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Hilary Says: The Dangers of Using Milk of Magnesia as a Primer



_Image 1 milk of magnesia_bellanaija

Makeup primers are used to provide an even “canvas” for the application of make up, they smooth over minor surface imperfections like fine lines, wrinkles and pores. There are different types of makeup primers, for example:

  1. Prime only: This is the most basic type of primer; it just gives your face a smooth surface that makeup will adhere better to. Most of these are a combination of a volatile silicone (e.g. Cyclopentasiloxane) with a heavier silicone (e.g. Dimethicone) as their main ingredients. Some are based on silicone and water. These may or may not contain mattifying ingredients, powders that help reduce shine (e.g. Silica, Magnesium Aluminium Silicate, Tapioca Starch, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate,t.c). An example of “primer only” primer is Smashbox Photo Finish Primer.
  2. Mattifying primer
  3. Prime plus colour correct
  4. Prime plus anti aging

Milk Of Magnesia (MOM) is mainly Magnesium Hydroxide suspended in water and some Sodium Hypochlorite. It is commonly used as an antacid. So when your stomach (pH level between 1.5 – 3.5) is very acidic and painful, MOM (pH level 10.5 – strong alkaline) is used to neutralize your stomach leaving you with water. (A little bit of chemistry here – acid + alkaline = water + salt).

Ammonia has a pH of 11, which is pretty close to the pH of MOM; imagine putting Ammonia on your face for hours. Yes, using MOM will stop the shining short term because Magnesium Hydroxide has very good absorbing qualities and Sodium Hypochlorite commonly known as bleach has degreasing attributes. What looks like the most amazing gift ever in the short term can completely wreak havoc on your skin in the long run.

The protective layer on the skin surface known as the “acid mantle” has a mildly acidic pH (about 5), which helps maintain skin integrity and keeps beneficial flora attached to the skin and bad flora like fungus away. MOM will increase the alkalinity of the skin thereby destroying this acid mantle, leaving your skin unprotected. Your skin becomes dry (loses moisture), prone to irritations; impede your skin’s ability to shed its dead layers and damage overall skin integrity.

_Image 2 Normal-Skin-Barrier-Function-Versus-Disrupted-Skin-Barrier-Function_bellanaija

When you use MOM as an everyday primer, you are ruining the acid mantle on a daily basis. This has the potential to be quite dangerous. Below are two primers that can help control oil; according to their ingredients list, I believe they should do a pretty good job. These primers are mattifying primers, if you have dry skin, I really won’t advice you to use them.


_Image 3 becca-ever-matte-poreless-priming-perfector_bellanaija

Ingredients: Water, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Propylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylene Glycol, Enantia Chlorantha Bark Extract, Oleanolic Acid.

This has a pretty basic formula. The main ingredients here are Water and Magnesium Aluminium Silicate. Once applied, water will evaporate leaving Magnesium Aluminium Silicate which is a clay-derived absorbent (good for oil absorption) giving a powdery finish.


_Image 4 make up forever primer_bellanaija

Ingredients: Water, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Pentylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Lactic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Parfum (Fragrance), Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract, Cichorium Intybus (Chicory) Root Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Cinnamomum Cassia Bark Extract, Sanguisorba Officinalis Root Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate.

Just like the Becca Primer, the main ingredients here are Water and Magnesium Aluminium Silicate. Like I mentioned earlier, water evaporates once applied on the skin leaving Hydrated Silica, which is a good absorbent like Magnesium Aluminium Silicate.

