t work for others.

        Have you ever heard of deodorant being used on the face?? It works apparently, BUT that’s something I wouldn’t recommend to everyone though.


        • Gio says

          Manon, I agree that there are some products that work for some people, but not others. But the problem with MOM is its ph. Even if it can, in the short term, help keep oily skin under control, in the long run, it will damage it.

          Oh dear, I had never heard of that. What are those people thinking?!

  5. George says

    Hi. What happens if my skin is really oily? Is it ok if I use MoM twice a week? if not, what’s best for an oily skin?

    • Gio says

      George, it’s best to avoid MOM if at all possible. If you aren’t already, I’d recommend you start using a leave-in exfoliant with Salicylic Acid. If your skin is really oily, using a retinol serum in the evening can help too. These products help regulate oil production and keep the pores unclogged. Hope this helps.

  6. k8 says

    Read carefully the contradiction in the section about using MoM as a DEODORANT.
    It is NOT an ANTITRANSPIRANT and it will not reduce the amount of sweat in your armpit only ODOR. I use it and have used it for years. It functions as a DEODORANT not as an ANTITRANSPIRANT.
    In fact, I was told to use it by an acupunturist who diagnized the PH in my armpit area as beng too low and needed to be alkalized to get rid of irritation and a rash.
    This section doesn’t clearly explain how MoM works as a deodorant so can we trust other statements made in this article as well?
    I think the high Ph is the reason MoM works as a deodorant as it raises the PH sufficiently creating an environment in which odor causing bacteria and irritation causing fungii can’t thrive

    • Gio says

      K8, I have never said that MOM is an antiperspirant, although, rereading the post, I can see why you thought so. I guess that, in my effort to simplify things, I went too far. As I stated at the beginning, MOM can absorb lipids on the surface of the skin. The reduced amount of perspiration could help you sweat less, which would in turn reduce the amount of odour-causing bacteria. I hope this clarifies things.

  7. Amber says

    I’ve used MOM as a primer for almost 4 years, NEARLY EVERY DAY. I just stopped using it a few days ago after a friend informed on why it’s not good for your skin. Should I be worried? I hope there’s no major damage to my skin I can’t see :(

    • Gio says

      Amber, MOM can damage the skin’s acid mantle, leaving it more prone to irritations, and interfere with its ability to naturally exfoliate itself. Hopefully you shouldn’t have caused any permanent damage and soon your skin should go back to normal, but you could give it a helping hand by using exfoliants with AHAs and moisturizers or serums with antioxidants.

    • manon says

      But if you have been using it all these years why would you only stop because if you have not had any bad experiences with the product?

      @GIO I have tried a variant of MoM for sometimes now, just so now and then trying out things. My take on it is that even when using it as a primer it’s better you always moisturize your skin either before applying it or after. Having an oily skin doesn’t mean that moisturizing should be excluded from a daily routine. :-)

      • Gio says

        Manon, some ingredients can irritate skin but the damage doesn’t show up straight away. The ph of MOM really isn’t good for skin.

        I agree, oily skin benefits from a moisturizer too.

  8. Dishon says

    I don’t agree with this post at all. I have used MOM for two years with no problem. It works great for me. No breakouts at all and I have very sensitive skin. If it is safe enough to ingest it is safe enough to use on the skin.

    • Gio says

      Dishon, I’m glad you haven’t experienced any problems so far, but MOM is not formulated to be used on the skin. The ph is too high and can cause problems. I hope you won’t experience them in the future.

      Products should be used for the reason they were formulated. Applying them on the skin may not kill, but that doesn’t mean they are beneficial for the skin.

    • Gio says

      Dishon, regular primers are formulated with ingredients that have been approved for the face and have been found not to be toxic, and are usually the right ph. MOM instead is not formulated to be used as a primer. The ph is just wrong and could cause serious harm.

      • Vabelle says

        You say USUALLY the right PH but to be honest, she’s right. There are way more harmful ingredients in those primers. To be quite frank, its all quite bad for your skin, none of this is natural. The best thing to do is minimise your frequent use of all these chemicals and to give your skin regular breaks.

        • Gio says

          Vabelle, there’s nothing harmful in primers. Not all chemicals are bad for you. In fact, everything is a chemical, including water. Plants are made of chemicals. Everything natural is made of chemicals. And may natural things are bad. You wouldn’t use poison ivy on your skin and yet that’s natural. Crude oil is natural, but again, not something you’d use. It is illegal to put toxic stuff in cosmetics. Using MOM, which is not approved for the face, in this way, is much more harmful imo.

          • Vabelle says

            No offence but just because your told that the chemicals are not harmful doesn’t mean it’s true. Science is forever evolving and they are continually finding that certain ingredients are harmful for your skin. Wasn’t long ago that they thought parabens were safe.
            I’m not stupid, common sense tells me of cause water is safe etc. It’s MAN MADE chemicals we have to worry about.

