Is salt bad for hair?

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  • 2 Post By Sulfie

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.

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

TIA!
2a/M-C/ii hair. Super long.
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.
PW:curlyhaired

Natural hair color - dark brunette
Fine, thinish hair/3a, 3b
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 Re:Coil, 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
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2a/M-C/ii hair. Super long.
It never crossed my mind that magnesium sulfate is actually a form of salt. 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 Jessicurl's Awe Inspiraling Spray and wondering why my hair didn't like it so much. It all makes sense to me now....
2 b/c :: slight protein sensitivity :: med/coarse texture :: normal porosity

Location: SoCal
http://public.fotki.com/Helloitsio/
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2a/M-C/ii hair. Super long.
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
It never crossed my mind that magnesium sulfate is actually a form of salt. D'oh!
Originally Posted by helloitsio
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 ...


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. 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.

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): http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasc...6/gen06003.htm

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.
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Last edited by Sulfie; 11-04-2012 at 09:18 AM. Reason: clarified osmosis
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

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