Is Salty Water Bad For Your Hair?

A beach day filled with sunny walks and swimming undoubtedly benefits both your mental & physical well-being. But Is salt water good for your hair? Stick around to find out.

You’ll be surprised to learn what it can do to your hair. 

Loaded with natural minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, saltwater can give your hair & skin a therapeutic treatment. Also, sea salt is considered a great exfoliator, which proves to be quite helpful for oily & greasy scalp.

But don’t jump into the ocean just yet – because salt water can also cause your hair to become a bit too frizzy and dull. 

So, this leaves us with the ultimate question – Is salt water good for your hair? or is salt water bad for your hair?

The short answer is it can be. Think of it as a double-edged sword, given it comes with tons of highs & lows. Salty water with hair is a combo that requires some balance to be efficient.

Today, through this article, we will break down the question ‘is salty water bad for your hair?’– Right down from benefits to risks and more. Let’s get started with the effects of salt water on hair. 

Effects of Salt Water on hair Infographic

Can Your Hair Benefit from Salt Water?

Yes, it can! Despite the cons of salty water on hair, saltwater also possesses numerous advantages. Remember, it’s all in how you balance it out without overexposing your hair.

Now, it’s important to emphasize the “overexposed” bit. Moderate exposure to salty water can result in numerous benefits on both your hair & skin. As long as one takes careful measures to safeguard the hair, you can easily reap the benefits and perhaps avoid its drawbacks.

That being said, here are 6 saltwater hair benefits you can reap from a day out swimming:

  • Saltwater contains salt crystals which can help add extra body or volume to your hair. It is also highly favorable against dry, itchy, and flaky scalps as it can soothe such scalp. 
  • Essential vitamins & minerals like potassium, selenium, and magnetism present in the salty water help contribute immensely to hair health while eliminating elements like mercury that can cause harm to your hair. 
  • Saltwater is also an effective exfoliator and helps stimulate a healthy blood flow, ensuring your hair follicles get more nutrients, thus, resulting in healthier hair. 
  • As salt naturally contains anti-fungal properties, it can help eradicate fungus-induced dandruff. Hence, reducing moisture from the scalp. 
  • There’s a reason why many often claim seawater as a natural shampoo. It can easily strip heavy oils & excess sebum from the hair, making it smoother. This tends to be particularly useful for those with oily scalp or naturally greasy hair. 
  • As seawater can create an antibiotic effect on scalps, it can treat medical conditions like psoriasis and eczema. Additionally, it is also helpful against cuts and abrasions due to its healing effect.

When Salty Water Gets Too Salty

The beach adventure may undoubtedly leave us with gorgeous beach waves. However, we should also acknowledge the fact that your hair will not always feel gorgeous and wavy.

If you’ve ever had an immersive seawater experience, then chances are, you’re more than aware of how difficult it is to comb/brush your hair after that dip. But why? Because the water content of hair is responsible for keeping locks elastic, hydrated, and moisturized. Hence, it becomes dehydrated & parched due to loss of moisture from evaporation – aka saltwater chilling in your hair the entire day, thus, leaving it dull and tangled.

When overexposed without proper care, your hair will begin to feel dehydrated & dry with heavier locks and a filmy, gritty residue. Now, pair that with windy weather, and you will surely encounter tangled hair.

So, how and why does this happen? After all, salt is considered a great agent that keeps your hair healthy. Well, this is a result of salty water acting out a little too salty.

When your hair is exposed to seawater, the cuticle expands with salt. Hence, when exposed to too much salt, it can become extremely dehydrated & rough, which leads to an irritated scalp. Not to forget, beaches tend to be quite windy, which gives birth to the infamous duo of gritty & tangled hair.

So, how salty is too salty? Here’s a detailed look at just how risky salt water can be on your hair. 

As mentioned earlier, saltwater possesses numerous benefits, but that’s only one side of the story. The chapter where salt water can ruin your hair is also true. So, why is it bad for the hair? Why does it get dry and tangled when overexposed to the sea? Let’s uncover the reason behind it. 

Salt is hygroscopic, meaning it can attract more water to the hair, thus, creating more salt crystals. However, the process strips away moisture from within the hair strand, resulting in dry & brittle hair. It also makes the hair more fragile by reducing the crosslinks connecting cysteine bonds.

The risk of hair damage is even greater for people with hair that has been recently treated with chemicals like bleach or dye. As treated hair is already stripped of nutrients, saltwater can easily remove more moisture.

As with dyed hair, it can speed up the fading process when overexposed to salty water. You can oil your hair before entering the water to protect the hair. The oil helps shield the hair strands while letting your scalp benefit from the natural vitamins & minerals of the water.

It’s crucial to have proper hair care (which we will get to in a bit) when planning a saltwater experience if you don’t want to face the backlash of overexposure.   

Hair-Care Guide Pre & Post Beach Day

Considering the plethora of vitamins & minerals it contains, seawater can potentially nourish the scalp & hair. However, your hair can get just as dry when overexposed to seawater. But beach day doesn’t have to be so bad on your hair with just a few preventative steps.

