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How Salt Water Affects Hair

Splashing around in the ocean might make you feel like a mermaid. But it turns out that all that seawater is far from conducive to achieving sleek and flowing mermaid hair

Hair owes its pliable softness to the 12 to 15 percent water it contains. The salt content of seawater, however, makes it osmotic, meaning that it draws water out of your hair. When salt water and hair mix the result is often dry, brittle locks, full of frizz, and split ends. 

That said, there’s no need to avoid the ocean altogether. You just need to dial your hair care up a few notches both before and after a day at the beach.

But what kinds of treatments and products should you use? Let’s take a look at how salt water affects hair and what to do about it!

Understanding How Salt Water Affects Hair

When you submerge your hair in seawater, the different salt concentrations in your hair and the water surrounding you starts a chemical reaction. This reaction sees the water moves from your hair (an area of low salt concentration) to the seawater (an area of higher salt concentration). Here are some ways that this transference of moisture causes damage to your hair: 


Since the water content of your hair is essential for sleek and shiny locks, any loss of water from the interior of your hair strand causes your locks to look and feel dry and brittle.


As well as dehydrating your hair, salt water also makes it more prone to flyaway strands and frizz. This is because when your hair is lacking moisture, the cuticle layers open up instead of laying flat. Your hair then attempts to seek moisture from the air around it, causing it to swell up and frizz.


As your hair is left dehydrated by salt water exposure, breakage and split-ends are also more likely to occur. What’s more, salt often leaves a crusty residue behind on your hair, causing it to clump together and tangle, meaning more chance of breakage when you try to brush out these knots. 


Salt water also draws moisture and natural oils away from your scalp as well as your hair itself. This combined with the crusty residue that seawater can leave behind can lead to dandruff as your scalp becomes dry and flaky. 

Color Fading

The negative effects of salt water are even worse for those of you with dyed hair. Salt water damage will not only give your dyed hair a rough texture but will also alter the color or cause fading. 

Preventing and Repairing Hair Damage Caused by Salt Water

Despite all the negatives of seawater, we’re sure none of you wants to sit on the sand while others enjoy the ocean waves. And the good news is, you don’t have to! Here are some ways to prevent and repair the hair damage that salt water can cause:


Prevention is key for minimizing hair damage. Here are some ways to prepare your hair for salt water exposure:

  • Magic Sleek Treatment: Rather than waiting until after the summer has wreaked havoc on your hair, give it the magic touch with a Magic Sleek treatment before. As well as giving you perfect frizz-free summer hair, the treatment prepares your hair for stressors such as salt water and the sun. Plus, you can swim in salt water 10 days after receiving a Magic Sleek treatment!
  • Hair Care Routine Upgrade: It’s no good using any old shampoo for hair following a Magic Sleek treatment. For optimal results and to ensure that you can swim in the sea without undue worry, make sure to use the Magic Sleek Maintenance Shampoo and Magic Sleek Maintenance Conditioner
  • Hair Oil: As well as sealing in moisture, adding shine, and preventing split ends, including Magic Sleek’s quality Acai Hair Oil in your hair care routine is another great way to stop salt water from penetrating your strands

Of course, you don’t have to be preparing your hair for a trip to the ocean to take advantage of the optimal hair maintenance benefits of Magic Sleek products! No matter the weather or what your plans are, Magic Sleek treatments offer that magic touch for hair that shines with health from within. 


Your hair should be in good condition after all that prep-work. But, doing the following will minimize any possibility of salt water damage:

  • Pre-Ocean Rinse: Before you hit the waves, soak your hair with freshwater in the beachside shower. Your hair will act like a sponge, absorbing the moisture from the freshwater. This leaves less room for seawater to penetrate the shaft and less chance of damage from the saltiness
  • Post-Ocean Rinse: Straight after coming out of the ocean, hit the shower again. Rinsing your hair right after exposure will wash away the salt crystals and stop the dehydration process in its tracks

If you’re often at the beach, you might even consider wearing a swimming cap. Although a little seawater may still get in, you’ll prevent it from saturating your hair with saltiness. 


If you’ve followed the advice above, your hair should still be in a good condition. But, here’s what to do to give it the extra TLC it needs after salt water exposure:

  • Magic Sleek Treatment: If you weren’t able to receive a Magic Sleek treatment before salt water exposure, doing so afterward is ideal for restoring shine and health to salt-damaged hair
  • Hydrating Hair Mask: With nutrient-rich ingredients and unrivalled smoothing properties, using the Magic Sleek Emergency Repair Kit hair mask is a sure-fire way to deliver intense hydration to your hair after a summer of sea-swimming 

Your Salt Water Hair Care Guide

It can be worrying to learn all the ways that salt water affects hair. But as always, knowledge is power! Now you know what you’re dealing with after a dip in the ocean, it’ll be a lot easier to prevent and repair the damage to hair that salt water can cause. 

And, thanks to Magic Sleek, it’s possible to live out your mermaid fantasies at the beach and have the kind of soft and silky mermaid hair you’ve always dreamed of! Check out our salon locator to search for salons in your area offering Magic Sleek hair treatment services, or browse our retail store to order our hair care products for yourself!