Please feel free to send any beauty questions you have to: [email protected]

Photo Credit: DailyMail, Dermaviduals, BeautyJunkiesUnite, LiveBeautifully

I am a Cosmetic Scientist and I’m extremely passionate about anything that involves cosmetics. I have a BSc in Cosmetic Science from London College of Fashion (University of the Arts), which is basically the chemistry behind cosmetics, which includes colour cosmetics (makeup), skin care, hair care and perfumery. I have worked as a product formulator in Procter and Gamble under Maxfactor, Cover Girl and Dolce & Gabbana Cosmetics; I have also worked as a beauty consultant with brands like Lancôme, YSL Beauty, Nars, Chanel Beauty, L’Occitane, Aesop, Eve Lom (to name a few). Instagram: @hilary.saysTwitter: @hilarysays__


  1. Baby gurl

    September 18, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    Skincare > Makeup. Life is easier that way lol no time for the extra stress

    • Uberhaute looks

      September 18, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Maybe we should try to buy Nigerian. I think Bmpro has very good mattifying primer so does Tara and Kuddy.
      Mom shouldnt be used at all or sparingly/once in a while
      By the way, most Nigerians prefer cheap to original and health effective.
      I went to Trade fair and when I saw fake makeup products in millions, I cried! Many people have been playing with serious skin damages and diseases without knowing. May God give us the grace to help ourselves

  2. mimi

    September 18, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Rubbish….i am also a skin care expert and this is bollocks….of course you want your expensive products to sell, why not…….thats how you all get paid….let people have and use this one cheap thing please…you still make billions from all the others….all this your illustrations trying to prove something….how can something that is safe in your intestines, not be safe on your skin????

    • Charlotte

      September 18, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Hello Mimi, Hilary says is right you know .milk of magnesia is harmful to your skin in the long run.You can spend some time researching on it yourself and you will see she’s right.

    • Hilary Rodriguez-Taiwo

      September 18, 2016 at 2:47 pm

      Hi Mimi, i actually do not sell these products. The examples i gave are products out on the market that can give you close to the same drying effect that MOM will give you. The only other product that could do that was the No7 primer which has been discontinued. No point giving advice on why you should stop using something if i don’t advice good enough alternatives. MOM is good for the stomach because the stomach is very acidic. Alkaline neutralizes acid, to give salt and water. The skin’s pH is not acidic enough for you to use a strong alkaline like MOM, instead of neutralizing the skin’s acid, it will actually make it more alkaline. Believe me, this is not a money making scheme, i’m just giving advice. We use so many things on our skin without knowing how harmful they are, i’m just sharing my knowledge.

    • Toni

      September 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm

      The best selling primer in Nigeria is Boots No.7. It costs around 8k and is found in almost every make-up artist’s studio, in Lagos at least. Second, I would say is NYX another popular product found in a lot of studios. The ingredients in Boots No 7 Beautifully Matte Make Up Base reads as follows:
      Water, Hydrated silica, Butylene glycol, Stearic acid, Palmitic acid, Ethylhexyl palmitate, Dimethicone, Alcohol denat., Montmorillonite, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetearyl alcohol, Triethanolamine, Cyclohexasiloxane, Mica, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Salicylic acid, Allantoin, Tocopheryl acetate, Alpha-glucan oligosaccharide, Aesculus hippocastanum (Horse chestnut) extract, Propylene glycol, Retinyl palmitate, Alcohol, Maltodextrin, Hamamelis virginiana (Witch hazel) distillate, Fructose, Glucose, Sorbitol, BHT, Silica, Spiraea ulmaria extract, Cucumis sativus (Cucumber) fruit extract, Tocopherol.

      I can see it has the Dimethicone you listed as well as Parabens which I was told were a big ‘no, no’ at least 1oyears ago by a make-up artist in London.

      I feel that there’s nothing wrong with reviewing expensive products or cheaper ones as it really boils down to your purse and personal preference when making a purchase.

      The looming bigger question to Nigerian women and providers of skincare and make-up products is how safe they are, whether they are loaded with carcinogenic ingredients or endocrine disrupters whatever the case maybe. Both cheap and expensive make-up have the worst carcinogens as ingredients. Google will help you clarify this statement.

      Personally, I am tired of being laughed at in the salon when I only insist on a certain brand for my nail polish, sulfur free shampoo when washing my hair, and paraben and phthalate free products in my make-up and skincare.

      Its the daily little habits that add up to cause cancer and other terminal illnesses, unhealthy pregnancies, which if we look out for now will protect us later.

