For some people, hair is the most important aspect of their physical appearance. And whatever we decide to do with our locks, there are a lot of ways in which we can keep them healthy; indeed, the hair-care industry puts out new products that claim to help tame our follicles on a regular basis. Over the last few years, though, a surprising new trend has emerged: sea salt in shampoos. But just why has this unusual ingredient proved so popular?
Like a lot of other industries, the hair-care sector is an ever-changing beast, with trends coming and going fairly quickly. And as hair can vary a lot from person to person, what works for one individual may not do much for another. Regardless of this fact, though, some methods, ingredients and products do end up being adopted widely in the quest for luscious locks.
Back in 2017, for example, women were advised to double cleanse in order to achieve healthy, shining hair. Lifestyle and fashion website Refinery29 was among those leading the charge on the trend – and according to the site, this particular method led to “impressive results.”
“What is double hair cleansing?” wrote Refinery29’s Hannah Coates in April 2017. “Instead of shampooing your hair once, you shampoo it twice. This is the only way to effectively remove the residues that build up in your hair throughout the day.” Coates then made a simple comparison to hammer the point home.
“Much like double cleansing your face ensures it’s squeaky clean – and therefore radiant – doing the same for your hair leaves the scalp in its optimum condition, leaving hair as shiny as humanely possible,” Coates went on. L’Oreal U.K.’s Steve Shiel also offered some scientific insight into the reasoning behind the method.
According to Shiel, double cleansing could play an important role in maintaining the well-being of your locks. “The first cleanse works hard to remove [hair] residues, which include dead skin cells, natural oils and atmospheric pollutants,” he told Refinery29. “The second completely eliminates them and boosts hair health.”
And with double cleansing, Coates continued, you may not need to wash your hair as frequently as you currently do. Yet this may not be the case for everyone, the writer added, and she went on to give some examples in order to provide more clarity.
“Those who use lots of styling products, whose hair is particularly oily or who live in a city should be double cleansing more often than those with a drier scalp or head of hair,” Coates explained. “Once or twice a week is optimum, but it’s more about finding the right balance for you.”
Meanwhile, in 2016, it was noted that shampoo sales in the United Kingdom had taken a sharp hit. It seemed, then, that people were washing their locks less often, and the pros and cons of this apparent trend were fiercely debated in the media.
And Jenny Francis, a journalist working for newspaper The Sun, explained why she welcomed the drop in shampoo revenue. “These days, there is a shampoo for everything,” she wrote in December 2016. “Volume-boosting, hydrating, color-enhancing… there is even one that claims to make your hair grow 99 percent faster.”
“All I want from my bottle of shampoo is for it to make my hair one thing: clean,” Francis continued. And from there, the writer lifted the lid on the issues that she faced with her “thick hair,” noting in particular just how time-consuming it was to wash and dry it. With all this in mind, then, she made a stunning revelation.
“For the past ten years, I have only been washing my hair once a week,” Francis wrote. “There are many reasons for this – the main one being that there is just absolutely no need to do it more regularly.” And the journalist had stern words for those who lather up their locks on a daily basis.
“To anyone who says they have to [wash their hair every day] as it is too greasy and smelly, I would first have to question what you have been putting your hair through that it would be in such a state after just 24 hours,” Francis continued. “And secondly, I would place blame on your unnecessary and obsessive hair-washing habits.”
Francis even suggested that people’s hair would be healthier without all of the products that they use. “If you insist on piling handfuls of nice-smelling chemicals onto your hair on a daily basis, chances are you have stripped your hair and scalp of any natural oils,” she wrote.
“[That leaves your hair] unable to deal with any amount of dirt without turning into a greaseball,” Francis added. “I go to the gym five times a week, cook dinners [and] go out with friends, and never have I ever felt my hair is too smelly, greasy or unpresentable despite only washing it once a week.”
Well before Francis made her revelation, however, yet another tip had come under the spotlight. Yes, in February 2013 fashion and beauty-focused site ModaMob released a video that detailed the benefits of adding an interesting ingredient to your hair-care regime. It was suggested, you see, that a mix of shampoo and sea salt may greatly improve the appearance of your locks.
Presented by Marianna Hewitt, an ex-winner of the Miss California beauty pageant, the video also outlines how you can create your own sea-salt shampoo. “Using hair products and lots of products in your hair every day can actually make your hair feel flatter and more weighed down,” Hewitt says in the clip.
“Just like you exfoliate your body for your skin, you need to do the same thing for your hair,” Hewitt continues. “For a way to detox your hair and give it a fresh start, you could buy a pre-made shampoo from Lush for $27, but we made our own for just three bucks. All you’ll need is a basic clarifying shampoo and a coarse sea salt.”
From here, the video cuts to a shot of some pink shampoo and salt on a table, with the two items separated by a clear glass jug. And Hewitt then begins to pour a portion of the sea salt into the container. “Make sure it’s coarse salt, so you can get the exfoliating benefits,” she advises.
At this point, Hewitt goes on to explain what the salt actually does to your locks. “The sea salt will get all the gunk out of your hair [and] remove dead skin cells and dirt,” she says. “But [it] won’t get rid of your natural oils. This is going to remove all that old product built up in your hair from years of products.”
