Magnesium & Skin

This guide looks at why clear, firm, wrinkle-free skin depends on magnesium, and how invasive skin procedures may have negative side affects in severely magnesium-deficient people.

  1. Magnesium prevents and fights inflammation.
  2. Skin firmness and elasticity depend on magnesium.
  3. Magnesium supports our skin’s DNA.
  4. Magnesium powers vitamin D to keep our skin healthy.
  5. Invasive skin treatments can deceptively accelerate skin aging.

The solutions section then looks at measures we can take to restore and maintain healthy magnesium levels.

1. Magnesium fights acne and inflammation:

Magnesium and acne

Acne rarely originates in our skin but is rather an indicator of inflammation throughout our body, which can also be expressed on our skin’s surface.[1-4] Inflammation arises when we experience stress and our body’s systems stop working optimally. Not only do these systems depend on magnesium[5-10], but magnesium itself has anti-inflammatory effects on the human body, thus reducing the major cause of acne. [11-13] 

In fact magnesium’s anti-inflammatory effects can be seen directly inside our sebocytes: the acne-prone skin cells which make our skin’s natural lubricant called sebum[14]. 

A rise in inflammation can cause overproduction of sebum which allows bacteria such as Propionibacterium Acnes and Staphylococcus Epidermis to thrive. The mixture of these bacteria, excess sebum and dead skin cells clogs our pores and results in acne.

Magnesium & inflammation

We know magnesium fights inflammation in our skin cells, yet it also fights systemic inflammation throughout our entire body:

Blood tests use biomarkers to see the degree of inflammation in our body. E-selectin is the biomarker that reveals inflammation in our skin and C-reactive protein identifies systemic inflammation in our body.

Taking magnesium lowers both E-selectin and C-reactive protein (15,16), making it possible to reduce skin and whole-body inflammation. This makes sense when we look at magnesium’s role in producing our body’s most potent detoxifying agents:

Magnesium & detoxification

Our body’s innate systems protect our skin from oxidative stress and inflammation with the help of our two most potent antioxidants, glutathione & melatonin:

Glutathione is our most abundant anti-inflammatory helper. Our cells make it using a molecule called ATP: adenosine triphosphate.[17-20] which itself needs magnesium.  [21-25] Simply put, we need magnesium for the antioxidant benefits of glutathione.

Melatonin lets us sleep. This is essential for healthy skin because most of our skin’s regeneration happens during sleep. Melatonin is also a powerful antioxidant [26] which protects our skin’s DNA [27], and delays the death of our skin cells. [28] Our body can’t make its own melatonin without magnesium, because the process once again requires ATP-Mg2+ (magnesium-dependent ATP)[29,30].  This helps explain why magnesium deficient diets result in lower levels of this rejuvenating antioxidant.[31]

1. Summary

The root cause of acne is linked to systemic inflammation in the body, which can cause special skin cells to produce excess sebum.

Magnesium helps with acne at the most fundamental level by preventing and fighting inflammation. 

Magnesium fights acne by making our two most powerful detox molecules: glutathione and melatonin.

2. Magnesium for firmness & elasticity:

Collagen and elastin are the two proteins that give our skin the firmness and elasticity it needs to look young and healthy. While there are different types of collagen and elastin used in different areas of our body (not just our skin), the one thing they all have in common is that our body uses magnesium to make all of them:

Our skin cells make collagen and elastin via a process called protein synthesis, where they use our DNA as an instruction manual to assemble amino acids into proteins such as collagen or elastin. This process has two phases, and both require magnesium:

Phase 1Our DNA is unwound and the gene with the instructions to make collagen or elastin is located and duplicated. The enzymes that unwind the DNA (Helicases), and make a copy of the gene (RNA polymerases), both need magnesium to work. [32-40]

Phase 2: An enzyme called a ribosome now scans the new gene duplicate, and uses it to find the right amino acids and assemble them into collagen or elastin. The ribosome that performs this process also needs magnesium to function. [41,42]

Simply put, without magnesium we cannot make the two proteins that maintain our skin’s firmness, elasticity and youth.

2. Summary

Collagen and elastin are the two proteins that give our skin its firmness and elasticity. Magnesium is needed for our body to produce both of them.

