Milk of Magnesia Primer Face Makeup


Milk of magnesia primer will give you a matte face and keep you looking good even in the most humid weather, but is associated with various safety concerns. This guide will explain the risks associated with this oily-skin remedy and pinpoint measures for safe use before giving you some reviews of the most popular product.

Milk of Magnesia Face Primer

Milk of magnesia was originally intended for use as an antacid and a laxative but an increasing number of beauty experts and sites are recommending its use as a face primer – prior to applying regular makeup – among people with oily skin. Using milk of magnesia primer is touted to reduce oils in the skin (good news for people with oily skin) and smoothen the skin, making it ready for application of makeup and also helps to keep the makeup on for longer.

Milk of magnesia primer for oily skin and acne prone skin
Milk of magnesia primer for oily skin and acne prone skin

The use of milk of magnesia face primer is however a controversial subject with different people pointing fingers differently. Proponents of this skin remedy claim that it has oil-blotting properties that helps to keep the skin smooth and oil-free but various opponents differ sharply claiming that the benefits achieved on the skin is rather short time as applying milk of magnesia may cause a bacterial proliferation in the long-term.

To understand their arguments, let us discuss a few points about milk of magnesia:

The Logic Behind Using Milk of Magnesia as a Primer

In its unflavored form, milk of magnesia is mainly magnesium hydroxide, i.e. Mg(OH)2, suspended in water with a little sodium hypochlorite added. Magnesium hydroxide (the active ingredient) is an inorganic salt comprised of Magnesium (Mg2+) and hydroxyl ions (OH).

Magnesium hydroxide is most commonly used as an antacid and a laxative. Its effectiveness when used as an antacid is attributed to the hydroxyl (OH) group which neutralizes the extra acid present in your belly by combining with the hydrogen ions (H+) from the acid. This leaves you with water and ensures that the offending hydrochloric acid does not reach your gastrointestinal nerves.

Now people use milk of magnesia as a primer on their faces basing their argument on a 1981 study by Stewart and Downing which found magnesium hydroxide to be very effective in breaking down esters and steryl esters drawn from human skin. These are the two main compounds in the oil found in your face which makes.

True to the findings of this research, magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) is an effective de-greaser and it is hardly surprising that it keeps growing in popularity as a primer for oily-skinned people.

One major drawback to using milk of magnesia face primer, however, is that it is very alkaline (pH of 10.5) and will readily neutralize any acid that it comes into contact with thanks to the OH group. This makes its use counterproductive as your skin needs to maintain a slightly acidic pH to keep harmful bacteria away. For example a pH of 4.2 to 5.6 is required to inhibit the activity of P. acnes.

To regulate an ideal pH, the sebaceous glands in the skin secrete an acidic substance and with it maintains a thin film called acid mantle which offers protection from not only bacteria but also viruses and other potentially harmful pathogens.

When applied on the face, milk of magnesia will neutralize the acid mantle leaving your skin prone to pathogenic attacks from bacteria and other microorganisms. It is like turning your face into a bacteria breeding ground so to speak.

MoM works as a face primer for most skin types, but has its own side effects
MoM works as a face primer for most skin types, but has its own side effects

It is in the context of this that most health experts disagree with using milk of magnesia primer every day and as a long term solution for oily skin. You may nevertheless want to use milk of magnesia for short term oil control e.g. for one day event, say your wedding.

Does Milk of Magnesia Makeup Primer Work?

With so many crappy products available online, consumers are often wary about their purchases and online beauty and health forums provide a great avenue for users to raise their concerns about certain remedies and products. There is this one for example,

“My neighbor recently recommended that I try applying a milk of magnesia makeup primer before applying my normal makeup to give that lustrous look that is often hard to achieve and maintain for long with my extremely oily skin. Does milk of magnesia really work as a primer?”

Well, a lot of users online seems to agree to the effectiveness of milk of magnesia in reducing oil in the skin and prolong makeup wear, but it also deserves to be mentioned that long term use may lead to serious bacterial problems and is not recommended.

Rather than use milk of magnesia for oil control, you would rather use one of the many primers out there designed for use on oily skin. You may however still want to use for that one single occasion where you desire to have your makeup looking good all day e.g. on your wedding.

