Published on February 4, 2022

Can taking Epsom salt baths and applying magnesium solutions to your skin increase magnesium levels in the body?

Key Points

  • Several studies have shown that magnesium is able to cross through the skin and into the body’s tissues and circulation
  • Topical magnesium solutions and Epsom salt baths may be a way to boost magnesium levels, especially for those who are sensitive to supplementation
  • One way to see how topical magnesium or Epsom salt baths work for you is to add the whole blood magnesium measurement to your GrassrootsHealth test kit and test before and after changing your magnesium supplement (and bath!) routine

Epsom salt baths are one of the most commonly suggested home remedies for the relief of sore muscles, and topical magnesium solutions have been used for everything from muscle soreness and cramping to stress relief and skin conditions. But the question remains – how do they work? Is it the magnesium, and if so, does the magnesium from an Epsom salt bath or a topical solution get absorbed into the blood and tissues? Can using either be a valid way to increase magnesium levels in the body?

Magnesium Can Cross Through Skin

According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, a leading expert in magnesium deficiency, supplementation and other related illnesses, Epsom salt baths and topical magnesium are one of the safest ways to introduce magnesium supplementation, especially for those with a lot of sensitivities and allergies. Applying magnesium topically has been found to have both local and systemic effects on health, and studies have indicated that magnesium is capable of penetrating the skin and entering into the tissues and circulation. To help clarify how, Chandrasekaran et al. conducted experiments to test the transport of magnesium ions across the skin and into the tissues and found that both the concentration of the magnesium solution as well as the time of exposure influenced the amount of magnesium that penetrated the skin. They also discovered that hair follicles contribute significantly to the process!

Research and Epsom Salt Baths?

A warm bath alone can be relaxing and cleansing, so how much benefit can be attributed to magnesium? This video by Thomas DeLauer addresses this question and provides a great review of the limited published research behind magnesium from Epsom salt baths.


Below is a quick summary of some of the key points discussed in the video.

Epsom salt is composed of magnesium, sulfate and water molecules; sulfur is another important molecule that many individuals may be lacking

An in vitro study (done in a petri dish) showed anions and cations (negatively and positively charged ions) can pass through skin tissue

Another study that wasn’t published or peer reviewed, and had no control group, did find an overall increase in magnesium levels after a week of Epsom salt baths

  • This study was done at the University of Birmingham and included 19 participants who took Epsom salt baths for 7 days straight
  • 17 of 19 participants showed elevated serum magnesium levels after the week of baths – the other two participants had increased levels of magnesium in the urine after the baths, demonstrating that the magnesium did pass through the skin and into the tissues

Remember! The serum magnesium level is not as indicative of magnesium status as the magnesium RBC level (which shows what is absorbed into the tissues); the whole blood magnesium test (offered by GrassrootsHealth) includes the amount of magnesium in your red blood cells as well as the plasma/serum, which is a better indicator of magnesium status than the serum magnesium offered by most doctor’s offices and hospitals or the magnesium RBC measurement alone

Magnesium is necessary for health, with many great health benefits associated with avoiding magnesium deficiency

Can you rely on an Epsom salt bath to increase your magnesium levels? See if your levels change when adding Epsom salt baths to your regular routine by adding the magnesium test to your next GrassrootsHealth test kit

How to Take an Epsom Salt Bath

In the University of Birmingham study, 600 g of Epsom salts were used in 60 liters of water (the standard size UK bath, equivalent to ~15 US gallons). This study concluded that “most people would find maximal benefit by bathing 2 or 3 times/week, using 500-600g Epsom salts each time.”

Per Dr. Dean’s recommendations, “Soak for thirty minutes in a moderately hot bath and use one to two cups at a time. If you don’t have a tub or can’t easily get in and out of a tub, use a footbath with 1 cup of Epsom salts.”

It’s bath time!!

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