Magnesium is also needed for the function of the enzymes that repair our skin’s DNA daily: DNA Ligases.

Magnesium deficiency long-term can lead to accelerated skin aging.

3. Magnesium & our skin's DNA health

Our DNA holds the instructions for our cells to make collagen and elastin. Therefore it is critical that our DNA and genes be kept healthy at all times. This is why special enzymes called DNA ligases exist:

They constantly repair the damage that our DNA incurs from daily wear-and-tear and inflammation within the cell.[43,44] Our DNA ligases repair our DNA trillions of times per second. None of our DNA ligases can function without magnesium.[45,46] Thus magnesium deficiency can cause inadequate repair of the genes that let us make our skin’s elastin and collagen, which in turn leads to accelerated aging of our skin.

3. Summary

Our DNA holds the instructions our skin cells use to make their collagen, elastin and other proteins to keep themselves healthy.

Magnesium is needed for the DNA ligase enzymes that repair our skin’s DNA 24/7 from daily damage.

4. Vitamin D, skin repair & magnesium

Vitamin D is critical to the health and function of our skin [47] including reducing inflammation in our skin cells [48], immune system function, and our skin’s wound healing and regeneration. [49] However vitamin D production has three main stages, and all three depend on magnesium: 

Stage 1: The vitamin D we get from food is in the inactive form [50,51] known as D3 or cholecalciferol. [52]

Stage 2Our liver then converts this inactive form into the storage form: calcidiol.

Stage 3Our kidneys then convert this storage form into the final active form: calcitriol.

Without magnesium, our body can’t synthesize active vitamin D because: the enzymes that facilitate the above conversions belong to the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes. [53-56] This family of enzymes is magnesium-dependent. [57] Magnesium’s role in vitamin D synthesis is critical for helping our skin recover from inflammation and other sources of stress such as radiation from prolonged exposure to sunlight.

4. Summary

Vitamin D is critical to maintaining our skin’s immunity, fighting inflammation, and ensuring propper wound healing and regeneration.

Vitamin D can only be synthesized from sunlight or cholesterol, and this synthesis requires magnesium.

5. Skin treatments can age skin without magnesium:

Skin care experts know that invasive skin treatments improve our skin by first damaging it and then stimulating the body’s innate healing response, which is characterized by increased collagen and elastin. The goal of these treatments is for the increased collagen & elastin production to have a supercompensatory effect which improves the skin quality to a state that is better than it was before the treatment’s damage was incurred (otherwise the procedure serves no purpose). However this only happens in an ideal world where our body has enough magnesium to satisfy both:

  1. The increased need of skin collagen/elastin production.
  2. All of our other vital functions of the body.

In a magnesium-deficient person, there is not enough magnesium to sustain both, which is where we find the problem:

How the damage is done

After the treatment, our nervous system signals our body to use more of our magnesium for the collagen & elastin production of our skin in order to repair it. However at some point after the skin treatment the body realizes that this skin damage is not a survival threat. At this point, if the person is magnesium deficient, the increasebof magnesium usage towards collagen & elastin of the skin may stop so magnesium can be used to make collagen and elastin in more vital areas such as the cardiovascular system.

If the amount of collagen/elastin made during this innate healing response was less than what was needed to fully repair the skin damage, the procedure has actually done more harm than good.

This can be deceptive because the initial post-treatment swelling common to such procedures makes the skin look more full. This temporary improvement in appearance can lead us into a cycle of skin treatments (in a magnesium-deficient state) which accelerates the aging of our skin.

Invasive skin treatments can be beneficial for making our skin look younger, because they do have the ability to increase the production of proteins that contribute to firm, elastic skin.  However this is only optimally possible in people who are not deficient in magnesium and other nutrients essential for collagen and elastin production.

5. Summary

Invasive skin treatments cause damage to the skin in the hopes of stimulating a natural increase in collagen and elastin production.

However without enough magnesium, there is a chance that not enough of these proteins will be made, and that initially promising effects can fade into worse-looking skin.


