Sea salt has long been a staple in the haircare world, primarily for the purpose of creating tousled, beach-worthy waves, long after beach season has come and gone. But while ocean-inspired spritzes may have been a part of your collection since middle school, over the last few years sea salt has found a new home in shampoo bottles, as well.
“Sea salt shampoos, which are relatively newer on the market, can help provide volume, body, and a feeling of fullness and texture to the hair,” says hairstylist Marco Pelusi, founder of Marco Pelusi Hair. “It can also possibly help remove build up or grease on the hair, almost helping to serve as an exfoliant.” Below, Pelusi and Trey Gillen, hairstylist and artistic director at SACHAJUAN, weigh in on what sea salt shampoo is, what it does for hair, and who should try it.
What are the benefits of sea salt shampoo?
1. It exfoliates your scalp
The health of your hair starts with your scalp, and regularly exfoliating the area is key for keeping both your skin and strands happy. “Salts are natural organic ingredients that cleanse well without stripping the hair and causing scalp issues,” says Gillen. “If you have oily hair, for example, sea salt can work to absorb this excess oil, or alternatively if you suffer from dry flakes, sea salt is thought to help get rid of [those].”
Depending on the formula, sea salt shampoo can act as a physical scrub, thanks to its course texture that helps to slough away dead skin cells, dirt, and product build-up so that your scalp can breathe. “If you’re a product junkie, washing your hair may or may not wash out all the product, dry shampoo, oil, sweat, and dead skin cell build-up on your scalp, so scalp scrubs may come in handy. Individuals with finer textured hair can be more prone to product build-up, so a scalp scrub may be a good consideration,” board-certified dermatologist Keira L. Barr, MD, founder and chief wellness officer of Resilient Health Institute, previously told Well+Good.
That said, if you have a skin condition on your scalp—like psoriasis, acne, eczema, or any cuts and sores—scrubbing with sea salt shampoo (or any sort of physical scrub, for that matter) may make things worse and cause more flaking and irritation, so it’s best to opt for a chemical scalp exfoliant instead.
2. It adds texture to your strands
Just as an ocean dip can leave your hair tousled and texturized, sea salt shampoo can have similar effects. “It adds plenty of volume and texture to hair, and provides a long-lasting hold,” says Gillen. “Fine, flat hair can benefit from the volume and texture sea salt shampoos provide.” The salt helps to open up the cuticle in your hair, which plumps up your strands to give them more texture and volume. What’s more, this allows whatever conditioner you apply afterward to penetrate the strands more deeply, which means your hair will have more body and more moisture after you use it.
3. It will help you wash your hair less
Since regularly exfoliating your scalp can help keep it clean from gunk and grime, using a sea salt shampoo can help you cut down on your regular lather and rinse routine. “It’s possible it may allow you to shampoo your hair less often, as it may provide more of a deeper cleansing feel,” says Pelusi. And what makes it better for cutting down your regular lather-and-rinse routine than other scalp scrubs? “Using sea salt shampoo can allow fewer washes as the salt acts as a dry shampoo, absorbing oils off the scalp,” explains Gillen.
4. It isn’t for everyone
However, be warned: Salt is incredibly drying and if you have dry or brittle hair, you shouldn’t opt for a shampoo like this one.”If you’ve got really damaged, over-processed, or overly color-treated hair, it’s probably not for you,” says Pelusi. He adds that if you have any sort of chemical treatment in your hair, like keratin, you’ll want to check with your stylist to ensure that it’s compatible. It really is best for finer textures to give them a boost.
How to use sea salt shampoo
Sea salt shampoo can give your scalp a pretty intense cleansing, so you don’t necessarily to use it every day. Pelusi suggests using it once a week, and potentially following it up with a more traditional cleansing shampoo on the other days you choose to wash your hair. “Follow the instructions, and see how it makes your hair feel,” he says. “Everyone’s hair is different and unique—sometimes your hair and scalp just needs a good, tried, tested and true surfactant cleanser.”
To effectively add it into your own routine, your best bet is to chat with your stylist or dermatologist to see what they’d recommend for your individual hair type and concerns. Be sure to always follow up with conditioner (which should always be the case, but is even more important when you’re using sea salt shampoo since it can be drying on its own), and use a heat protectant ahead of any styling.
Shop sea salt shampoo
Sea salt isn’t the only ocean ingredient that this shampoo makes use of: It’s formulated with marine algae extract to help make strands stronger, shinier, and more supple. It’s also got antioxidants to protect your hair from envrionmental stressors, and can be used on all hair types.
Shop now: Sachajuan Ocean Mist Volume Shampoo, $29
2. Le Labo Scrub Shampoo, $40
To give your scalp a real spa-worthy scrub, try this black sea salt and basil scrub. In addition to its cleansing and exfoliating properties, it’s also got menthol, which has an ahh-inducing cooling effect.
Shop now: Le Labo Scrub Shampoo, $40
This product has earned itself top billing as an editor-approved favorite, thanks to the fact that it offers gentle—yet effective—exfoliation. Its sea salt granules froth onto the scalp, making it non-abrasive, and it’s made with a natural moisturizing agent that helps restore hydration into your scalp that will stick around long after your daily lather.
Shop now: Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea Salt, $50
If you’re looking for a gentle sea salt shampoo that’s more effective in styling than scrubbing, consider this the perfect pick. It’s a great introductory product for anyone who wants to dip their toes into the ocean of sea salt products (sorry, I had to), and will leave your hair looking full and textured, as if you just came back from a day at the beach.
Shop now: Bumble & Bumble Surf Foam Wash Shampoo, $27
This do-it-all sea salt shampoo can be used on your scalp and body, and was specifically designed with natural hair in mind. It’s made with all-natural moisturizing ingredients, and is gentle enough for even dry, damaged, and over-processed strands.
Shop now: Taliah Waajid Total Body Black Earth Shampoo, $6
6. Verb Sea Texture Shampoo, $18
This texture-enhancing shampoo will add grit and body to any hair type. It’s made with both sea water and sea salt, and works to strengthen fragile strands with an influx of minerals. Plus, it’s got quinoa proteins, which coats your hair to protect it from damage.
Shop now: Verb Sea Texture Shampoo, $18