Much as I don’t like taking selfies or looking at close-ups of myself, I’ve decided that if I’m going to write a blog post about how amazing salt is for my skin, I need to accompany it with a good clear photo of my face as evidence! So here it is, a big portrait of my face with no makeup and bed hair (ie. how I normally look, because I never wear makeup and I rarely brush my hair, haha 😂). And in my hand is a little block of magic that has done wonders for my skin over the past few months: salt.
I’ve been using salt on my skin for about 4 months now. I was inspired to use salt on my head at first, thanks to an amazing website I stumbled upon while searching for answers to my itchy, flaky scalp. At that time, my scalp was seriously itchy at times – there were a couple of evenings when I got out of bed and washed my hair just so I could get enough relief to fall asleep! I absolutely refused to go back to Head & Shoulders or any other SLS-shampoo, but so far apple cider vinegar hadn’t worked, neither had tea tree oil, and water-only or no-washing-at-all definitely didn’t work – they made the itchiness and flaking much worse. My diet was really clean – no processed foods, no sugar, no caffeine, no dairy, no gluten… I was starting to doubt there was a natural solution. But then I found a really interesting article written by a sufferer of seborrheic dermatitis, who talked in depth about his experiences with salt as a means of treating his skin disorder. (In writing this post, I went looking for it but the website – www.SkinDrone.com – has been reorganised in the meantime and I can’t seem to find the original article.) One of the most enlightening aspects of the article for me was discovering that I have seborrheic dermatitis! And that includes my face, would you believe it?! It had absolutely never occurred to me before that I had any sort of skin problem on my face, but as I read this article I realised that indeed, I had itchy ears with flaking skin, I was itchy and flaky around my hairline, I had itchy eyebrows, and I would scratch off oily flakes of skin from the creases of my nose every few days. It was nothing that anyone else noticed, and in fact people had always complimented me on my skin. So perhaps I had only the mildest possible version of the dermatitis, but nevertheless I was absolutely sure that I had it.
The author detailed his own experiences of seborrheic dermatitis treatment, and there were many different methods he’d experimented with! – but the one that caught my attention was soaking the skin with salt water (preferably mineral rich salt). After reading the article aloud to my husband (while itching my head), I leapt out of bed and set about organising a tub of warm water with the only salt I had in my kitchen, fine NZ sea salt. Fortunately it was summer, so I wasn’t shivering with cold as I crouched on the shower floor with my head in a bucket, haha! I dunked my head in that bucket of warm salt water for about 5 – 10 minutes and then rinsed my hair with water, towel dried it, and headed back upstairs to bed. Wow, the relief from itching was INCREDIBLE. I did that daily for about a week, and while my hair didn’t honestly look amazing, the relief from itching was so worth it. For the following few weeks, I washed my hair with only water (our water is filtered), salt water, and diluted fresh lemon juice rinses. My skin felt much happier, but my hair started to get really waxy (my wooden hairbrush was grossed out) even though I’ve been no ‘poo for years now, and I still had bad flakes. So I started washing my hair with Aleppo soap (aka. Sabun soap) and rinsing with the lemon juice, and it’s about then that I discovered salt bars (like the one in my hand).
Turns out these Himalayan salt bars have been around for ages, but people like me are only now discovering them. Salt has been used topically for the cleansing and soothing of skin forever. It is naturally anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial – having done my fair share of sauerkraut-making I can assert that the last one is definitely true! Mysteriously, in the case of fermenting, salt prevents the food from spoiling during the fermentation process by preventing undesirable bacteria from multiplying while allowing the ‘good’ bacteria to proliferate 🤔. Being no scientist myself, I don’t claim to understand how that works but it does.¹ Like me, you will no doubt already be familiar with the idea of using saline to keep wounds clean and epsom salt soaks to soothe aching muscles. But it has never occurred to me before that I could wash my hands with a salt bar instead of soap, even though such a practice would seem perfectly common sense when preparing to make sauerkraut!
I now have a salt bar in my bathroom, and I use it in the following ways: on my face, on my hands, as a deodorant on my underarms, and on my scalp. You might wonder if salt doesn’t dry my skin out? Well, mysteriously (again) it doesn’t. In fact, I now use very little moisturiser² on my face (I am trying to work towards using no moisturiser at all – that’s the goal!). My facial skin appears to be no drier with salt than it does with just warm water. And while dishwasher detergent definitely dries out the skin on my hands, I haven’t noticed any drying effect on my hands from using salt. The only thing to note with the salt bar is that it gets quite abrasive after you have been using the bar for a while, as the little salt crystals can be quite sharp – so it should never be rubbed straight onto the face or armpits etc (ouch!) but rather, gently applied to your wet hands which you then pat onto your more delicate face/body skin! And then you could also keep a little piece of sandpaper handy to keep it smooth ☺.
