You may have heard that saltwater exfoliants or spritzes can cleanse your hair of left-behind styling products, or even help your hair hold its style. Then again, you’ve probably heard that you need to protect your hair from a day at the beach: the sun, the wind, the salt water. Don’t stress: Both recommendations have elements of truth. Enjoy your endless summer at the beach with a few common-sense precautions.

The biggest problem with saturating your hair with salt water is that salt is drying: It can soak up the moisture from your hair and make hair brittle. Split ends are an especially annoying side effect. The best bet is to treat your hair to a leave-in moisturizer or deep conditioner before you hit the beach. When you get home, wash your hair and moisturize again. It’s a great time to try a mask or treatment that targets split ends too, such as an egg-olive oil-avocado DIY hair mask.

Using a moisturizer — or even rinsing your hair with tap water — before you hit the beach also helps protect your hair color from turning hard and brassy. Better still, use a UV protectant.

Counterintuitively, sea salt has its advocates as a beauty booster. That same weakening of the hair bonds that dries out your hair and splits the ends also lets you sculpt your hair into beachy waves. Simply wet your hair, scrunch it where you want it to go, and let it dry into loose curls. Just be sure to use a protectant serum or oil first.

Another way to use sea salt: Former Miss California Marianna Hewitt advocates giving your hair an exfoliating treatment by mixing 2 parts clarifying shampoo and 3 parts sea salt. Rinse very well, and don’t use it more than once a month.

Plenty of hair treatments also include sea salt. If you try one, be sure it also contains a moisturizer so it won’t dry out your hair.

Sea salt in the hair isn’t for everyone. Before you go to play in the ocean, put on plenty of protecting serum — maybe even a bathing cap — and avoid getting your hair wet as much as possible if:

  • You have hair extensions. Sea salt can play havoc with some extensions’ glue, leaving your extension hair floating in the water.
  • You’ve had a keratin hair-straightening treatment. Salt water will lessen the treatment’s effectiveness, meaning you may need a repeat sooner.
  • You have very fine, dry or brittle hair that you want to protect.