Swim in The Sea! Is Salt Water Bad For Your Hair?

Swim in The Sea! Is Salt Water Bad For Your Hair? I Mirra Skincare

Photo by Reinis Birznieks on Unsplash

It’s officially summertime, which means there is almost nothing better than spending the day lounging by the pool with a cocktail or basking at the beach with a book. That being said, the importance of packing and slathering on the SPF is at an all-time high. However, our skin may not be the only thing we need to worry about. It is clear how much the sun affects our skin, but it’s easy to forget that a day at the beach can bring some severe damage to your luscious locks as well. If you choose to swim in the sea this summer, let’s tackle the topic: is salt water bad for your hair?


1. Is salt water bad for your hair?

2. How to care for your hair after a day at the beach

3. Final thoughts

Key Points

  • Ocean water can pull moisture and natural oils out of your hair and scalp, leaving your hair dry and brittle.
  • Since our hair is permeable to water, spending too much time swimming in the ocean can increase the penetration of salt water into our hair, drying it out and leading to breakage. 
  • To care for your hair after a day at the beach, consider using a moisturizing hair treatment, a wide-tooth comb, and natural shampoos to avoid stripping and breaking your hair further. 

Is salt water bad for your hair?

Taking a dip in the ocean can benefit your emotional and physical well-being tremendously; however, the sea can quickly turn into a double-edged sword, especially depending on your hair mood and the current condition of your locks. While cosmetics and beauty brands galore tend to advertise the “beach wave” hair products year-round, this summer we have the opportunity to get a taste of the real beach waves for ourselves. 

Via Giphy

Saltwater is about 2.5% to 3.5% salt, and smaller percentages of other substances such as magnesium, sulfate, and calcium. This concentration of other vitamins and minerals helps to benefit the body by detoxifying the skin, treating wounds, and minimizing swelling. Essentially, the ocean is a one-stop shop for all your natural healing needs… until we consider some of the effects of the ocean on our hair. 

Like your skin, hair is known to be soft and elastic, extra hydrated, and moisturized. Thus, when too much moisture is lost in the hair, it can become dehydrated and brittle. AKA, not the hair any of us need (or want!). On the contrary, ocean water (obviously) contains a lot of salt, which can pull moisture out of your hair and your scalp if you start to channel your inner mermaid this summer. Even more, the natural oils found in your hair and scalp can be minimized due to the previously mentioned cleansing properties of seawater. 

Via Giphy

As if that isn’t enough, salt water can also scientifically muddle the bonding interactions inside each individual hair strand, thus annihilating shine and smoothness and impeding hair strength. 

The real question is, what causes all the damage? 

Here’s the breakdown: our hair is permeable to water. This implies that catching too many waves (and spending too much time in the sea) can increase the penetration of water into our hair. If the hair cuticle is already damaged, the incessant swimming can negatively affect the state of your strands. 

You may have noticed after a day at the beach how tough it is to comb through your hair. This is because there is a large difference in the salt concentration of the water held within your hair and the ocean water surrounding it when you’re submerged in the sea. A scientific reaction occurs that facilitates the movement of water from areas of low salt concentration (your hair) to areas with higher salt concentration (the ocean.) Essentially, this process removes the moisture held naturally in your hair, leaving it feeling straw-like and brittle. 

How to care for your hair after a day at the beach

Spending the day in the sun often leaves us feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, but dealing with haircare after the beach can be headache-inducing. But it doesn’t have to be! I’m here to help with all of your post-beach haircare needs. 

To best prevent damage and breakage to your hair, experts stress the importance of treating your hair immediately after a day of wind, salt, sun, and sand exposure. Naturally, your hair care ritual before the beach plays a key role as well, but hey, we’re on summer vacation here. Vacations are supposed to be go-with-the-flow, routine-free, right? Hair care shouldn’t be your number one priority on a vacation (I said it!), so here are some tips to keep your hair healthy and shining after spending some time at the beach. 

Treat your hair with hydration first 

Contrary to the typical shower routine, don’t reach for the shampoo first. Experts recommend nourishing your hair with extra hydration before shampooing. This could look like using a moisturizing oil, or simply opting to use a conditioner prior to washing to give your hair that extra oomph of hydration before washing it. This can protect against stripping even more moisture with shampooing and ultimately sheltering from extreme breakage. 

Use a good shampoo

It’s important to choose a shampoo that doesn’t contain overly stripping properties. Shampoos with sulfates can be avoided, as they tend to dry out your scalp and hair, which is the last thing any of us need during the summer. Natural, plant-based, moisturizing shampoos are a great option to protect your hair from the strength of the seawater. 

Via Giphy

Use leave-in conditioner

After spending the day at the beach, it is so important to utilize a deep-conditioning treatment or lather your hair up with a leave-in conditioner. Other options include a moisturizing hair mask or nourishing hair treatment oils. Make sure to apply from scalp to ends and leave it in for at least five minutes before rinsing to pamper your scalp and strands. 

Use a wide-tooth comb

The ocean can incite some serious knots and tangles, and using a regular brush or comb can lead to, you guessed it, even more breakage! A wide-tooth comb is a must-have hair tool that is a gentle alternative to typical brushes and combs, especially for my curly-haired beach babes.

Rinse your hair before and after you swim

Ensure that you give your hair a freshwater rinse before you take a dip in the sea. Dry hair has a higher likelihood of absorbing chlorine and salt, while wet hair has naturally less absorbent properties. Rinsing your hair again after a swim will help to strip any remnant salt and chemicals. 

Final Thoughts 

Spending time at the beach should be relaxing, soothing, and recharging. I mean, it’s summertime, and summertime should be stress-free! This means taking time to care for your hair ahead of time, so your vacations can be as worry-free as possible. If you choose to channel your inner H2O this summer, make sure to properly care for your hair to ensure you can maintain your mermaid locks. Happy swimming!

Written by Morgan Taylor


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  1. https://images.peabody.yale.edu/publications/jmr/jmr03-02-04.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3349647/#pone.0036942-Blomberg1
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5221345/
  4. https://www.womanandhome.com/health-and-wellbeing/salt-water-benefits-sea-salt-benefits-325208/
  5. https://www.mydcsi.com/2020/02/25/benefits-salt-water-for-skin/#:~:text=Salt%20water%20helps%20loosen%20and,visit%20the%20beach%20more%20often!
  6. https://www.vogue.com/article/summer-beach-hair-rehab-surfer-tips-coconut-oil-aesop-bumble-and-bumble 
  7. https://www.emilyluxton.co.uk/travel-beauty/haircare-beach/



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