How to Use Milk of Magnesia as a Primer (How to Apply)

Routine use of milk of magnesia for oil control is not recommended because of the risk of bacterial proliferation associated with long term us, but you may still want to use it occasionally (on special events like weddings or to prepare for a photo for example) to reduce the oil in your skin before applying your makeup and hence make your makeup stay longer:

Here is a brief guideline on how to use milk of magnesia primer:

If you have an oily face, use MoM as a primer to stay matte
If you have an oily face, use MoM as a primer to stay matte.
  • Wash your face as usual and then pat it dry with a clean towel. You will especially like to use a cleansing product designed for use on oily skin as that can further help reduce the shine.
  • Pour a little milk of magnesia on a small cotton ball and apply gently to your face.
  • Allow your skin time to dry before applying your regular makeup.

Some people also use milk of magnesia after applying their daily moisturizer.

Milk of Magnesia Primer for Oily Skin and Dry, Acne Prone Skins

I hear milk of magnesia can help to mattify oily skin. Is this true and is it safe? An oily skin presents its own set of challenges. In addition to triggering frequent acne breakouts, oily skin also makes makeup to stay on for a lot shorter time. Most people also don’t like the shine associated with an oily skin and desire a matte look.

That is where primers such as milk of magnesia primer come in handy and one increasingly popular but unlikely option is milk of magnesia (MoM). It has oil blotting properties that helps to reduce the oils in the skin. This is attributed to breakdown of esters and steryl esters, the common compounds in skin oils.

Keep in mind however that using MoM alone will leave your face with a white cast. This can be especially visible if you have a dark complexion. To avoid that, you should use it alongside your usual skin moisturizer and preferable apply it before applying your makeup.

One user for example reported great success from first of all moisturizing with cocoa butter before applying the MoM followed by mist spray, then foundation, and finally the rest of her makeup. Any brand of milk of magnesia will do, but ensure that it doesn’t contain mineral oil as this can clog your pores and trigger a breakout. Routine use of milk of magnesia is also not recommended as this can alter the pH of your face leading to a proliferation of microorganisms.

Phillips Milk of Magnesia Primer (with Reviews)

Phillips Milk of Magnesia is the undisputed king in the jungle. This is essentially a magnesium hydroxide solution and while it is touted to be the #1 doctor recommended MoM, it is for use as a saline laxative rather than as a primer.

Nevertheless, the product seems to be getting lots or rave reviews among users has outstanding ratings in online shopping and review sites.

For example, it has a rating of 4.4 out of 5 based on 52 reviews on, 4.1 out of 5 based on 365 reviews on Makeup Alley, and 4.3 out of 5 based on 56 reviews on the manufacturer’s official amazon store.

The original flavor is recommended but if you don’t mind the idea of putting up with a mint or cherry flavor on your face, the flavored varieties will do just as fine.

Here are some of the comments left by some of the users of Philips primer:

“This little concoction…absorbs it [oil]…well enough that I only have to blot once around noon.”

Another user had this to say on Makeup Alley,

“AMAZING!!! The only thing I have ever found that will keep my face matte the entire day, and I have super oily skin!! Plus it’s so cheap and will last you a long, long time!”

She was however quick to mention the shortcoming of this product if not properly used saying,

“…the best way to use it is apply a layer underneath makeup. It does leave a white cast but it comes off right when you start to put your face makeup on.”

Milk of Magnesia Primer Side Effects (Is it Safe?)

Safety in using milk of magnesia is always a concern among various quarters with several side-effects being pointed out as follows:

You might experience dryness and tightness or even irritation on your face from using milk of magnesia if you have normal or dry skin. It is only meant for people with oily skin. As for the people with combination skin, only oily areas of skin should be matted with MoM.

It can also cause a chalky appearance in your face especially if not applied correctly (as outlined earlier on) or if too much of it is applied.

When used for a significant amount of time, milk of magnesia may also alter the pH of the skin leading to proliferation of microorganisms such as bacteria. In that light it should be used very sparingly.

Other Side effects of milk of magnesia include contact dermatitis, poor skin exfoliation, poor extracellular lipid processing, and poor overall skin integrity.