NEW YORK – Beach beauty has an almost endless appeal – a little sun, a little surf, a little sand, a little salt. That’s right, salt.
While there’s an ongoing crusade by the likes of first lady Michelle Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reduce the amount of salt people ingest, the beauty industry is promoting the benefits of using salt externally.
Salt has been used as a skin scrub “since practically the beginning of time,” says Allure magazine Editor-in-Chief Linda Wells. “It’s something that’s a great exfoliant. And it feels really good on the skin. There’s also relaxing bath salts, Epsom salt – you can just soak in those – and they have an anti-inflammatory effect. It’s good if you’re feeling puffy.”
Lush, a botanical-heavy beauty brand, reports salt products to be a consistent best-seller. The appeal lies in effective skin-smoothing scrubs as well as the soft suppleness that’s left afterward, says Erica Vega, a Lush educational trainer.
“There’s a softness to the skin after using salt, but not a greasy softness. If in the winter you want to pack on the moisturizer, in the warmer weather you want to try salt, which isn’t drying,” Vega says.
Vega encourages ocean-inspired combinations, such as a bath product that mixes salt with seaweed and coconut oil.
Lush’s salt – a coarse one for exfoliating and a finer one for replenishing minerals – comes straight from the coasts of Spain and Portugal. “We collect it from the ocean in pans, let the water evaporate and take the salt,” Vega says. “It’s so simple.”
Beauty company Ahava gets its salt from the Dead Sea, but it’s not just the salt, which has a comparable look and feel to rock salt, that’s important, says Dawn DiOrio, the brand’s national education director. The minerals from the unique water and mud there play a role, too.
“Now, the Dead Sea is basically like a lake, but it has all the minerals of its original form of a millennium ago,” she says. “There’s 10 times more saline than any other salted body of water.”
The water there has an almost oily texture, and it doesn’t drip – instead it sticks to the skin and glistens, DiOrio says.
Minerals from the Dead Sea, including magnesium, calcium, sodium and potassium, are all believed to be soothing and relaxing. The minerals also send a message to skin cells to regenerate.
For Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, it’s the texture of the salt – maybe not its origin – that’s the key. “When you use a fine-grade salt in a scrub, it scrubs in a gentle kind of way. It helps to cleanse and shed dead skin cells, and it balances with oil so you’re scrubbing and moisturizing at the same time.”
You can do things with salt that you couldn’t do with, say, sugar, another popular scrub ingredient, Price says. Salt will work as a better cleanser – just don’t use it on the face, where the skin is too delicate.
Salt-based beauty products are also very stable and have a long shelf life since, again, unlike sugar, it doesn’t dissolve, Price says.
Massage a salt scrub in a circular motion, she suggests, paying particular attention to elbows, heels and feet. “I can’t decide if a salt scrub is invigorating or relaxing. … But the texture of the salt penetrates deeper than a washcloth and it just feels so good,” Price says.
And, salt isn’t just for skin. Allure’s Wells points to an increasing number of salt-based hair products that give you the day-at-the-beach tousled look. Think of it as spritzing a little ocean water on the hair – without the seaweed, she describes.
“It will take away some shine – that’s trendy now, though,” Wells says. She warns, however, that the salt can be drying, especially for color-treated hair. “But it makes the hair look great temporarily, and it washes out.”
Carol’s Daughter often incorporates a beach theme into its salt products, creating Ocean, Mango and Jamaican Punch flavors.
“People have a primal reaction sitting by the ocean and being lulled by it,” Vega said.