People often use milk of magnesia as an antacid or laxative. Some suggest using it as a treatment for oily skin, but evidence for its safety and effectiveness is limited.

Milk of magnesia, or magnesium hydroxide, is available over the counter. People may use it as an antacid or a saline laxative. This type of laxative draws moisture into the bowels to help loosen stuck stools.

Some people believe they can use milk of magnesia on their skin to remove excess oil. While some beauty websites also recommend this, evidence is limited for its safety and effectiveness.

This article discusses the safety of using milk of magnesia on the skin, treatments for oily skin, identifying oily skin, and when to contact a doctor.

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People often look for ways to change the appearance of their skin. This may include reducing dryness, treating acne, or removing excess sebum — an oily substance the body produces.

Some beauty websites suggest using milk of magnesia topically to help remove excess oil. When people use it as a laxative, it pulls moisture into the colon to help loosen stool. However, there is very limited evidence to suggest it is safe or effective at treating oily skin or related skin conditions such as acne.

For example, in a 1975 letter to the editor of a dermatology journal, a doctor noted that using topical milk of magnesia alongside twice-daily washing with fat-free soap and 250 milligrams of oral tetracycline four times per day helped to improve acne-related redness and swelling.

This was not a formal or peer-reviewed study, and it is possible that the therapeutic effects only arose due to tetracycline — an antibiotic that people may use to treat acne.

Learn more about antibiotics for acne.

Since then, experts have not recommended using milk of magnesia for acne. In terms of acne, there is no evidence that it has:

  • wound healing features
  • anti-inflammatory effects
  • antibacterial effects
  • antioxidant effects

Similarly, no scientific evidence suggests milk of magnesia can help with oily skin.

A person should discuss treatments for oily skin with a healthcare professional.

While experts do not recommend milk of magnesia as a treatment option for acne or oily skin, a person still has several possible treatment methods to consider. The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends people can manage oily skin by:

  • using oil-free and noncomedogenic soaps and skin care products
  • washing the face every morning and evening and after exercise
  • avoiding oil-based or alcohol-based cleansers
  • wearing sunscreen when going outdoors
  • using a gentle, foaming face wash
  • cleaning makeup off the skin before going to bed
  • applying moisturizer daily
  • avoiding touching the face throughout the day — may find blotting paper is helpful
  • using water-based makeup

Other experts suggest the following may help to manage oily skin:

A person should discuss their options with a doctor who can recommend an appropriate and individual treatment plan.

Read more about treatments for oily skin.

There are several different skin types, including oily. Oily skin often has the following characteristics:

A person with oily skin may experience acne. Most forms, such as pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads, involve pores clogged with oil and other material.

Learn more about identifying skin types.

A person may not need to contact a doctor if they can manage their oily skin with lifestyle changes, such as regular washing, using oil-free products, and other preventive steps.

However, they may want to consult a dermatologist or other doctor if they:

  • need additional help identifying which products or medications may work for them
  • develop acne — dermatologists can successfully treat nearly every type of acne
  • want to switch medications

Evidence to support using milk of magnesia on oily skin is very limited. Experts do not recommend using it to help with acne.

Treatment for oily skin often involves other noninvasive interventions such as regular washing, avoiding touching the face throughout the day, and using oil-free cosmetics and soaps.

A person may want to consult a doctor for additional treatment options if they develop acne or have concerns about their skin.