            • Gio says

              Vabelle, actually parabens are still safe. Science never proved otherwise. A study found traces of parabens in carcinogenic breast tissue, but the scientists never took a sample from healthy breast tissue. If parabens were found there too, then obviously they aren’t the cause of cancer. The scientists who did the study didn’t find any proof that parabens are bad. Their findings were, unfortunately, misinterpreted by people who had good intentions but no scientific background to understand what they were reading. Scientific studies are written in their own language!

              In any case, parabens leave the body after 36 hours so they never accumulate enough to cause problems. And they naturally occur in blueberries and other plants so you could say they are indeed natural.
              Mercury, lead, and heavy metals are natural, yet they aren’t good for you.

              On the other hand, a lot of man made chemicals have allowed us to live longer and fight illnesses. Not all man made chemicals are good, it’s true. But to say that all man made chemicals are bad is wrong.

  9. Meiewyn says

    Thanks for this information. I have really oily skin and have been told repeatedly by several different sources to use MOM. I was always hesitant and skeptical so I never did. Then today I started doing some google searches and I am glad I came across this. No MOM for me…. :-)

    • Gio says

      Meiewyn, you’re welcome. MOM can help reduce shine, but the cons far outweigh the pros. Well done for choosing not to use it. :)

    • andrea says

      I am using a buffered vitamin c powder with 175 mg of magnesium homemade serum every night after i wash my face .Is this ok to use or is the magnesium ph still too high?

      • Gio says

        Andrea, it’s hard to tell. You should measure its ph to know for sure. But, to be on the safe side, I’d recommend you buy a professionally formulated vitamin c serum. Even if the ph should be right with the one you made, vitamin c serums are very tricky to make at home. Add too little vitamin c, and it doesn’t do anything. Too much and it irritates skin. And you need to store it in an opaque, air-tight container or it’ll spoil soon.

  10. Cathy says

    I wish I would have known this! A friend of mine uses it so she gave it to me as a beauty tip. I used it ONE time last monday and my skin has been extremely dry, sensitive and very wrinkled ever since! I am so upset. I do not want to look like this. Moisturizer isn’t even helping bring it back the way it should be. What does someone like me do? Its not like I can afford to just run to the dermatologist office. I need help fast!

    • Gio says

      Cathy, I’m so sorry to hear that. I think your skin just needs time to get back to normal. In the meantime, the best thing you can do it is touch it as least as possible, use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t irritate it further and a richer moisturizer.

  11. Nicole says

    Considering that you wont recommend MOM, what primers dobyou recommend that will be just as effective on super oily skin.

  12. says

    I have always being intrigued by the use of MOM as a primer, I follow a YouTube guru who said in a video that we should use this to get virtually no visible pores and help with excess oils in the face, and because I love makeup and I have large pores I wanted to use it, I never did it though, although I was very curious but something inside me told me not to use it.

    Thank you so much Gio for this article, I think before applying something on our faces we should do a complete research of the products and we shoukd ask to professionals what are the best things we should be using. Sometimes for trying to save some dollars we can end up spending more because of the damage we can do to ourselves.

    • Gio says

      Johanna, well said! Products should be used for the purpose for which they were created. Otherwise you risk doing more harm than good.

  13. Alma says

    Is it true that one of the negative side effects is being more receptive to sun damage? Or is it just the issue with exfoliation?

    • Gio says

      Alma, MOM can damage the skins acid mantle. When that happens, skin becomes both drier and more susceptible to sun damage.

  14. SUGA says

    i do not think MOM do have a negative effect on the skin.i know someone who have been using it for a while and nothing has happened to her skin.she recommended it for me and i think i will give it a try.

    • Gio says

      Suga, I’m glad to hear your friend’s skin wasn’t harmed. But using something with such a high ph is always a risk. Hope you both won’t regret it later on.

  15. Vabelle says

    Im 26, I have particularly sensitive skin with a tendency for eczema and allergic skin reactions. I also have type 2 diabetes and when not well controlled can cause skin irritation and infection to the skin and I’ve been using MOM for a few years now daily! No obvious irritation aside from the normal (occasional pimple). I appreciate being alerted to this info but if its not causing serious harm such as skin cancer, I dont see the problem if it works for you :)

    • Gio says

      Vabelle, I’m glad that MOM hasn’t caused any problems for your skin yet, especially considering how sensitive it is . But, with so many safe products on the market, I can’t recommend the use of something with a ph that’s way too high for skin. It just doesn’t help it.

  16. farfl says

    Although I don’t know the ph of it, there are milk of magnesia brands that have no sodium hypochlorite in them, the one I use for deodorant includes only magnesium hydroxide and purified water.

    • Gio says

      Farfl, I believe the ph of Magnesium Hydroxide alone is still too high for skin. I’d use a regular primer. Works better and doesn’t have any side effects.

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