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Is Salt Water Good For Your Hair? The Pros & Cons

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

The soothing rhythm of the ocean's waves and the feeling of saltwater against the skin are undeniably the best feelings ever. Beach holidays are what make summers fun. But it also gets us worried for our skin and the repercussions of salt water on hair. Especially when it comes to our hair, questions arise about the effect of saltwater on hair. Does it bestow that sought-after beachy texture or wreak havoc on our tresses? This blog delves into the science behind salt water and its impact on hair health.

The Science of Saltwater

Saltwater is a solution primarily composed of sodium chloride (salt) dissolved in water. When it comes into contact with our hair, it can impact it either positively or negatively due to its unique properties.

Saltwater has a reputation for its skin-cleansing properties, although scientific evidence to support this is limited. However, it does contain nutrients like amino acids, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and zinc, which have antibacterial qualities. Deep ocean water, found at depths of 200 meters or more, could aid in skin conditions like eczema due to its mineral-balancing and toxin-reducing effects. This water, less exposed to sunlight and with fewer bacteria, holds more nutrients and has been linked to improving skin issues like cracking inflammation, dryness, itchiness, and swelling.

Saltwater can remove excess oils, dirt, and dead skin cells as an exfoliant. Many dermatologists are of the opinion that saltwater's rich minerals benefit various skin conditions. Yet, while saltwater can reduce the appearance of acne and scars and promote skin cell renewal, those with sensitive skin should be cautious.

Moving to salt water on hair, saltwater's hygroscopic nature can create salt crystals that draw moisture from hair strands, leading to dryness and brittleness, especially for chemically treated or dyed hair. Applying hair oil before swimming in salt water can help mitigate damage and color fading.

How is salt water good for your hair?

How Does Salt Water Affect Your Hair?

Saltwater on hair is famous for creating that effortless, tousled texture commonly associated with beachy waves. The salt can provide a natural lift and volume to hair strands, making it a popular choice for achieving a carefree, laid-back look.

Salt possesses natural cleansing properties that can help to remove excess oils and build-up from the scalp and hair. It acts as a gentle exfoliant, ridding the hair of impurities and promoting a healthier scalp environment.

Saltwater for hair works like an anti-fungal shampoo from nature. Washing your hair with salty water every now and then can remove extra oils, stopping your hair from getting too greasy. This leaves your scalp and hair feeling fresh and clean. Plus, it can make your hair look fuller and help eliminate dandruff.

The goodness of saltwater for hair also lies in its natural nutrients and minerals. One of these, magnesium, supports your nervous system and relaxes your muscles. This calming effect of magnesium can even contribute to promoting hair growth.

Is salt water bad for your hair?

Just like your skin, your hair stays soft and elastic because it contains a lot of water, which helps keep it moisturized. However, excessive moisture loss can lead to dehydration in your hair. Seawater, rich in salt, has the ability to pull water from your hair and scalp. Additionally, the cleansing properties of salt water can reduce the natural oils present on your scalp.

You might find that blow-drying your hair takes longer or that it's harder to maintain a hairstyle after a beach visit. Losing natural oils and moisture due to salt water on hair can make it dry, brittle, and more susceptible to damage.

Additionally, saltwater can cause hair strands to twist and become frizzy. It can also disrupt various bonds within the hair, leading to more cross-links. This means that while saltwater might give you those coveted beach waves, it could also make your hair weak and cause it to lose its shine and smoothness.

Does salt water damage hair? It can cause split ends and breakage. This is especially true for colored or treated hair, as saltwater can roughen its texture and change its color. To avoid this damage, make sure to give extra care to your dyed hair. If left untreated, your hair might become lifeless, tangled, and rough after a few months of summer exposure.

Colored hair is particularly vulnerable to the effects of saltwater. The salt can accelerate color fading, leading to a shorter lifespan for your hair color.

Women with naturally dry or damaged hair might find that saltwater exacerbates their hair's condition. Additionally, those with a sensitive scalp might experience irritation due to the salt's drying properties.

What does salt water do to your hair?

Hair, as we know, can be delicate, and salt water's effects on it are rooted in science. Here's a simple breakdown:

Hair Shafts Absorbing Water and Expanding

Think of hair like a sponge. It can soak up water, especially if its outer layer, the cuticle, is already weakened. When you swim, your hair takes in water from the sea, causing the hair shafts to expand. Repeated swelling and contracting can gradually weaken the hair, making it more fragile. Friction with the water during swimming also adds to the harm.

Osmosis Effect

Osmosis is like nature's balancing act. When your hair comes in contact with saltwater, where there's more salt in the sea than in your hair, water moves from your hair to the saltwater in an effort to even things out. This process dehydrates your hair, leaving it dry and brittle. Dry hair tends to frizz more and can be unruly.

