Salt sprays aren’t exactly hiding anything. Just like their name implies, they’re formulated with sodium chloride. And they’re supposed to give you those perfectly tousled piece-y sexy beach waves that say, “Hi, I just had a romp in the ocean.”
But when did sea salt become a good thing for hair? Last time you checked it was still one-third of that summer element trifecta (sun-chlorine-salt) that supposedly wreaks havoc. As in: brassy-green-dry. (Pretty).
It might be a little perplexing that sea salt is now one of the most popular ingredients in the hair care aisle. So let’s clear up some misconceptions about sea hair.
Here’s the good
“Sea salt is loaded with minerals, such as magnesium, sodium and potassium, therefore benefitting the overall health of our hair as well as adding texture and volume," says hairdresser Lee Stafford. Sea salt can also help rebalance irritated or greasy scalps.
So when salt spray settles into your hair, it does just that. Salt water in your hair soaks up excess oil and provides the grit and texture you need to recreate the effortless effects of the wind and the sea. (Never mind you’ve been landlocked for months.)
Another bonus? The salt water effect on hair eliminates the need for potentially damaging heat tools. No Dyson. No L’ange. No Beachwaver. It’s just scrunch-and-go, and beautifully boho.
Here’s the bad
“Salt can create some volume and remove oil, but on the flip side, it can be very harmful,” says Mia Emilio, senior stylist at Devachan Salon. “We have to think about the adverse effects of our styling agents ... You have to decide if achieving volume is worth the price of dry, dull, and matted hair.”
Turns out whether you’re spritzing a salt spray or taking an actual dip in the ocean, salt works the same way: It pulls oils and natural moisture out. But if too much moisture is lost, the result is parched, brittle locks.
"In its worst form, salt water damage causes the ends of the hair to split, and breakage can begin,” says Elizabeth Cunnane Phillips, trichologist at Philip Kingsley.
Here’s what to do
Anything good can turn bad when used in excess, right? The key to salt spray according to Emilio: “Remember a little goes a long way.” It’s improper use and overexposure that can lead to a head full of straw (and that’s a much better look for your beach bag).
Also keep an eye on ingredients. Steer clear of brands that are mainly salt and alcohol, and instead opt for formulations that blend in conditioning and shine-enhancing components. Moroccan Sea Salt Spray from OGX (around $8) has a lower salt content than most, and adds moisture and shine with sea kelp and argan oil.
On the higher end, Bumble and bumble Surf Spray (around $25) uses less-drying magnesium sulfate (aka Epsom salt) instead of sea salt, and softens hair with Ascophyllum nudosum (seaweed) extract. BTW: You also get to choose your own ocean adventure with this one: Original, Malibu Beach (tropical coconut), or Montauk Dunes (fresh floral) scents.
Perfect waves and healthy hair at the same time? Sounds like a dream vacation.
- HuffPost: How Salt Water Really Affects Hair & What to Do About It
- Refinery29: What are Salt Shampoos & Should You Be Using Them?
- Naturally Curly: Is Saltwater Actually Bad for Your Hair? A Stylist Explains
- Bumble and bumble: Surf Spray
- Total Beauty: 10 Best Ways to Repair Hair from Summer Damage
- Allure: The 10 Most Popular Salt Sprays on the Internet
Diane Bobis is a Chicago-based lifestyle writer and mom. Since graduating from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame, she has covered food, fashion, health, wellness, and beauty for dozens of outlets, including Womensforum.com, HowStuffWorks.com, BigOven.com, Hungry? Chicago Family, Winnetka Living, and Daily Dose of Knowledge: America. Wellness Habitat: Ashwagandha, Plant Therapy, Rachel Macy Stafford, Panda Planner, morning snuggles, and laughter.