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You've likely heard about the merits of taking magnesium orally: It helps boost your mood, improves muscle function, and can lower blood pressure. But what about using it topically on your skin? As it turns out, magnesium is a calming agent and anti-inflammatory, making it a great candidate for treating rosacea, acne, eczema, and minor skin irritations. To learn more about the skin-soothing properties of magnesium, we turned to Ebru Karpuzoglu, MSc, Ph.D., immunologist and founder of health-conscious skincare line AveSeena; Aliya Dhalla, skincare expert and founder of clean beauty line Mabrook & Co; and Rebecca Killan, executive vice president of product development and design at SweatWELLth.
Type of ingredient: Mineral
Main benefits: When used in skincare, magnesium reduces acne, calms sensitive skin and rosacea, and improves the skin's overall appearance.
Who should use it: In general, all skin types can benefit from magnesium usage. However, those with oily, acne-prone skin will most likely benefit the most.
How often can you use it: Topically, magnesium products can be used daily, preferably at night. If ingested, be careful not to exceed 320mg daily.
Works well with: Vitamin C
Don't use with: Magnesium absorption-inhibitors, such as high doses of zinc and phosphates. Stress can also cause a magnesium deficiency.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is an absorbent mineral that is crucial to the body's overall health. Naturally available in many foods, magnesium can be ingested or used topically. It can be found in the form of supplemental capsules, bath salts, oils, and over-the-counter medications—like antacids and laxatives. This potent mineral is a crucial factor in many bodily functions, including structural bone development, muscle and nerve function, energy production, and the synthesis of DNA/RNA—but that's only naming a few. "[Magnesium is also] necessary for the enzymes that regulate cell turnover and repair," mentions Killian. So, yes, magnesium is essential to our overall health. Responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions within the body, this is definitely a powerful, jack-of-all-trades ingredient. "Magnesium supports the immune system, heart, nerve and muscle function, hormone and blood sugar regulation, and mood," says Dhalla. "Many of us are not getting enough magnesium through food sources. Our skin is the largest organ in our body, and it plays a huge role in temperature regulation, detoxification, and it has absorptive capabilities. What we put on our skin can ultimately end up in our bloodstream."
Benefits of Magnesium for Skin
When it comes to your skin, magnesium is just as important.
- Reduces inflammation: Magnesium can be a huge help when it comes to breakouts and hormonal imbalance. "Magnesium helps reduce inflammation caused by any type of injury, including those created by acne-causing bacteria invading the skin," says Killian.
- Assists with DNA repair and replication: "Magnesium is necessary for the enzymes that regulate DNA replication and repair," explains Killian. "Without it, the skin is subject to a host of harmful free radical damage and inflammation. In other words, fine lines and wrinkles."
- Fights skin allergens: "Eczema is often a sign of a magnesium deficiency," explains Killian. "When magnesium levels are low, the body begins to produce histamines. Histamines create itchy skin and red blotches, and nobody wants that. Along with histamine production, magnesium deficiency also results in lower levels of fatty acids on the skin. This reduces elasticity and moisture and creates the perfect condition for dryness and inflammation."
- Calms sensitive skin and rosacea: Magnesium is also sufficient at soothing redness and inflammation. Those with reactive skin would greatly benefit by adding this mineral to their routine. "Topically, [magnesium is] used for the treatment of acne and acne rosacea as it helps with skin that is red, severely dry, and itchy," says Killian.
- Improves the skin's overall appearance: Magnesium enhances the appearance of skin by regulating its sebum production.
- Controls odor: "When used topically, magnesium can help to facilitate gentle detoxification, control odor, calm irritated skin, and soothe sore muscles," confirms Dhalla. "It is a key ingredient in many of our natural deodorant formulas for these precise reasons."
Side Effects of Magnesium
A magnesium deficiency can cause several health problems and skin-related issues. "Lack of magnesium in our body can make us feel weaker and age faster due to impairment of protein synthesis and possible initiation of inflammatory responses," explains Karpuzoglu. She adds, "Magnesium deficiency results in an uneven skin tone, a decrease in elasticity, and a loss of moisture, which creates the perfect environment for dryness, inflammation, and aging free radical damage." Magnesium is also known to have a laxative effect when ingesting excessive amounts. You should not exceed the daily recommended dosage, which tends to vary. Make sure to consult your physician before adding any kind of supplement to your daily regime.
How to Use It
Magnesium can be used in a multitude of ways since it's available in various forms. Killian mentioned that it can be found in three different formulations—magnesium hydroxide, magnesium PCA, and magnesium carbonate. For clarification, magnesium hydroxide is found in Milk of Magnesia, which is an antacid and laxative, magnesium PCA is a humectant, and magnesium carbonate is a mineral salt that is used for balancing PH within the skin.
The Best Products With Magnesium
"Overall, using products containing magnesium on your skin such as an oil, lotion, bath salt, or deodorant can help increase overall magnesium levels in the body, especially when combined with a healthy, whole-food diet rich in dietary forms of magnesium," mentions Dhalla.
Killian suggests sweatWELLth Lip Quench Electrolyte Balm ($13). "This balm replenishes vital minerals and essential nutrients to keep lips moisturized all day long," says Killian. "It's loaded with magnesium, sodium, potassium, calcium, and encapsulated electrolyte technology. Electrolytes are key to the retention of fluids, and proper fluid balance contributes to optimal performance."
Killian also suggests Glossier's Super Glow Vitamin C + Magnesium Serum. Formulated with magnesium PCA, she mentions that she always reaches for this serum. "When looking for [that] extra brightening glow, I reach for Glossier's Super Glow. This serum [is] packed with good-for-you vitamin C, [while] magnesium energizes and evens out my skin tone for a super luminous, fresh look."
Killan also recommended an additional product by sweatWELLth. The Awesome Chalk Workout Ultra Grip Spray is formulated with magnesium carbonate, which is excellent for absorbing excess moisture and balancing the skin's PH. "On kettlebell workout day, I always look to tame the sweaty palms and sidestep the bacteria in the communal chalk bucket by using sweatWELLth's Awesome Chalk. [It's] super easy to spray on and maintain the grip needed for a great workout. It's also [great at] preventing blisters and rips."
Lastly, Killian recommends sweatWELLth's Hydra Drench Anytime Refreshing Facial Mist. Formulated with magnesium PCA, this mist is great at drawing in moisture, while also locking it into the skin. "This is my "go-to anytime" pick me up! I keep one in the fridge, my gym bag, and even my desk drawer at the office. Along with Hyaluronic Acid, this formula packs a humectant punch to give you a dewy fresh afterglow any time of the day."
Interested in more magnesium-related reads? Up next: 8 Reasons Magnesium Is Such a Miracle Mineral.