      Nigerian women are so caught up in the glamour of the moment, they look for the cheapest most poisonous option as long as they look good and/or rich constantly turning a blind eye to the detrimental long term effects these products have on their health.

      Its always a shrug of the shoulders in irritation when you mention side-effects to them.

      So to respond to Mimi, there are lots of things you can ingest which aren’t harmful as a one off, but take it everyday and you might just drop dead. All drugs have contraindications, some women drop dead from taking the pill, I mean I could go on.

      I don’t see her having shares in Becca Cosmetics or Make-up Forever, I just think she recommended what she knows.

      Your cynicism is mind-boggling.

    • Hilary Rodriguez-Taiwo

      September 18, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Thank you very much Toni. I intended to include the Boots No 7 primer in the list but it has actually been discontinued. I gave these examples so one can know how to spot a mattifying primer just by looking at the ingredients. If i knew of any other cheaper ones, i would’ve recommended. There are so many primers that claim to be mattifying but they are not. Thee’s nothing wrong with Dimethicone and there’s no research to prove that Parabens are bad. They are regulated, there is a maximum percentage you can have it in a product. The truth is, people just wake up and make so many claims about how dangerous some ingredients are without scientific research and proof. As a cosmetic scientist, it can be quite frustrating trying to make people understand why most of these ingredients that have bad reputations are actually safe. Also, because cosmetic companies know that people run away from these ingredients, they use the “free-from” claims as marketing. It’s like seeing a moisturiser with a “free from SLES” claim. SLES has no business in a moisturiser anyway, but as a consumer, if you don’t know that you automatically think “this product is safe” because it doesn’t have SLES.

    • Maguim

      September 18, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Hi Toni
      I am really interested in what you just shared… Do you mibd giving examples of nail polish and more importantly make up brand that can be considered as “safe” for our health….
      I just joined the “slow cosmetic” family (i just thow all my clinique lotions and co to the bin last week and started using vegetal and essetial oils, yogurt, and my skin already feels better)
      Tks in advance

    • Toni

      September 20, 2016 at 1:07 am


      I use Butter London nail polish. OPI is ‘3 Free” and so is Essie. If you want to go ‘5 Free” then use Butter. You can Google “3 Free” nail polish and “5 Free” nail polish for a list of safe brands.

    • Toni

      September 20, 2016 at 1:09 am

      @ Hilary. Maybe your next article can shed light on which ingredients are safe, not safe and which one’s need more research. There’s a lot of misinformation out there but highlighting what we need to know about ingredients and levels of exposure will help us make more informed choices.

    • Doc

      September 19, 2016 at 3:12 am

      Mimi the skin and the stomach are 2 different organs….totally different cell types. If you want to knock off someone’s argument provide some scientific oproof or logic as to why to think otherwise and don’t be so antisocial in your response.

  3. Iris

    September 18, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    I recently started using Becca foundation. I will admit it’s good, but it costs a fortune for the volume you get, so the primer probably does too. The scariest part is the bottle it comes in is opaque so I don’t know how much is left and I can’t tell how much I’m using when I pump out a little. If it lasts less than four months I’m going back to Match Master.
    The thing is, I don’t see the point of primer. I initially thought it helped dry the foundation so I could stop staining guys’ shirts when I hugged them ( the number of times I have given a guy a ‘hello’ hug, inadvertently stained his shirt and run away before he realised…). However, it turns out it doesn’t do that so there’s no point. Makeup companies are just greedy. I am sure they can mix primer and foundation in a bottle for the same price to achieve whatever it is that that combination is meant to achieve.
    To echo baby girl, skin care is the best makeup gift to your skin. Diet also helps. I started to focus on my face and neck and I can now take authentic ‘I woke up like this’ pictures.

    • Charlotte

      September 18, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Hello Iris, I agree the becca primer is expensive,have you tried cheaper brands like maybelline or elf.they have good inexpensive primers.

    • Hilary Rodriguez-Taiwo

      September 18, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Hi Charlotte, I agree that the examples i gave are expensive. What i tried to do (maybe not clear enough) is to teach you how to spot other primers that’ll give you the driving effect just by looking at the ingredients.

