Epsom Salts Versus Magnesium Flakes (What’s the Difference?)

Although their appearance and use are often the same, people may notice that magnesium flakes and Epsom salts are not the same things.  To compare Epsom salt versus magnesium flakes, you’ll have to consider the compound itself.

It’s easy to get the two confused though. They both look alike and also are used in similar ways.

What Are Magnesium Flakes?

Magnesium flakes are actually a compound known as magnesium chloride. To truly understand the structure, you’d probably have to be a chemist! However, if you looked at the structure, you would notice a difference.

The unique structure of the flakes makes it more easily absorbed into the body. Additionally, magnesium chloride should not be eaten unless it is marked as being food grade.

What Are Epsom Salts?

Epsom salt also contains magnesium. However, this compound is magnesium sulfate and it has an appearance similar to salt. In general, Epsom salt does not absorb as quickly into the skin.

Additionally, Epsom salt, when marked as food-grade, is commonly taken internally for its laxative effects.

Areas of Comparison

Although both compounds contain magnesium, they are slightly different in their form and function. To get a better understanding of the salt and how it works, it may be helpful to compare some of its features.


Epsom salt can be sourced from open water such as the Great Lakes or springs. However, the majority of Epsom salt is manufactured.

The primary difference between manufactured versus obtained in nature is that a manufactured form is the purer option while natural sources may contain aluminum or mercury which can be harmful over time.

Magnesium flakes can be mined from sea beds or in open-water sources such as the Dead Sea. This means that while the source can be pure, anyone who uses magnesium flakes should ensure that it has been tested for safety before using it.


Both compounds contain a similar amount of magnesium but the primary difference to note is how quickly and well they are absorbed into the body.

Since magnesium is often used to soothe aching muscles and joints, absorption is a key factor. Magnesium flakes are more soluble and will elevate cellular levels of magnesium in the skin. Epsom salt can also be absorbed but this will happen at a slower rate than the flakes.

However, it’s worth noting that the kidneys secrete magnesium flakes at a higher rate than Epsom salt. This means that anyone who wants to enjoy longer-lasting relief may have better results with Epsom salt, although they will have to use it for a longer period of time.


Both materials are designed to be safe for all skin types but the sulfate or chloride can have an effect on the skin. Chloride that is contained in magnesium flakes is an essential electrolyte.

It’s often preferred when using the salt baths for children or those who have sensitive skin.  This may be slightly better for sensitive skin types.

Epsom salt contains sulfate which is generally safe for all skin types. However, anyone who is sensitive to sulfates, in general, may want to use this compound cautiously.

Sulfate is linked with anti-inflammation properties so it may be a better choice for anyone who is seeking this property.

Digestive Benefits

Magnesium chloride is a bitter compound that most people don’t enjoy adding to their diet. There are products that contain magnesium chloride to help treat constipation, muscle cramps, and general soreness.

Most of its use appears to be topical with lesser effectiveness when taken internally. Epsom salt is commonly sold in food-grade quality. It doesn’t have a great taste either but is absorbed better through the digestive tract.

Many people take it for a magnesium supplement or in larger quantities for a laxative.

Epsom Salt Versus Magnesium Flakes

Now that you have a better understanding of the two compounds, which one is better to use? The answer may depend on your skin type, desired effects, and other factors.

Both are easily found and easily used as well. For a faster absorption rate, magnesium flakes will work better. However, Epsom salts provide a longer-lasting effect.

This breakdown can help to explain the primary differences between both types of magnesium available today.

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