Spritzing magnesium on your skin can have countless benefits—from soothing sore muscles to helping you fall fast asleep. But if you’ve ever sprayed it on yourself as a way to drift off to dreamland, you likely know that there’s one pretty pesky side effect associated with the stuff: itchy AF skin.
The mineral, explains Stephanie Morimoto, owner and CEO of Asutra, can absorb through your skin, which makes using it in the form of a Magnesium Oil Spray ($12) an alternative to incorporating it into your diet (albeit not an exclusive one ATM, according to science). “Your skin will easily absorb it and deliver much-needed magnesium to your bloodstream and cells. Topical magnesium bypasses the digestive tract, making the nutrient more bioavailable without overdoing it.”
But if you’re supplementing with a spritz or spraying it as a cue for your body to wind down at the end of the day, you’re likely familiar that the stuff tingles on skin. There are two schools of thought as to why this happens: Many people, including Morimoto, believe the theory that when magnesium levels are low in the body, tingling occurs and subsists over time as your supplies are restored (though it hasn’t been studied). “If your body’s cellular magnesium levels are low and you apply magnesium oil directly onto your skin, it may sometimes sting a little, she says. “Over time and with gradual use, this sensation usually decreases.”
Dermatologists, however, have a different theory as to why the topicals are making your skin tingle. “The pH of the product varies greatly from the pH of our own natural skin. This can create the sensation of itching and irritation when applied topically,” explains Rachel Nazarian, MD, of NYC’s Schweiger Dermatology. And while the sensation is certainly an indicator that there’s something on the skin, she says that it’s not a tell-tale sign that you’re deficient. For what it’s worth, the pH of magnesium chloride (commonly found in sprays) is 7.5 while magnesium sulfate (aka Epsom salt) is between 5.5 to 6.5.
If you’re feeling the burn after you spray, regardless of the cause, there are a few things you can do. Dr. Nazarian suggests applying a topical skin anti-inflammatory cream. “Those containing aloe—which is often combined with magnesium spray—green tea extract, niacinamide or even topical vitamin E are naturally anti-inflammatory and soothing to skin and can help combat irritation caused by other topical products, such as magnesium spray,” she explains. If the oils and sprays are too intense for your skin, you can get your daily dose of magnesium via a moisturizing body butter or by soaking in a bath filled with magnesium chloride flakes instead. Or obviously, incorporating magnesium-rich foods into your diet.
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