What Are Salt Shampoos & Should You Be Using Them?

Haircare trends can be hard to keep up with. Should we really avoid sulphates at all costs? Is double-cleansing right for my hair? What comes first: shampoo or conditioner? The industry moves fast, thanks to innovations in technology and new-found ingredients but, with all the white noise, it can be hard to know what's actually good for your specific hair type. For me, products can often weigh down my locks and leave me looking, well, flat. The wrong shampoo gives me soft ends but greasy roots, a bad conditioner can lead to brittle locks, and the amount of serum I use differs every day, depending on my hair's mood.
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However, a recent discovery has saved my 'do from all of the above. I've been using salt shampoos and my hair finally looks like hair again. It's bouncy, feels clean but not stripped, and its natural wave and texture is free to dry the way it's supposed to. So what is salt shampoo, exactly? "Specific ‘salt shampoos’ are shampoos containing sea salt rather than regular table salt (sodium chloride)," hairdresser Lee Stafford tells me. "This is important to note as sodium chloride does not really have any notable benefits for hair, whereas sea salt is loaded with minerals, such as magnesium, sodium and potassium, therefore benefitting the overall health of our hair as well as adding texture and volume."
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So in addition keeping hair healthy and strong, what are the added benefits of salt shampoos? "They are excellent for naturally detoxifying the scalp of grease, grime and product build-up as salt acts as a natural exfoliator," Christophe Robin explains. "They help remove chemical residues left on the scalp, which can cause itchiness after a coloring treatment. More commonly, they also help to rebalance and soothe greasy, irritated scalps." Sounds good to me.
I've found that my hair is no longer limp and weighed down by unnecessary product, but does it work for all types of hair? "Obviously those with fine, flat hair will see the most benefits, but for those who have normal hair and just want to add in a bit of extra body and texture it works beautifully," Stafford says. "Though I would say, if you have badly damaged hair, then you need to work on restoring the quality and integrity of your hair before opting for any volumizing, clarifying, texturizing shampoos.” So if your hair has seen better days and is in need of repair, be careful: Robin advises "following with a conditioner or a mask to help detangle and nourish the ends."
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And good news: It also works for the naturally curly crew. "Salt shampoos are great on natural hair for removing product buildup, adding volume, and giving the hair incredible shine," stylist Sunnie Brook Jones tells us. "I also like to suggest applying a hair mask to just the ends before getting in the shower to shampoo. This part of the hair is the most dry [and] damaged and needs to be protected from the salt." While the benefits are bountiful for curlier textures, relaxed and keratin-treated hair should probably leave these alone. "Salt pulls water and moisture from the scalp and hair which can cause processed hair to become brittle," Jones says.
Finally, salt shampoo is heavy duty and feels almost like a body scrub with its chunks of sea salt and thick consistency. Should I be using it daily? "I never recommend washing hair daily as it can strip your hair of its natural oils. My Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt is best used once or twice a week for women," Robin says. So I'll be washing less frequently, balancing the moisture with some hydrating masks, and voilà! My hair has never looked more fresh.
My favorite sea salt shampoos:
Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub With Sea-Salt, $53, available at Sephora.
Lush Big Shampoo, $29.95, available at Lush.
Verb Sea Shampoo, $14, available at Sephora.
Playa Every Day Shampoo, $32, available at Playa.
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