Perhaps you can even say goodbye to brittle, dry, and unmanageable hair. So, if you’re looking for ways to manage a great beach day, try these pre & after beach day tips to keep your hair healthy and lustrous:

Make sure to treat your hair with a pre-shampoo conditioner to add elasticity and then deeply condition the hair before exposing it to saltwater elements. This will help prevent your hair color from rapidly fading when exposed to sun & salty water, especially if your hair has been chemically treated.  

Next, you can utilize a Q-tip, swap some sunscreen and carefully apply it on your parted hairline. If you’ve been a victim of sunburn in this particular area, then you’re already aware of how painful it can be to comb or brush your hair simply.

Make sure you’re taking these precautions at least half an hour before heading out to the beach, as it’ll help your hair absorb these components fully. This way, your hair will have maximum protection without any dry & dead skin flaking off your scalp.

After your saltwater swim, make sure to always rinse your completely with normal water and then shampoo it well, followed by conditioning as usual. The faster the salt departs from your hair, the more chances you’ll have of allowing your hair to maintain its natural nutrients and moisture.

If you still feel your hair to be a bit dry after the cleansing, you can try using a deep conditioning treatment. In addition, there are also several budget-friendly DIY options like eggs, coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil to maintain healthy hair after exposure.

Taking these simple precautions to help care for your hair will not only keep it protected but also make your time in seawater much more pleasant. These pre and post-hair care ensures your hair remains completely healthy both before & after saltwater exposure. Moreover, it’s pretty crucial that you pay attention and provide nourishment to your hair throughout the year – whether you’re keeping your hair overexposed to salty water or not.

Are There any Alternatives to Salty Water? 

Yes, there is! While salty water comes with a fair share of risks, it can still do wonders for your hair. However, not everyone gets the privilege of living near a saltwater region. Luckily, there are convenient and easy remedies that can mimic the health effects offered by saltwater.

You can start by mixing in a container 2 parts of castile soap along with 3 parts of sea salt and blend the two thoroughly. Next, you can wash your hair thoroughly with the mixture for about 15 minutes and rinse it out with cold water to remove any residues. You can adopt another similar remedy by combining warm water with 3 tablespoons of sea salt and then massaging the mixture onto your scalp for about 6-8 minutes. Rinse it properly with cold water after the massage.

Another homemade treatment of saltwater is to create a mix of 1 tablespoon warm water with 1 tablespoon of sea salt, which is then transferred to a spray bottle. Next, add a tablespoon of coconut oil along with a tablespoon of leave-in conditioner.

While these home remedies can be beneficial in providing the therapeutic treatment of saltwater on your hair, it’s highly recommended to keep the usage not more than once every month to avoid follicle damage.


What does saltwater do to your hair?

From nature’s best shampoo to drying out your hair, salty water comes with tons of effects – both good & bad. Hence, saltwater’s overall effect generally depends on how often you’re exposed to it and how well you care for your hair. 

Does saltwater help your hair grow?

Salt can naturally open the pores of your scalp, which in turn allows proper and fast hair growth. Moreover, saltwater can also assist in promoting hair growth by reducing hair loss, soothing itchy & flaky scalp, adding nutrients, and promoting healthy blood flow. 

Should you wash your hair after swimming in the ocean?

 Yes, definitely! Prolonged exposure to salty water is something that can accelerate the risk of hair damage and eventually lead to permanent hair damage. Hence, it’s essential for one to rinse and wash the hair after a long day of swimming to prevent sodium-chlorine (salt) build-up on the hair.  

By thoroughly applying the right combo of shampoo & conditioner, you can quickly reduce or prevent damage altogether. 

Does salt water give waves & curls?

Saltwater is composed of tiny salt crystals which cling to the hair when exposed. So, when the hair gets treated with seawater, the cuticles are loaded with hydrogen & salt, which causes your hair to become more voluminous with a more texturized shaft. In simple words, this results in gorgeous natural waves & curls. 

Is salt water good on dyed hair?

Hair that has been chemically treated with substances like dye & bleach retains already altered crosslinks. Hence, when combined with salty water, it can worsen the condition much more. The overexposure can also lead to faster fading of dyed hair color along with increased split ends & breakage. 

Wrapping up

Saltwater does come with high risks and adversely affects the hair, but only when it is overused. It may cause the hair to become too dry, dull, and brittle. However, this shouldn’t keep you from having a lovely beach day or creating those natural beach waves. 

When used effectively with proper precaution, salty water can offer immense benefits such as adding volume, reducing dandruff, promoting hair growth, adding nutrients, vitamins and more. All these provide enough reasons to invoke salty water to your hair care. Just make sure you’re not overindulging yourself in it. 

If you remain committed to following proper hair care before and after heading out for some salty nutrients, you can easily enjoy several benefits of salty water. In the end, the ultimate key to balancing the effects of salty water is to keep your hair hydrated. That being said, we hope you’ve enjoyed and found our article to be helpful for your next salty adventure.

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