Saltwater may contain certain nutrients, have antibacterial properties, and work to exfoliate the skin, which may benefit skin health.

Saltwater may benefit the skin, although there is little scientific evidence to support its use in skin care.

Seawater may contain beneficial nutrients, such as magnesium, potassium, and zinc, and have antibacterial properties. Soaking in mineral salt water may help relieve some skin conditions, such as psoriasis.

Epsom salts are also high in magnesium, although it is unclear how much of this the skin absorbs.

This article looks at the potential benefits of saltwater for the skin and how to incorporate it into skin care routines.

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Soaking in salt water may benefit the skin in several ways, including:

Helping treat eczema

According to a 2016 review, water from deep in the sea may benefit certain skin conditions, such as eczema.

The review defines deep sea water as coming from a depth of more than 200 meters (m). Water from this depth may have greater benefits than other types of water due to its purity and high nutrient content.

Nutrients include:

Deep sea water does not get much light from the sun and contains little to no bacteria and less plant plankton, which means it retains many nutrients.

The same research found that treating people who had atopic eczema dermatitis syndrome (AEDS) with deep seawater helped improve symptoms, including:

People with AEDS may have mineral imbalances that include some toxic materials, such as mercury or lead. Deep seawater may help to restore the balance of essential minerals and reduce toxic minerals.

Reduce allergic skin reactions

Research has found that deep sea water may help reduce allergic responses in the skin. Deep sea water reduced antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE) that cause an allergic reaction.

An in vivo study also found that deep sea water helped slow down or block the response of IgE, histamine, and proinflammatory cytokines, which can also cause an allergic reaction.

People should note that manufacturers remove salt to make it safe for consumption. This means that other properties in seawater are responsible for these benefits rather than salt.

May help treat psoriasis

Balneotherapy is a therapy that aims to treat certain medical conditions by bathing in thermal mineral waters.

Balneotherapy includes bathing in natural saltwater sites such as the Dead Sea or adding sea salts to a bath.

Balneotherapy may help treat plaque psoriasis and provide benefits for people with psoriatic arthritis.

Although it is unclear why balneotherapy benefits these conditions, some proponents think that it:

  • widens the blood vessels in the skin due to warm temperatures
  • releases of beta-endorphins and enkephalins, which help to block pain sensations
  • suppresses the immune system in the skin

Benefits of mineral salts may include:

  • sulfur helps to break down psoriatic plaques and may suppress the immune system
  • magnesium reduces foreign substances that may trigger an immune response
  • helps to kill bacteria on the skin surface

Exfoliates the skin

Saltwater may work as a mechanical exfoliant on the skin. Exfoliating the skin removes dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin.

This may help prevent a buildup of dead skin cells, which can cause some types of acne. If people have blackheads, it is best they avoid scrubbing the skin.

Salt scrubs may not be suitable for every skin type or more delicate areas of skin, such as the face. If people are unsure about using a salt scrub, they can talk with a dermatologist.

May increase magnesium levels

Magnesium is an essential mineral for overall health. Magnesium may also help to benefit the skin, as it supports cell function and cell repair and helps activate vitamin D.

Some reports indicate that topical magnesium may help to relieve inflammatory skin conditions.

According to a 2017 review, prolonged soaking in Epsom salts may increase magnesium levels. The review discussed a study in which 19 participants took 2-hour long Epsom salt baths for 7 days. The results found an increase in magnesium levels in the blood.

The review concluded that overall, the skin does not appear to absorb magnesium easily absorb through the skin and that oral supplementation may prove more effective.

However, the study has never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal.

There is little scientific research about incorporating saltwater into a skin care routine. If people are unsure whether saltwater will benefit their skin, they can consult with a dermatologist.

Anecdotal evidence suggests the following methods for using saltwater in skin care:

  • start by using saltwater 1-2 times a week to see how the skin reacts
  • if saltwater dries out or irritates the skin, discontinue use
  • choose sea salt over table salt, as it may contain beneficial trace minerals
  • use fine salt granules instead of coarse salt
  • to apply to the face, try applying a small amount of saltwater onto a cotton pad and wipe the face with it
  • avoid scrubbing the face

To make a saltwater solution, try the following:

  • boil two cups of water
  • add 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • allow the mixture to cool
  • store at room temperature and use as necessary

Alternatively, people can look for skin care products that contain sea salt.

If using salt as an exfoliating scrub, the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) recommends the following precautions:

  • Take care with or avoid exfoliating if using other products that can make the skin more sensitive, such as retinol or benzoyl peroxide products.
  • Mechanical exfoliation may irritate dry, acne-prone, or sensitive skin.
  • In some cases, mechanical exfoliation may cause dark spots on the skin in dark skin tones.
  • Apply a scrub gently to the skin, using small, circular motions for around 30 seconds, before gently washing off with lukewarm water.
  • Avoid exfoliating on sunburnt or broken skin.
  • Apply a moisturizer after exfoliating.
  • Avoid over-exfoliating and stop if there is any irritation.

Saltwater may benefit the skin because it contains minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and may have antibacterial properties.

Deep sea water may help certain skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, although this may be due to the high nutrient content rather than salt.

Saltwater may also have an exfoliating effect, which can help remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface.

If people want to apply saltwater to their body or face, they can start gradually to see how the skin reacts. Saltwater may be too harsh on the face for some skin types. A person should discontinue use if they experience any irritation.

If people are unsure about using saltwater as part of their skincare regimen, they can talk with a dermatologist.