don't use milk of magnesia as primer

One of the craziest beauty tips that pre-dates the internet era is using Milk of Magnesia (yes, the common laxative!) as a makeup primer. Let me explain. Living with oily skin is a constant battle. And when your face is so shiny it brightens up the night and your foundation has completely melted by the time you’ve finished applying your eyeshadow, you’re willing to grasp and use any weapon to beat it once and for all. Even laxative.

Milk of Magnesia is said to be an awesome primer for oily skin that’s able to keep the shiny enemy at bay for hours. But, like all powerful weapons, it can turn against you. Scratch that, it WILL turn against you. MOM is a Trojan horse. What looks like the most amazing gift ever in the short term can completely wreak havoc on your skin in the long run. Here’s what they don’t tell you about using Milk Of Magnesia as a makeup primer:

Milk Of Magnesia VS Makeup Primers

Before we dig deeper into the dangers of using Milk Of Magnesia as a primer, why are people even using it? One reason is budget. Milk Of Magnesia is cheaper than most makeup primers out there.

Then, there’s the way it feels on your skin. Julianne Kaye, a celebrity makeup artist who worked with Britney Spears and Brooke Shields says: “A lot of the water-based primers on the market just feel like another moisturizer and the silicone-based primers feel waxy or, while they’ll matte you down, they still don’t stick. When you put milk of magnesia on your face you can actually feel that veil over the skin.”

If it’s just as effective, then it may make sense to use Milk Of Magnesia as a primer. But you know what they say. It’s not gold all that glitters…

Is Milk Of Magnesia An Effective Oil-Absorber?

Milk of Magnesia is so amazingly good at getting rid of oil and shine because it contains Magnesium Hydroxide, a chemical that absorbs lipids on the skin (that’s what excess sebum/oil is). Add Sodium Hypochlorite (commonly known as bleach) to the mix and you kick its oil-absorbent powers up a notch or two. So, yeah, if you smear Milk Of Magnesia all over your oily skin, it’ll stop shining so much. Great, isn’t it? Not so fast…

Is It Safe To Use Milk Of Magnesia On Your Face?

What makes Milk Of Magnesia turn nasty? It’s 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 defences and harm it. They irritate it. They cause acne. And the loss of moisture makes skin as dry as the Sahara. That’s why good skincare products are formulated within the skin’s pH range (from 5 to 8). To avoid all that nasty stuff from happening to you.

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, who recommended MOM before learning about its dark side, agrees with me: “Milk of Magnesia has a very high pH, which, over time, is not ideal for skin to use frequently. Using once in a while, however, is ok!”

Related: The Best Primers For Oily Skin

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What Are The Best Makeup Primer Alternatives To Milk Of Magnesia?

Look, I do believe you don’t need to spend a fortune on makeup and skincare to look great. But I also believe in treating your skin with tender loving care – and putting laxative on your skin isn’t that! These alternatives may be more expensive, but they’re also gentler on the skin. They’ll keep your complexion shine-free without causing irritation and dryness in the long run. Isn’t that a better deal? Here are my top makeup primer recommendations for oily skin:

  • Dr. Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner ($48.00): It uses Magnesium Silicate to absorb excess oil and keep your skin matte for more than 6 hours. But it can be drying if your skin isn’t very oily to begin with. Available at Dr Brandt, Look Fantastic, Sephora, and Ulta.
  • Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer ($58.00): Its silicones-based, lightweight texture softens fine lines and wrinkles, makes pores look smaller, and helps your foundation lasts longer. Alumina, a powerful oil absorber keeps you matte for a few good hours. Available at Cult Beauty, Hourglass, Nordstrom, Sephora, and Ulta.

Can You Use Milk Of Magnesia As A Deodorant?

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.

We all know how sweaty armpits can get, especially in the summer when the weather’s so hot and humid. This moistness creates the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive in. Milk Of Magnesium absorbs all that excess moisture, so those bacteria have nowhere to live. 

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

The Bottom Line

Dealing with oily skin can be a slippery slope. Along the way, you’ll find Trojan horses that will promise you the solution to all your woes only to turn nasty when you least expect it. Milk of Magnesia as a primer seems like a godsend for skin, until you realise it can cause severe dryness and irritation in the long run. If you want to get rid of excess shine, there are better ways to deal with it. And if you’re looking for a primer that can deal with oily skin, check out these three. They’ll work a lot better, trust me!