Is salt bad for hair?

MintMint Posts: 1,143Registered Users Curl Neophyte
I love the curl enhancement salt water can give, but I've been starting to wonder if it can permanently damage the hair. I'm hoping it just dries the hair and can be counteracted with oils, conditioners, etc. If using salt to style hair is damaging, I won't use it anymore.

I'm so confused because Jessicurl uses it in her products and a lot of curlies on this board use it (products, homemade potions, etc.), but so many websites and magazines warn against "chemical damage" from salt. :confused:

What do you all think? Also, does it matter what type of salt you're using?

2a/M-C/ii hair. Super long.


  • DarbyDarby Posts: 1,025Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    I think it's very drying. That's why I couldn't use JC - my hair got stringy and dried out. I don't know if it matters or not if you pour enough condish on it to balance it all out.

    Natural hair color - dark brunette
    Fine, thinish hair/3a, 3b
  • SpunGoldSpunGold Posts: 454Registered Users
    Also, does it matter what type of salt you're using?
    This is an interesting question. I've read that a lot of curlies (myself included) use Epsom Salts (ie magnesium sulfate) mixed with water for a curl-enhancing spray. This same ingredient is in [buylink=]Re:Coil[/buylink], and I think the Jessicurl products may also contain it (but I could be wrong as I'm less familiar with the Jessicurl products)

    I haven't read about anyone using regular table salt (sodium chloride) as a curl enhancer, so I'm curious if that one can be more drying than epsom salts or why it isn't as commonly used.

    Sea salt is obviously curl enhancing or we wouldn't get such great curls at the beach - I'm not sure how that breaks down chemically.

    In general, I agree with Darby - if dryness becomes a problem, make sure you're compensating with enough leave-in conditioner to balance it out - I don't think using salts to style and balancing with conditioners could cause permanent damage.

    Any salt-savvy folks or chemists care to chime in and help us out here?
    Location: Frisco, TX

    Fia type: 3a/F/ii Pics! Updated 04/22/10
    CO Wash: Suave Coconut
    Leave-in: Deva Heaven in Hair
    Current Styler: Fuzzy Duck Gel
    finally at waist length!
  • MintMint Posts: 1,143Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Bump :)
    2a/M-C/ii hair. Super long.
  • helloitsiohelloitsio Posts: 1,369Registered Users Curl Connoisseur
    It never crossed my mind that magnesium sulfate is actually a form of salt. :goofy: D'oh! I used to use a salt spray (I forget the name) which enhanced my waves and looked great but at the cost of dry/greasy hair. I've been using my trial-sized [buylink=]Jessicurl's Awe Inspiraling Spray[/buylink] and wondering why my hair didn't like it so much. It all makes sense to me now....:rolleyes:
    2 b/c :: slight protein sensitivity :: med/coarse texture :: normal porosity

    Location: SoCal
  • MintMint Posts: 1,143Registered Users Curl Neophyte
    Bump :happy11:
    2a/M-C/ii hair. Super long.
  • agent_003bdagent_003bd Posts: 142Registered Users
    I've never heard of salts permanently damaging the hair. I use a homemade epsom salt spray, mixed with honey and lots of conditioner, and my hair is not dry.

    I did read on the board that salt can zap the color from your dye job. I think Struttswife had mentioned it in a recent thread...
    2/3a mix

    Shampoo-free since 09/04
  • SulfieSulfie Posts: 1Registered Users
    helloitsio wrote: »
    It never crossed my mind that magnesium sulfate is actually a form of salt. :goofy: D'oh!

    Gosh, I know this thread is old, but someone piqued my geek and when a geek is piqued you can't stop the information. Full disclosure, I'm not a chemist but I played one in college :study: ...

    When most people say "salt" they mean sodium chloride (NaCl). But "salt" is like the word "theory" in that the informal way people use it is actually different from its accurate meaning.

    In essence, a salt is a positively charged [+] metal that ionically bonds with a negatively charged [-] nonmetal to form an ionic bond. Very loose example: Take an element from the left side of the periodic table (the [+] metals) and combine it with an element on the right side of the periodic table (the [-] nonmetals) and you form a salt.

    Take a gander if you like: Dynamic Periodic Table

    lithium + sulfur = lithium sulfide = LiS = salt
    potassium + chlorine = potassium chloride = KCl = salt
    calcium + bromine = calcium bromide = CaBr2 = salt
    sodium + chlorine = sodium chloride = NaCl = salt
    magnesium + sulfate (SO4) = magnesium sulfate = MgSO4 = salt

    Now, SO4 is an anionic (another word for "negative ion") polyatomic compound. I know I said you take one [+] from the left and one [-] from the right and you have a salt. This is where we depart into more chemistry. :confused2: But I hope you get the idea that there is more to words than we give them credit for. And never ask a chemist to please pass the salt in a lab because you won't want to sprinkle what you get on your fries. :sad4:

    When you put salts into your hair, the higher concentration of them encourages cellular water to leave via diffusion* the hair and travel towards the salt in order to balance out the concentration. That's what causes cells to dry (through a process called osmosis) because of high salt content--it's why you're thirsty after eating salty food. But rest easy: because of those same "water enticing" characteristics, common salts are easy to wash out. Then simply rehydrate your hair once the salts are gone. If the occasional beach hair works out for you because perhaps the salts are "exfoliating" your hair, that's great. Just don't go putting salt in your hair on purpose on a regular basis, and definitely don't leave it in to dry.

    *Here is some more reading, which clarifies even more that the salt is removing water not through osmosis (because hair is dead skin cells, not living water-filled skin cells):

    When he says capillary action, it's a wick-like effect. Have you ever seen a blood sample taken by a very narrow tube? Prick your finger and put the "capillary tube" at the blood and the blood is sucked into the tube without even trying, that is capillary action. So water is removed from your hair by simple physics, not osmosis (which is a form of diffusion) as in the case of a living cell.
  • justdoingmejustdoingme Posts: 136Registered Users
    i think i recently saw an article on getting beachy hair on this site with a recipe for a mixture of sea salt, but i can't remember what was in it. surely if it was that bad for the hair they wouldn't put it up. i don't know, feel free to correct me
    Curl pattern: Loose waved underlayer, a mixture of 2b, 2c, 3a
    Porosity: Low
    Density: Thick
    Length: When stretched approx 5cm above belly button
    Low poo: Tresemme Naturals
    Conditioner: Herbal Essences Hello Hydration
    Styler: Olive Oil Eco Styler
    Deep conditioner: Olive oil


Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file