How I use salt on my face
A few times a week, in the morning after I wake up I wet a flannel with warm water and wash my face with it (or shower). Then I wet my hands and wet the salt bar, and gently rub the salt bar on the palms of my hands. I pat my hands on my face, including my neck, hairline, and behind my ears. It almost feels like I’ve done nothing, but when I lick my lips I can taste the salt! If I have time, I’ll leave the salt on my face for 15 – 30 minutes before wiping it off with a warm wet facecloth. Then I apply the smallest possible drop of a very light moisturiser on my facial skin and I’m good to go! When I first starting using salt on my face it stung at first, right where the typically affected areas for seb derm are (creases of nose, eyebrows, etc). After a few minutes, the stinging/tingling sensation would go away, and over time I’ve noticed less and less discomfort. I left the salt on overnight a few times with no ill effects, except that I’ve noticed that the longer you leave it on the more noticeable the detoxifying effects of the salt are, ie. pimples. I don’t really get pimples from the salt anymore but when I first started using it I did notice I got pimples the next day, which I assumed were a kind of purging of toxins from the skin (no scientific evidence, just a hunch). Because this is a bit of an experiment for me, I can’t say if it’s a good thing to use salt on your face daily. Personally, I do it just a few times a week, and the other days I just wash my face with a warm wet (filtered water of course) cotton flannel. My skin is amazingly soft and smooth now, my skin tone looks even, and it seems to be just the right amount of oily/dry. I am also saving money with this ultra-affordable skincare regimen of mine!
How I use salt to wash my hands
I wash my hands with running water, then (gently) rub the salt bar on my hands. Usually I just pat my hands a bit drier with a hand towel and leave the bathroom with salty hands!
Salt as a deodorant
As I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous blog posts, I was making my own magnesium oil/rosewater deodorant spray for a while, but then the lazy part of me was attracted to the idea of using the salt bar on my underarms instead. I’ve tried it for a few weeks and have found it to be as effective as any of the other natural deodorants I’ve tried over the years. Keeping in mind that it’s highly likely I am generally less stinky than I have been in years since I’ve cleaned up my diet and improved my overall health. (When I first stopped using aluminium-based anti-perspirants I don’t think any natural deodorant could have combated the stench of my detoxing armpits.) Now I think that to stay stink-free I would ideally apply the salt to my underarms morning and night, but I’m a bit lazy to worry about the smell of my arms while I’m asleep, to be honest!
Most mornings I have a shower, where I wash my underarms with a wet flannel (I try not to use soap unless I’m washing my hair with Sabun soap – and hopefully I can wean off that too one day!). After my shower I wet my hands, wet the salt bar, gently apply the salt to my hands, and then pat them on my armpits. If you want to try this but fear you’ll miss the fragrance of other deodorants, I’d suggest a spritz of rosewater under your arms as well. I haven’t noticed any stinging after shaving which is an advantage over the magnesium oil deodorant (ouch!)
Your salt bar will disappear before your eyes if you allow it to remain wet between uses (I speak from experience…). You need to store your soap bar in a dish that will allow it to dry completely between uses, otherwise you will be left with a puddle of saline!
Extra bonus for house-proud people to consider:
No scum. Salt rinses away so easily. ‘Nuff said. 😉
Although this salt-on-skin thing is an ongoing experiment for me, I feel pretty confident recommending it to others as a way of cleansing/soothing your skin because of the low risk of it causing harm. I don’t know anyone who felt their skin was worse after a day at the beach with sea swims (unless of course they got sunburned, dehydrated, attacked by sharks etc – well, you know what I mean 🙄). I have decided to sell the Himalayan salt bars in my shop because they are affordable, free from synthetic chemicals, package-free, easy to use, low risk, and I think they are great for skin³. If you try using salt on your skin, feel free to share your experience with me and other readers in the comments below!
¹ Scientific American: “How do salt and sugar prevent microbial spoilage?”
² I used to use organic hempseed oil, which I absolutely loved using and still sell as part of the Mrs Goodness Facial Care Duo, but I stopped using it because I learned that oils can feed the yeast/fungus behind seborrheic dermatitis. I still believe that hempseed oil is an ama—-zing skin care product for anyone who doesn’t have issues with malassezia yeast (and I miss it very much 😥).
³ I acknowledge that I’m not entirely convinced about the ethics of Himalayan rock salt in terms of labour and environmental sustainability, so feel free to judge me on that. I figure that I use so little of it and because I store it correctly, one bar lasts ages and ages, so for now I’m comfortable about using it myself and endorsing it to others. I keep these thoughts in the back of my mind though, and I will seize any opportunity to use something that can tick all the above boxes in future. x Esther