Review study: Can magnesium be absorbed through the skin?

Posted 30 January 2018

Miracle Magnesium, BetterYou, AquaMAG, THATMagnesium, and others make claims that magnesium can be absorbed through the skin (transdermal absorption), and that using magnesium this way will cure or treat you for a number of ailments.

We have consistently argued that very, very few substances can be absorbed through the skin, and without proof that magnesium can be, that one should consider all claims unsubstantiated, and in many cases are simply scams.

We asked BetterYou for proof that their claims could be substantiated. They sent me three articles, one of which one is published in a journal. The study, A Pilot Study to determine the impact of Transdermal Magnesium treatment on serum levels and whole body CaMg Ratios, is published in the European Journal for Nutraceutical Research. This appears to be a non-peer reviewed journal.

Searching for this article led me to a recent review (August 2017) of all transdermal magnesium studies, Myth or Reality—Transdermal Magnesium?, published in the peer-reviewed journal  This article, makes the following points:

  • In the following review, we evaluated the current literature and evidence-based data on transdermal magnesium application and show that the propagation of transdermal magnesium is scientifically unsupported.
  • Extensive studies of the Israel army with a magnesium-containing skin protectant lotion (IB1) showed that magnesium is not absorbed through the skin
  • The topical skin protectant lotion (IB1) containing magnesium was tested in a human study. There were no significant differences in magnesium levels between the placebo and the study groups in any of the applications. 
  • Based on the current studies it is extremely alarming if a successful treatment of magnesium fails by propagation of transdermal magnesium, a scientifically not yet proven form of magnesium application. 

The article given a good overview of previous studies. They explain why certain studies claiming absorption is possible are deficient and not positive from a health perspective. The authors explain the physiology of magnesium, and why they have reached their conclusions.

Reference:
Nutrients. 2017 Aug; 9(8): 813.
Myth or Reality—Transdermal Magnesium?
Uwe Gröber,1, Tanja Werner,2 Jürgen Vormann,2 and Klaus Kisters1,3

  1. Akademie für Mikronährstoffmedizin, Zweigertstr. 55, 45130 Essen, Germany;
  2. IPEV Institute for Prevention and Nutrition, Adalperostr. 37, D-85737 Ismaning, Germany;
  3. Medizinische Klinik I, St. Anna-Hospital, 44649 Herne, Germany

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4 Responses to Review study: Can magnesium be absorbed through the skin?

  1. Isabel 31 January, 2018 at 9:59 am #

    Hi

    What type of magnesium was used in these studies?

    • Harris 31 January, 2018 at 11:42 am #

      Magnesium chloride, magnesium sulphate, magnesium oils, transdermal creams. This cream was manufactured, in the course of research and development, for the Center for Magnesium Education & Research

      • Isabel Pieterse 14 February, 2018 at 12:06 pm #

        Hi Harris

        Nope in the – the “extensive” study on the Israeli army is not extensive at all… the aim of the study was not to see if Magnesium is absorbed by the skin – the aim of the study was to find a protective agent against chemical warfare. The type of Magnesium used in this study is Magnesium Sulphate… The study does not say in what quanities or strength the magnesium has been applied to the skin. Once again this study was not to see if magnesium is actually abosorbed through the skin, this study was to see if the ingredients in IB1 will be effective in chemical warfare – I do not think that I will use this as a benchmark to support claims of magnesium not being absorbed.

        As far as I understood there are studies showing serum levels of Magnesium increasing after taking a bath in Epsom Salt?

        https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579607/

        From the above article it states that magnesium can be absorbed through sweat glands and the hair follicle…

        This is an extract from the article:

        “Another study that is often cited for proving that transdermal magnesium absorption offers a simple, cost effective and efficient methodology to increase cellular magnesium levels was a trial that took place over a 12-week period and involved a total of nine patients aged between 22 and 69 years (only weak statistical power). Following provision of a hair sample, although known to be only less representative for total body magnesium handling, for analysis of mineral content each patient tested was instructed to apply 20 sprays of magnesium oil. The original treatment consisted of the daily spray, anywhere on the body, as well as a 20-min foot soak using 100 mL magnesium oil (using a simple water footbath) twice weekly. At the end of 12-week treatment a further hair analysis was conducted. After transdermal applications for 12 weeks all patients except one had a significant increase in cellular magnesium ranging from −7.1% to 262%. One patient ceased application prematurely, three weeks before the final analysis. Overall an average increase of 59.7% in hair was observed. No data on serum magnesium concentration was available [6].”

        So from the above one can CLEARLY see that there was a SIGNIFICANT increase in CELLULAR MAGNESIUM! …. no significant increase in serum level… This clearly shows that magnesium is absorbed…

        Would you please be so kind as to explain the difference between Cellular level and Serum Level.

        • Harris 14 February, 2018 at 2:19 pm #

          @Isabel
          Basically any magnesium absorbed, even from food, is not retained in the blood but fairly rapidly moved/stored into tissues such as bones, muscle and tissue cells elsewhere around the body. Or excreted. So the argument is that measuring serum levels is not as meaningful as that of cells (cellular level) where the magnesium may be stored. The authors infer that because it is difficult to measure these areas, they measured magnesium deposited into hair.

          You emphasize “CLEARLY see that there was a SIGNIFICANT increase in CELLULAR MAGNESIUM!” and the data would seem to support what you say. The authors of the review state: “Another study that is often cited for proving that transdermal magnesium . . .” and the next paragraph starts with “A study of similar questionable quality for proving transdermal magnesium absorption . . ”

          Why would they write that? It has to do with a number of factors that one uses to evaluate whether studies are credible, not credible, faked, etc. So one would look at who did the study, the centre(s) involved (Mineral Check, Herbal Research Centre, United Kingdom), whether there was a control group, are the calculations and statistics and methods correct, etc. That is because even scientists can make mistakes, or deliberately try to fudge data.

          Based on the reviewers’ assessment, they are essentially dismissing the study as of “questionable quality for proving transdermal magnesium absorption”. Having reviewed the study myself, I was of the similar opinion.

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