Spending time at the beach can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. Lounging in the sand with a good book, or closing your eyes and enjoying the sun’s warmth are rites of passage for a day of relaxation, especially in the summertime.
Most people are well aware of the damaging effects the sun can have on your skin and scalp, which is why applying sunscreen regularly is so important. But there’s another culprit lurking amongst the waves that can wreak havoc on your skin and hair when you are overexposed to it – and that’s salt water.
The key word here is “overexposed.” Moderate exposure to salt water can have many beneficial effects on the skin and hair. As long as you’re careful to take measures to help safeguard your skin and hair before and after taking a trip to the beach, you can reap salt water’s natural benefits and may even avoid the drawbacks of overexposure.
Is salt water good for your skin?
Salt water naturally contains many vitamins, amino acids and minerals, including magnesium, potassium and sulfur. The therapeutic effects of salt water on skin and hair have been celebrated since ancient times. Think of all the people who travel to the Dead Sea each year to bathe in its mineral rich waters. If you’ve ever taken a dip in the ocean, lake, or sea, you’ve probably noticed the beneficial effects that salt water can have on any cuts or wounds you may have had.
However, if you’re already prone to dry skin on your face or body, swimming in salt water can make this worse for some people. The pH balance of the water you’re swimming in varies greatly from location to location, so some bodies of salt water can be less drying than others. The combination of sun and surf can be taxing on your skin unless you take certain precautions.
Let’s consider all our skin does for us, as the largest organ in the body. The skin has two main layers. The top layer is the epidermis and contains the cells that determine the skin’s pigmentation, and the dermis, which lies beneath the epidermis and contains blood vessels, lymph vessels, and glands. The glands in the dermis produce sweat to help cool the body, while other glands make sebum, an oily substance that prevents the skin from drying out. Both sweat and sebum make their way to the skin’s surface through the pores.
In order to let your skin do its job and keep itself healthy and hydrated, follow these tips before and after hitting the beach:
- Be liberal with the sunscreen, and if you plan on swimming in the sea, use a water-resistant sunscreen. This type of sunscreen is formulated to use heavier emollients than non-water-resistant ones so it creates a protective barrier over the skin, allowing the water to roll off the skin and not penetrate it as deeply. Be sure to reapply after each dip you take in the salt water.
- Use a maximum protection sunscreen on your face and body, even on cloudy and hazy days. Just because you can’t see the sun doesn’t mean those ultraviolet rays aren’t finding you. The fairer your skin tone, the higher your sunscreen’s SPF should be. Sunscreen with SPF numbers higher than 15 are recommended for people with lighter skin, and for anyone spending long days at the beach. If you’re taking any medications, be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist to find out if your medications will increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
- After your fun in the sun (and in the salt water), take a shower. Be sure to thoroughly rinse all the salt water from your face and body, and cleanse your skin with a mild, gentle cleanser.
- Quench your thirsty skin with a liberal application of Aloe Vera or another gentle moisturizer.
Is salt water good for your hair?
Many people swear by the beneficial effects of salt water on skin and hair, especially the scalp. Considering all the vitamins and minerals it contains, salt water has the potential to provide nourishment to the scalp and hair by simply spending time in the ocean. But just as salt water can have a drying effect on the skin, this is doubly true for the hair when it is overexposed.
If you’ve ever taken a dip in the ocean and fully submerged your hair, you’ve probably noticed that it’s not exactly easy to comb out later on that day. Your hair’s water content is responsible for helping to keep your locks hydrated, elastic and moisturized. The strands of your hair can become dehydrated and parched if too much moisture is lost through evaporation – a.k.a. salt water sitting in your hair all day and drawing the moisture out, leaving it tangled, dull and extremely hard to manage.
With a few simple preventative measures, taking a swim in salt water doesn’t have to leave your hair dry, brittle, in knots and completely unmanageable. Try these tips before and after hitting the beach to keep your locks lustrous and healthy:
- Use a pre-shampoo conditioning treatment on your hair to add elasticity, as well as to deeply condition it before it’s exposed to the harsh, salt water elements. If you color your hair, it’ll prevent the color from fading due to sun exposure.
- Take a Q-tip, dip it in sunscreen, and apply it carefully to your part line. If you’ve ever had a sunburn on this delicate area of your head, you know that even running a comb through your hair can be quite the painful task. Taking this precaution at least 30 minutes before going outside will help your scalp absorb the sunscreen fully, for the best possible protection. This way, you won’t have dead, dry skin flaking off into your hair for the next week plus.
- As soon as possible after a salt water swim, rinse your hair completely, and shampoo and condition it as usual. The sooner the salt is out of your hair, the better chance you’ll have of letting your hair retain its natural moisture. If your hair is still feeling parched after cleansing, try a leave-in deep conditioning treatment. There are DIY options that include eggs, avocado, coconut oil and olive oil, or you can buy a deep conditioning hair mask at your local drug store.
Taking precautions to help protect yourself from the drying effects of salt water on skin and hair will make trips to the shore that much more pleasant. Conditioning your skin and hair both before and after exposure to salt water can help keep them as healthy as possible, so you can focus on what matters most – sun, surf, and relaxation. Additionally, it is important that you provide nourishment for your hair, skin and nails not only during the summer, but all year long. While supplements cannot protect your hair and skin from the potential effects of salt water, they do provide you with vital vitamins and minerals to help maintain healthy hair, skin and nails throughout the summer and even after beach season is over.* Here are a few hair, skin, and nails products by Sundown® you might want to look into:
- Our Hair, Skin & Nails caplets provide you with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to helps maintain lustrous locks, as well as radiant skin and healthy nails.*