    • Hilary Rodriguez-Taiwo

      September 18, 2016 at 2:56 pm

      Hi Iris, i always tell remind people that your skin grows from the inside out. There’s not a lot you can do from the outside in. Drink loads of water to keep the skin hydrated so it can function the way it should, eat foods with antioxidants to reduce free radical damage, cut down your sugar intake, exercise too. Primers are not absolutely necessary, i forget to use them sometimes. Instead i use matte long-wear foundation. The only reason i use primers sometimes is that they help fill up lines and creases on your face so when you wear foundation, it doesn’t sit in those lines and look messy. These examples i gave are products out on the market that give you close to the same drying effect that MOM will do. You don’t have to buy them. If i’m giving advice on why you shouldn’t use something, it’s only right that i give examples on possible alternatives. I also explained how you can find other primers that’ll give the same effect just by looking at the ingredients. Unfortunately, i don’t think there’s anything you can apply that’ll stop your foundation from staining anyone you hug lol….if i knew i would totally use it.

  4. mizwest

    September 18, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    You work with high end makeup industry ,that makes me feel your research could be biased. MOM is cheap and effective and works well as a primer. Its something we put inside our very delicate stomach linings so im sure our tough skin cell can handle it. MOM certainly gives some of the high end products in the market today a run for the money in terms of affordabiliy and overall effectiveness. I’ll be interested in finding out what goes into the more expensive primer brands in market today. What are there side effects besides the money damage. just playing devils advocate here. Could you give us an honest breakdown of all the chemicals in these branded products.

    • Hilary Rodriguez-Taiwo

      September 18, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Hi Mizwest, i actually do not work with any high end company, i used to. I’m a freelance cosmetic scientist. The examples i gave are products out on the market that can give you close to the same drying effect that MOM will give you. The other product that could do that was the No7 primer which has been discontinued. No point giving advice on why you should stop using something if i don’t advice good enough alternatives. I gave the examples to show you how you can spot other primers that will give you the drying effect just by looking at the ingredients. MOM is good for the stomach because the stomach is very acidic. Alkaline neutralizes acid, to give salt and water. The skin’s pH is not acidic enough for you to use a strong alkaline like MOM, instead of neutralizing the skin’s acid, it will actually make it more alkaline. The truth is everything is a chemical, even water is a chemical (H2O – contains water and hydrogen), we have chemicals in everything eveb our food. It’s hard to give you a breakdown because different ingredients (chemicals) do different things. Yea they may have “scary” chemical sounding names but that doesn’t been they are entirely bad for you. There are regulatory bodies, certain ingredients are not allowed at all, some are not allowed to be used above certain levels. As long as you are not ingesting them, most of them are very safe. There are companies that make and sell products illegally so their products cant be tested by regulatory bodies. Regulatory bodies go after these big companies like white on rice.

    • Bee

      September 19, 2016 at 11:57 am

      That No 7 primer that was discontinued really hurt…LOL. The girl at Boots was so sympathetic as I looked really distraught.

    • Mizwest

      September 18, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      Thank you for sharing your Anecdotal evidence. Still on the Devils advocacy , There is no scientific evidence to suggest that MON can damage the skin. Correct me if I’m wrong but there has been no case controlled studies looking at the effect of MON use as a primer.. Ive got combined skin type on my face. In my experience using MON on my dry areas tends to make my skin feel tight and dry. I resolved that small problem by moisturising my dry areas before using MON. I’ll recommend using a good moisturiser before using MON or any primer. A good moisturiser incomporated into your daily cleansing routine can help restore a healthy PH balance. Also be aware that people can have allergies so be mindful that you are not allergic to any of the ingredients in MON or any other primer. I personally recommend a skin allergy test before starting any product. As skin is a living cell as evident from the skins ability to shed dead skin cells allowing new skin, using MON for short periods in a day should not alter the skins composition. It could do that to baby skin as that skin is thin and not fully developed but not so with healthy adult skin. This is my personal experience I’m not a demotologist, but I am research minded. Once again thank you dr Hilary for sharing your Anecdote.?