Healthy, clear and young looking skin is simply not possible in a severely magnesium-deficient person because:

  1. Magnesium detoxifies and fights inflammation and oxidative stress which both contribute to acne.
  2. Our skin needs magnesium for its elasticity and firmness.
  3. The daily repair of our skin’s DNA is impossible without magnesium.
  4. Magnesium is needed for recovery after skin treatments and tanning via its synthesis of collagen and elastin, and activation of vitamin D.

Maintaining healthy magnesium levels is essential for healthy skin. Severe and prolonged magnesium deficiency can lead to damaged and aged skin, and can result in increased damage from invasive skin procedures.

Furthermore, because the modern world makes it difficult to satisfy daily magnesium requirements from diet alone, a complete well-rounded approach is recommended in order to restore and maintain healthy magnesium levels.

Solutions to restore magnesium:

While restoring and maintaining healthy magnesium levels may not resolve all your skin conditions on its own, based on magnesium’s essential roles in our skin’s health and function, it is still a major requirement for optimally healthy skin.  A complete magnesium restoration protocol can include:

  • Eating a magnesium-smart dietLearn more
  • Reducing the environmental, psychological and physical stressors that deplete magnesium from your body. Learn more
  • Monitoring your calcium intake. Calcium fortification in food is widespread, and excess calcium while magnesium deficient may lead to inflammation.
  • Using a quality trans-dermal magnesium supplement to restore whole-body magnesium levels. Learn more

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  6. Magnesium in Health and Disease
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  10. Magnesium Deficiency: A Cause of Heterogenous Disease in Humans
  11. Magnesium Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Men and Women
  12. Magnesium Intake in Relation to Systemic Inflammation, Insulin Resistance, and the Incidence of Diabetes
  13. Dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with serum C-reactive protein levels: meta-analysis and systematic review.
  14. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate Regulates the Expression of Inflammatory Biomarkers in Cultured Sebocytes
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  21. Magnesium regulation of the glycolytic pathway and the enzymes involved.
  22. Thiamine and magnesium deficiencies: keys to disease.
  24. Section: “ELEMENTS OF MAGNESIUM BIOLOGY” Subsection: 1.13 Synthesis and activity of enzymes
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  26. Antioxidative protection by melatonin: multiplicity of mechanisms from radical detoxification to radical avoidance.
  27. Free radical-mediated molecular damage. Mechanisms for the protective actions of melatonin in the central nervous system.
  28. Melatonin delays endoplasmic reticulum cell death in elderly patients
  29. Activation of tryptophan hydroxylase by adenosine triphosphate, magnesium, and calcium.
  30. Activation of brain tryptophan hydroxylase by ATP-MG2+: dependence on calmodulin.
  31. Dietary magnesium deficiency decreases plasma melatonin in rats.
  32. The effect of melatonin, magnesium, and zinc on primary insomnia in long-term care facility residents in Italy: a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
  33. Eukaryotic DNA helicases: essential enzymes for DNA transactions.
  34. DNA helicases: enzymes with essential roles in all aspects of DNA metabolism.
  35. A DNA helicase from human cells.
  36. Human DNA helicase V, a novel DNA unwinding enzyme from HeLa cells.
  37. Purification and properties of human DNA helicase VI.
  38. The linkage between magnesium binding and RNA folding.
  39. Bidentate RNA-magnesium clamps: on the origin of the special role of magnesium in RNA folding.
  40. A thermodynamic framework for the magnesium-dependent folding of RNA.
  41. RNA-magnesium-protein interactions in large ribosomal subunit. 
  42. A recurrent magnesium-binding motif provides a framework for the ribosomal peptidyl transferase center.
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  45. ATP-dependent DNA ligases:
  46. DNA and RNA ligases: structural variations and shared mechanisms: (ATP dependent)
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  48. Expression of Inflammatory Biomarkers from Cultured Sebocytes was Influenced by Treatment with Vitamin D.
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  53. Cytochrome P450 enzymes in the bioactivation of vitamin D to its hormonal form (review).
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  55. Cytochromes P450 are essential players in the vitamin D signaling system.
  56. Cytochrome P450-mediated metabolism of vitamin D.
  57. Consider Magnesium Homeostasis: III: Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Drug Toxicity.
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