Summer is often synonymous with beach side relaxation. Let’s learn more about salt water and determine if it’s good or bad for you.
Some chemistry behind salt water
Salt water is essentially sodium chloride, also referred to as table salt. Sodium chloride is an ionic compound. What that means is that it consists of positive ions (Sodium ions) and negative ions (Chloride ions) which counteract each others’ charge. In solution, these ions are free flowing in water.
General benefits of salt water
Salt has been used in various aspects of life since ancient civilizations. One of the many uses is on the skin, as an exfoliant. Lush cosmetics (among many others) points out the various benefits of sodium chloride, which is why it is used in many products including hair products nowadays.
“Cleansing the skin with soaps containing salt is an excellent way to benefit from this mineral content. The formula de-greases the skin, removing dead skin cells and dirt. It does this without stripping too much natural oil and leaves the skin soft and comfortable.”
But can everyone benefit from it for hair usage or is there a catch?
Salt water for hair: The good
Sodium chloride has been said to be great to de-grease hair and scalp for those suffering from oily hair/scalp problems. Additionally it was found to relieve itching, and other scalp issues including dandruff.
Nowadays there are many scrubs for scalp that use sodium chloride salt. One such Allure winning product is from Christophe Robin: Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt, for sensitive and oily scalp. Among other things, it is said to enhance micro-circulation and promote healthier hair growth.
Additionally, many also enjoy the beach look that sea water creates. The salt provides friction which helps to add volume and texture.
Salt water shouldn’t be an issue if you don’t suffer from dry hair. If anything, it can provide awesome benefits. But use it moderately to avoid creating drying problems.
Salt water for hair: The bad
Unfortunately, salt water is not for every hair type. Dry, damaged hair will respond differently: it gets even drier. Why?
As you dive into the water, the hair gets wet and some of the salt (sodium chloride) will diffuse into the hair. As you step out of the water, hair starts to dry and that’s where problems begin:
- The water from the salt water evaporates from hair. This causes the concentration of salt on the hair surface to increase.
- The water inside the hair ‘feels’ drawn out to the salty solution present on the outside of the hair.
The process is called osmosis: where the solvent (water in this case) travels through a semi-permeable barrier (hair) to a region where the solute (salt) is higher.
When the hair is completely dry, you end up with a net moisture loss from the fibers. This in combination with sunlight effects will make hair unmanageable and lead to more damage.
With that being said, you certainly do not want to use beach (salt) sprays if you have dry hair issues.
Protective measures to prevent dry hair
The goal here is to coat hair with a water resistant barrier, to make hair less porous, and delay the diffusion of sodium chloride into hair.
- Before leaving the house, prep your hair with moisturizing products: leave-in creams/conditioners/oils. You can use more than usual, since it will wash off eventually anyway.
- Don’t forget your sunscreen creams and sprays. Generously coat your hair especially at the ends. This will act as a temporary water barrier but also protect against sun damage.
- Rinse the salt water off your hair (and skin) after you step out of the sea. This will decrease the extent of osmotic pressure (water transfer from hair). If you can’t have access to a shower right away, bring a bottle of fresh water with you to beach.
- Re-condition your hair as soon as you shampoo off the salt water. [Read more about after care here.]
With those steps, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a nice swim in the ocean! 🙂