  5. ty

    September 18, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    I am yet to understand the dangers or what this post is to achieve, to sell products or just condemn milk of magnesia,but no proof by regretful users

    • Hilary Rodriguez-Taiwo

      September 18, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Hi Ty, this post is not to sell products at all. I’m just trying to make you understand why MOM is bad for the skin. MOM is good for the stomach because the stomach is very acidic. Alkaline neutralizes acid, to give salt and water. The skin’s pH is not acidic enough for you to use a strong alkaline like MOM, instead of neutralizing the skin’s acid, it will actually make it more alkaline. The skin will not function well at that pH level. I’m not trying to condemn MOM, it is a fantastic product, it’s just bad for the skin.

    • Bola

      September 18, 2016 at 5:12 pm

      I really don’t understand people. Ready to attack and disagree without actually reading and comprehending. I’m not a makeup enthusiast; I hardly have makeup on and the 1st time I had makeup professionally done was a week ago. My friends are makeup junkies and they’ve improved tremendously by watching videos online and even going for master classes. One of my friends, she’s a Business Consultant, sometime last year; I remember her narrating the dangers of consistently using milk of magnesia. She actually stopped using it and got an alternative. Mind you, she’s a business consultant and works for no beauty business enterprise, she just figured it wasn’t good and stopped using it immediately. The makeup artist who did my makeup last week, although she had milk of magnesia in her makeup box, she confessed it wasn’t necessary to use it and some clients won’t let you use it on their faces; no matter how you try to convince them. My point: this post is very educating – something you can learn from. If many of you want to continue using milk of magnesia, fine, your skin, your problem. No need to be unnecessarily hostile and argumentative towards the author. After all, she didn’t say you should stop using it, it’s a personal decision, she just narrated the possible side effects and dangers of using milk of magnesia, and alternative products you can use.
      Well done, Hilary! Very informative post.

    • Hilary Rodriguez-Taiwo

      September 18, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Thank You Bola.

    • Maguim

      September 18, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      I like you Bola
      Common sense has been discommoned….. 🙁
      I dont the agressive feedback either… She stated a point and gave alternatives to MOM’..
      See peope acting liked she is forcing these products down their throats!!!!
      I read the post, saw the examples she gave, decided i was not interested in Becca (mainly because it is not available instores where i live, lol) and moved on…..
      People, it is not that serious….. Is MOM part of your inheritance that you feel so threatened???wow

  6. Qwerty

    September 18, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    Hillary, what you said is simply truth!

  7. Lanm

    September 18, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    Mary Kay, House of Tara (#BuyNigerian), M.A.C all have good primers. You don’t have to use Milk of Magnesia. Makeup these days: damn annoying. 2011, 2010, backwards we all used primers and we were good. Now you bake, over contour, etc. Ish!

  8. zzzzzzzzz

    September 18, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    Hi Hillary, thanks for your informative post. Great to know there are nigerans doing the job you do. Do you work with local cosmetic makers because I recently saw a programme on CNN where Africa contributes to only 3% of cosmetics sold or consumed in the world. Cosmetics is really a money spinner and the country could make so much money if we invested in our own. Take for instance the Korean makeup industry that is taking the world by storm. Nigeria could do same. Dudu Osun i s tdoing quite well in the international market.

  9. Ola

    September 18, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    I had a terrible experience using MOM for the first and last time. My face was literally burning as I was washing the makeup off. For some few days there was no breakout but when it came, it CAME and thankfully I was ready to fight. Lol and I was certain it was cos of MOM

    MOM wasn’t designed to be used as primer. Isn’t that enough proof?