And after that particular explanation, Hewitt continues to sing the praises of the method. “[The] end result gives your hair a lift and feels much healthier,” she adds. The former Miss California then picks up the pink shampoo and begins to pour it into the jug before passing on a few instructions.
“For this step, what you’ll need to do is add three parts sea salt and two parts shampoo,” Hewitt says. The video subsequently cuts to a shot of the host stirring everything up, which leads on to her next point. “Once it’s all mixed together, you can take a shower and wash your hair with the mixture and rinse with cold water,” she continues.
Yet Hewitt has a final stipulation for viewers – and it’s one with which she ends the video. “Do not wash your hair with this [mixture] more than once a month,” the host concludes. “Because you’ll end up cleaning it too good.”
And the video prompted a response from Cosmetic World editor Geoff Weiss, who gave some insight into why this method could catch on. “I think that, especially with the growing popularity of keratin treatments and concerns about damaging ingredients like sulfates, consumers have become more aware than ever before of the ingredients in their hair-care products,” he explained to the Daily Mail in 2013.
In addition, Weiss made an interesting observation. “The trend toward natural and organic ingredients has transcended the skin-care category into hair care,” he said. “And the latest crop of hair exfoliants in store shows us that consumers are looking to tried-and-trusted skin-care rituals – like exfoliation – to treat themselves in other ways.”
And the Daily Mail article itself provoked some fascinating responses from online users, with several people writing about their own experiences with sea salt and the effects that it had on their hair. Yet while the reaction towards the method in the piece’s comments section was mostly positive, not everyone approved.
“Years ago [while] on holiday, I spent a week in and out of the sea all day every day and really neglected my hair,” one individual divulged. “At the end of that week, my husband, for the first time ever, commented on my hair and said how lovely it was looking. It felt fuller and softer too, so I can see why this treatment works.”
However, one woman seemingly wasn’t as impressed with the method; indeed, according to her, adding salt to shampoo may cause more harm than good. “Ummm, I don’t think so,” she wrote in the Daily Mail comments section. “Sea salt is horrendous for your hair – and your skin.”
“The only reason your hair looks fuller is because you’ve stripped it of any natural oil it had and caused the hair shaft to swell,” the critic added. “The effect is temporary and extremely harmful. [It’s] similar to bleaching your hair, which will also cause your hair to temporarily look thicker and fuller.”
By contrast, though, another commenter only had good things to say about the sea-salt tip. “I have very thick and frizzy hair,” they explained. “And the combination of a day swimming in the sea and some coconut oil as a hair mask actually makes my hair softer and easy to manage – followed by shampooing as normal.”
“I do think there is some merit in sea salt for making certain hair types more manageable, such as mine,” the individual added. “Tried and tested!” And the salt-in-shampoo technique appeared to have staying power, too, as the trend was brought back into the limelight once again in 2017.
While writing an article for Refinery29 in June 2017, Georgia Murray revealed that she had only just found out about the method and hailed how it had helped the health of her hair. Even so, she explained, she had wanted to know more about what went into sea-salt shampoos.
Murray therefore called upon hair experts Christophe Robin and Lee Stafford to answer some questions. And according to Stafford, the key was the type of salt used in commercially available hair products. “Specific ‘salt shampoos’ are shampoos containing sea salt rather than regular table salt [sodium chloride],” the stylist said.
“This is important to note, as sodium chloride does not really have any notable benefits for hair,” Stafford continued. “Sea salt [on the other hand] is loaded with minerals, such as magnesium, sodium and potassium – therefore benefiting the overall health of our hair as well as adding texture and volume.”
Meanwhile, Robin reiterated some of the benefits that Hewitt had previously listed in the ModaMob video, although he did have some new information to give to Murray. “[Salt shampoos] help remove chemical residues left on the scalp, which can cause itchiness after a coloring treatment,” Robin revealed.
“More commonly, [salt shampoos] also help to rebalance and soothe greasy, irritated scalps,” Robin added. As for those with differing hair types and volumes, Stafford suggested that the shampoo would still work like it should – although he did offer some words of caution for certain people.
“Obviously, those with fine, flat hair will see the most benefits,” Stafford said. “But for those who have normal hair and just want to add in a bit of extra body and texture, it works beautifully. Though I would say [that] if you have badly damaged hair, you need to work on restoring the quality and integrity of your hair.”
Stafford added, “[You have to do that] before opting for any volumizing, clarifying, texturizing shampoos.” Moving on, Robin then discussed how frequently you should use the product. And much like Hewitt and Francis, he suggested that people shouldn’t wash their locks every day, since this could cause problems.
“I never recommend washing hair daily as it can strip your hair of its natural oils,” Robin told Murray. “My Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt is best used once or twice a week for women.” And it turns out that the hair-care industry isn’t the only field to have embraced the sea-salt trend.
Alongside sea-salt shampoos, you see, consumers can also buy sea-salt shower gel, which through its added ingredient claims to help exfoliate the skin. Perhaps, then, we may see even more products with salt added in the future.