Hydrogen Bonds and Salt Crystals

The proteins in your hair, like keratin, can lose moisture in salty surroundings. This allows molecules from the saltwater to get inside your hair, messing with the hydrogen bonds that give your hair its structure. As a result, your hair takes longer to dry and becomes harder to style. Salt in seawater can even leave behind tiny, hard crystals on your hair, making it rougher and more prone to tangling.

Caring for Your Hair Before Saltwater Exposure

Before exposing your hair to salt water, consider these hair care tips to minimize the potential negative effects of saltwater on hair:

1. Apply a leave-in conditioner like Good Thing by TLP or a hair oil like Heaven Scent to create a barrier between your hair and the salt water. This can help prevent excessive drying and damage.

2. Consider tying your hair in a loose bun or braid before swimming. This can help reduce the exposure of your hair to saltwater and minimize tangling.

3. Rinsing your hair with fresh water before and after swimming can help remove some of the salt and minimize its drying effects.

4. If you're spending prolonged periods in saltwater, consider wearing a swim cap or protective hair gear to shield your hair from salt water.

Post-Saltwater Care

After your saltwater adventure, it's essential to show your hair some extra love:

1. Use a moisturizing and sulfate-free shampoo like Loving You to cleanse your hair after saltwater exposure. This can help remove salt residue without further stripping your hair's natural oils.

2. Give your hair to a deep conditioning treatment with Touch Of Love to restore moisture and nourishment. This can counteract the drying effects of saltwater on hair and promote hair health.

3. Give your hair a break from heat styling tools, as they can further contribute to dryness and damage. Embrace your hair's natural texture instead.

Does salt water thicken your hair?

While it's a common belief that salt water can thicken hair, the truth is that salt water doesn't lead to the growth of thicker hair strands. When hair is exposed to salt water, the salt can remove excess oils and build-up from the scalp, which might make the hair feel lighter and appear fuller. However, this effect is temporary and doesn't result in actual hair thickening.

Is saltwater good for curly hair?

Saltwater can have both positive and negative effects on curly hair. On the one hand, the salt can enhance natural curls and waves, giving your hair a beachy, textured look. However, salt water can also strip the hair of its natural oils, leading to dryness and potential damage.

Does salt water help thin hair?

Salt water doesn't have a direct impact on increasing hair thickness for those with naturally thin hair. However, the texture created by salt water can make hair appear fuller due to the roughened surface of the strands. This can provide a temporary boost in volume, but it doesn't fundamentally change the thickness of individual hair strands.

Does salt water reduce hair loss?

Salt water itself doesn't have a significant effect on reducing hair loss. Various factors, including genetics, hormonal changes, and certain medical conditions can cause hair loss. While salt water exposure won't directly address these underlying causes, maintaining a healthy scalp and hair care routine can contribute to overall hair health.

Does salt increase hair fall?

Excessive salt exposure can contribute to hair fall, but it's usually not the primary factor. High salt levels can lead to dryness and dehydration of the hair strands, making them more brittle and prone to breakage. However, other factors like poor hair care practices, heat styling, and chemical treatments can significantly impact hair fall.

Can salt water remove dandruff?

Salt water may provide temporary relief from mild dandruff due to its exfoliating properties. The salt can help remove flakes and dead skin cells from the scalp's surface. However, if you have persistent dandruff, it's important to address the root cause, which can include factors like fungal infections or an overly dry scalp. Consulting with a dermatologist or hair care professional is recommended for effective dandruff management.


Sea salt has remarkable potential for enhancing hair and skin health due to its rich mineral and vitamin content. Now that you know how is salt water good for your hair, moderation, and sensitivity are key, as excessive use or application on sensitive skin or hair could lead to adverse effects. While salt water can help maintain a clean and healthy scalp, it's essential to be mindful of potential irritation. For optimal results in achieving luscious, voluminous, and strong hair, consider relying on mild, all-natural products like TLP that nourish your locks and promote consistent hair health. By understanding the science behind saltwater and implementing proper care strategies, you can strike a balance between enjoying that beachy look and maintaining the health of your hair.

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Photo credit: OpenAI - AI Image Creator


About The Author: Paula Bland

Paula Bland - Natural Hair consultant

The founder of TLP, Paula Bland, is a medically qualified Nurse Practitioner, Hair aesthetician and also a psychiatric Nurse Practitioner known for her highly effective hair consultation. Paula has a non-traditional approach to hair care and advocates a chemical-free, natural, and holistic approach. The Love of People is her brainchild, and its products reflect her approach to hair health and have helped women with naturally curly hair manage their curls in a chemical-free and organic way.


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