Does Salt Water Make Your Hair Curly?

Does Salt Water Make Your Hair Curly?

There's a popular belief that salt water can make your hair curly. The idea that it can bestow curls upon you has been around for a long time, but is there any truth to it, or is it just an old abuela's tale? Well, guess what? Abuela kinda knew what she was talking about (she often does). The short answer is that sea salt water or a refreshing sea salt spray can help define your curls and add volume, but it doesn't magically produce curls and can even have harmful effects on your locks. Before you head straight for the beach, let's talk about the pros and cons of salt water in your hair.


Saltwater and Your Hair Structure

Athletic woman with wet curly hair coming out of the beach with paddleboard.

Sea water and ocean water contain high concentrations of salt (sodium chloride) along with other minerals. When salt water comes into contact with your hair, it can have several effects, but its ability to alter your hair structure and actually create curls is questionable. There's no doubt that it can help enhance your natural curls by removing moisture from your hair, which can cause your hair cuticles to lift. When the cuticles lift, the natural curl pattern is further enhanced, until voila! You’ve got more defined curls.

But salt water damage is also a thing, and it can result in the following:

Dry Hair

We all know that salt sucks moisture, so it's no surprise that salt water has a drying effect on hair. By removing moisture from the hair shaft, it can produce dry hair that feels rough and brittle. Anyone who's run their hands through their mane after sunning themselves following a swim in the ocean knows what we're talking about.

Increased Frizz and Texture

Frizzy hair and salt water are old friends. That high salt content can cause the hair cuticle to swell and roughen, leading to increased frizz and texture. This change in the hair's surface might give you the appearance of more volume and wave, but it doesn't necessarily result in true curls.

Disruption of Natural Oils

Salt water can strip away the natural oils in your scalp and hair, which isn't a good thing. These oils play a crucial role in maintaining hair health and defining its natural texture.

It's important to note that the effects of salt water on hair are temporary and reversible. Once the hair is washed and the salt water is rinsed out, your beautiful mane will return to its natural state. This means that any perceived curls or waves created by salt water will disappear after washing and conditioning.


Hair Type and Texture

A curly-haired woman at the beach.

Did you know that the impact of salt water on hair can vary depending on your hair type and texture? People with naturally straight hair may notice a temporary increase in volume and hair texture, while those with natural waves, curls and coils may experience enhanced definition. In other words, salty water can do an amazing job of giving curly girls even more pronounced curls. But don't expect the look to last.


Salt Water and Hair Health

A woman rinsing her hair beach.

Because of its adverse effects, you'll want to take steps to minimize damage and protect your hair when exposed to salt water. Here are four tips that will help.

  1. Pre-wet your hair: Before swimming in salt water, pre-wet your hair with clean water or apply a leave-in conditioner. Your damp hair will help create a barrier that reduces the absorption of salt water into the hair shaft.
  2. Rinse thoroughly: After swimming in salt water, rinse your hair well with fresh water to remove any residual salt. This helps prevent further drying and damage.
  3. Moisturize and condition: Use a hydrating shampoo and conditioner to replenish moisture and restore the natural oils in your hair. Any of Lu's shampoos and conditioners will deliver much-needed hydration to dry hair, but the Freedom Collection is specially designed to hydrate and nourish curly hair. You'll feel the difference with your very first wash after a day at the beach.
  4. Protect from the sun: Salt water and sun exposure pack a powerful punch that can lead to further hair damage. Wear a hat or use hair products that offer UV protection to shield your hair from harmful rays. All of Lu's products are made with Impossible Keratin™️, which delivers UV protection at the microscopic level.

There are plenty of DIY salt spray tutorials out there that promise beachy waves and bouncy curls. Just know that salt water's effects are temporary, but they don’t give you lasting curls. Other factors, such as hair type, texture, and natural curl pattern play a more significant role in determining your hair's overall look. Too much salt water in your hair can also have negative effects on your locks.

It's more important to maintain hair health while enjoying time in salt water, take proper precautions, and prioritize moisturizing and nourishing your hair to minimize damage and nurture your locks. A final tip: use Lu's "Free to be Styling"cream to keep your curls looking incredible before and after your beach day!