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Category: Ingredient Focus

  1. Magnesium Salt: Ingredient Focus

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    Magnesium Salt INCI Magnesium Chloride

    Magnesium salt is one of the main ingredients in Bones loves Bubbles' soon-to-be launched handmade skincare, but what's so special about it that it's included?

    Magnesium's Role in the Human Body

    As well as for other animals and plants, magnesium plays vitally important roles in the human body including in bone formation, enzyme reactions, DNA, protein formation, nerve and muscle functions, the immune system, regulating blood pressure and so on.  In short, it is a biochemically essential mineral for us and as such it's one of the most plentiful elements found in human cells.  The body is unable to produce magnesium so it's normally taken from food like spinach, kidney beans, bananas, linseed, cashew nuts, cocoa and more (there's a reason we need varied diets!).  A total of 25g is stored within the body and, of this, 60% is kept in the bones, with excess amounts being excreted.  Absorption of magnesium reduces with ageing and is negatively affected by drinking alcohol, smoking, and certain health conditions.  Low magnesium levels can cause muscle cramps, twitching, heart rhythm abnormalities and a range of other difficulties but it's highly unusual, although not impossible, to have too much.

    Therapeutically, magnesium is considered to be helpful in pain management for people with neuropathic pain, period pains and migraine.  It can help to minimise migraine for some people but if you're ever considering supplementing with high doses of it for health reasons such as this do seek medical advice first.

    Magnesium and the Skin

    In terms of the skin specifically, magnesium helps to keep it moisturised and hydrated, in good repair, firmer and smoother.  When we are physically worn out, over-exercising, suffering from infection or chronic stress, something called 'oxidative stress' occurs.  During this, essential free radicals in our cells become out of control and overrun our antioxidant defence system, causing harm to our bodies.  On these occasions, magnesium protects our skin cells from the damage oxidative stress causes, including that from the sun's damaging UV rays (although it doesn't eliminate the need to wear suitable skin sun protection).  This is also why eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables is always advisable, because they are packed with antioxidants so help keep free radicals in a healthy balance.  Another plus for magnesium is that it limits the release of stress hormones and this, in turn, reduces the opportunity for the inflammatory stress responses that cause acne, eczema, psoriasis and so on.

    From a topical perspective, although the skin is generally considered impermeable to protect the body's inner organs, when applied to the skin magnesium can apparently penetrate through the outer layer via hair follicles and sweat glands under certain conditions.1 (Within the scientific community I understand there continues to be debate about this.)  The use of magnesium salts has been shown to increase the permeability of the dermis (the middle layer of the skin), improve moisture absorption, barrier repair and reduce inflammation when things go wrong, for instance in eczema and psoriasis.  A scientific trial showed that magnesium in combination with another substance was more effective than hydrocortisone cream in treating mild to moderate atopic dermatitis. 2

    Many people will be aware of the qualities of the water of the Dead Sea which contains high quantities of magnesium salts as well as other minerals, and has a very long history of having been used for bathing to ease sore muscles and to alleviate inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, eczema and psoriasis.  There is scientific evidence in support of the efficacy of Dead Sea salts in this regard but magnesium salts are produced worldwide from a range of natural resources so reliance on the Dead Sea for magnesium salts isn't necessary.  Used in baths or combined with distilled water to make "oil," individuals can enjoy in the comfort of their own homes the benefits that magnesium salts give to muscles, joints and skin.

    Magnesium  and Magnesium Production

    Magnesium is the eighth most abundant element in the earth's crust where it's tied up with other minerals.  It readily bonds with other elements so it's hardly ever found as pure magnesium.  The type that's most readily available biologically is in rivers and the sea.  In its elemental form magnesium is a silvery, shiny grey metal but as magnesium chloride - a salt - it is white.

    The Dead Sea is probably the most famous source of magnesium salt, and because of its unique mineral composition and high magnesium salt content, it continues to be a major tourist destination despite now being much diminished in scale.  Dead Sea salts are sold across the world, marketed by Jordan, Israel and, in far smaller amounts by Fair Trade retailer Zaytoun on behalf of the only Palestinian producer in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank. Sadly, as a result of the use of Dead Sea water for desalination, over extraction of minerals, and agricultural practices by Israel and Jordan, the levels of the Dead Sea have plummeted massively and are currently dropping at a rate of 1 metre a year.  Sinkholes have been appearing in the vicinity for some time affecting the lives of local people, and the Dead Sea's microscopic marine biology may be affected by decreasing water levels. 3  

    Shore of Dead Sea at Jordan

    Image (courtesy of @LoggaWiggler, Pixabay) shows magnesium salts on rocks on the shore of the Dead Sea at Jordan

    Industrial production of magnesium is now led by China, although the USA were the main producers until very recently, and Israel, Brazil, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey are also manufacturers.  Other countries involved in production include Ukraine, Malaysia, South Korea, Iran, Australia and Canada, with Europe recently announcing a drive to increase its production to reduce its reliance on China. 

    Whilst it's not always readily apparent to myself as a manufacturer where ingredients originate, I do my utmost to find out, with the intention of avoiding buying from countries that frequently commit extensive human rights abuses and flagrant environmental damage.  Having said that, in an increasingly dystopian world and country, I have to accept such things are relative.







  2. Introducing Ingredient Focus Blog

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    Unless you're deeply interested in skincare it can be easy to start using cosmetics without giving much thought to the ingredients in them and the purposes they serve, especially when by law they must be listed by their INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients -what a mouthful!) names.  The INCI classifies ingredients systematically so that allergens can be identified by medical professionals worldwide in the event of adverse reactions, plus it has other benefits built into it.  Most people aren't familiar with the INCI list though so are likely to feel unenlightened after reading the Latinate ingredients on packets or containers.  For instance, 'persea gratissima oil' probably doesn't say much to many but its English name of avocado oil may have the visualisers amongst us seeing images of pear-shaped, green textured fruit and wondering why that's in their favourite hand cream rather than something else... or maybe not if they're incurious.

    Whilst it may seem to some that things like oils and other skincare constituents would be much the same as each other, their chemical composition varies and, as a result, so do their properties and the benefits they bring to a formula.  In turn, each impacts skin differently and on occasion negatively, so it's helpful even for the most apathetic skincare user to develop a familiarity with ingredients and their potential, whether neutral, unhelpful or beneficial.  Their origins, production methods, and transportation are relevant too.   Bearing this in mind, this is an introduction to a series of blogs focusing on ingredients used in Bones loves Bubbles' products.  Loosely, the idea is to introduce the ingredient, its INCI name and give an overview of it including any controversy about it, a brief outline of evidence for scientific claims made about it, information about where the raw material comes from and the implications this may have for the environment and human rights, plus things it's useful to know in terms of skincare.

    My hope is it will enable you to become more aware of what you're buying, of what may suit your needs in different circumstances, and what may be better for your skin.  I hope you find it useful - please let me know what you think.