  10. franca

    September 18, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    I would assume those speaking for MOM do not have basic chemistry background. You would have known better. Yes,you can draw eyebrow arcs and make better after than the before,that doesn’t make u cosmetologist. Seek knowledge;that is what the internet is meant for. For heavenssake,MOM is dangerous to the skin.
    You don’t have to use high end products to achieve the primary functions of a primer,Find cheaper,safer and better alternatives,

  11. Daz

    September 19, 2016 at 1:39 am

    The ignorance in some of these comments is just scary. The writer is just trying to educate us, you either take it or leave it. No need to attack her. Thank you Hillary for this educative piece.

  12. diesel

    September 19, 2016 at 2:05 am

    BECCA don’t work for me as my face is still oily after using it as primer. Any other suggestion( primer) for extreme, oily face

    • Marian

      September 19, 2016 at 3:25 am

      You have to try Becca blotting powder perfector. I have really oily skin and the translucent one has been working like magic. It’s so wonderful. I have been telling everyone about it since i started using it. Go to the mall and you can try it out first before buying. Before you buy a primer or foundation, Try it out first then come back. Sometimes they will even give you a small trial size to take home with you before investing in it especially if it’s an expensive product.

  13. Passingby

    September 19, 2016 at 7:45 am

    Personally I don’t see anything wrong in people asking questions. When I buy products from Amazon I’ll read the reviews i always dis regard reviews written by people who have received the product as part of a sales promotion offer. I feel their reviews would be biased. If you are bold enough to critic a product you should expect questions as to what exactly are your facts. MOM works for some and not for others. That’s what I get from the comments.

  14. Tosin

    September 19, 2016 at 8:24 am

    as per mist mag? are we ok?

  15. Tosin

    September 19, 2016 at 8:28 am

    before you start fighting with your wonderful skin and face, have you tried drinking more water and eating better cleaner foods?
    the skin is a giant excretory organ , a fantastic miracle and if you have a lot of impurities (including food particles and even poisons from polluted air) your skin will dutifully help you remove them from your body so you don’t die. that’s where some of the oiliness is coming from.

  16. Lucy

    September 19, 2016 at 8:52 am

    MOM is an antacid. MOM was made for your STOMACH not your face. It is meant to be used orally, not topically. Because it looks good doesn’t mean it is safe. The manufacturers of the product have and will never list ‘primer’ as one of its uses. If they thought it was safe, they would have stated it clearly!

    Microbes are ubiquitous. Our skin especially our face that is never clothed comes in contact with harmful microbes everyday. Infections are imminent. We could try our possible best not to wear out our skin’s ability to fight these harmful microbes. Prevention is better than cure.

  17. Oghogho

    September 19, 2016 at 10:15 am

    I’ve used MON still using it over 2 year now. I got oily skin it works wonders for me. My makeup intact all day long, no ashy cakeyness no horrid shine. Infact I feel MON helped clear up my pimples having an oily face meant I was prone to acne. I know couple of colleagues who swear by it too. I also use baby powered to bake. Non of that expensive banana powder for me. When I was a broke broke high school students I used toothpaste on my pimples. It worked.

  18. Maryjane

    September 19, 2016 at 11:14 am

    @ oghogho please can tell me the brand of MOM you use. I have a very oily face. I have tried like 3 brands of primer but no satisfying result. I take lots of water and excercise 5 times a week so i don’t think it’s the case of toxins overload in my body leaving in form of oil. Please i really need to get a solution. Thanks

    • Oghogho

      September 19, 2016 at 4:00 pm

      Hi Maryland I use the Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia Original. Guaranteed 8 hrs shine free skin. I use jojoba oil at night to balance my ph. Hope this helps

  19. Enee

    October 1, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Hello Hillary, great article. I would appreciate it if you could make me understand why magnesium hydroxide which has a pH of 10.5 is not safe as opposed to a primer containing a host of ingredients INCLUDING Magnesium Aluminium Silicate (two different bases btw which have a joint pH higher than 10.5) I am a pharmacist and I did quite a lot of chemistry so this is confusing to me, especially as I use milk of magnesia on a daily basis. Thanks

  20. Xoxo

    December 18, 2016 at 10:08 pm

    Get yourself Ponds oil control from Facetalk. .its a makeup studio in Ikeja. . U ll thank me later..

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