Beauty insiders are buzzing about what seems like a “new” skin treatment, but actually has its roots in a very old treatment.
It’s called “salt therapy,” and it’s being lauded for all kinds of rejuvenating, anti-aging, stress-relieving, and even eczema-soothing benefits.
Can sitting in salt really do all this? We decided to look into it.
What is Salt Therapy?
Often called “dry salt therapy” or “halotherapy” (from the Greek word for salt, “halo”), this is a spa treatment that involves sitting in a “salt room,” usually for 45 minutes to an hour or more. Often these rooms have dim lighting and may include massage chairs so you can enjoy a nice massage while you rest.
This is sort of like a sauna, except that instead of dispersing steam in the room, a halogenerator dispenses a controlled and therapeutic level of microscopic salt particles into the air.
Though often touted as a “new” beauty treatment, salt therapy has its roots in the ancient practice of spending time in natural salt caves. Salt miners in Poland, for example, were found to have fewer respiratory illnesses than others, which was linked to their regular inhalation of salt dust.
After the link between the miners and the salt caves was discovered, salt inhalation became a recommended treatment for lung conditions.
As you sit in a salt room, you inhale the tiny salt microparticles that exist in the air, and your skin becomes covered in them as well. Potential benefits include:
- “Cleans” out the respiratory system, helping thin mucus so you can expel it easier, and ridding the system of pathogens and debris
- Helps improve lung condition in those with asthma and other respiratory conditions
- Supports the presence of good bacteria on the skin, while reducing harmful bacteria
- Naturally helps tame inflammation on the skin
- Balances the skin’s pH and stimulates regeneration and healing
- Relieves stress and leaves you feeling refreshed
The therapy is sometimes likened to spending a day at the beach. You may know how it feels to breathe in that salty air on the coast. Dry salt therapy promises to give you a similar feeling.
Does Salt Therapy Work for the Skin?
Salt by its very nature is naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial. It’s a good germ-killer. That’s why your mom may have recommended that you gargle with salt water when you had a sore throat, as the salt was known to help kill the illness-causing bacteria.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that so far, we don’t have any quality studies on salt therapy and asthma, so there’s no way to know whether the treatment might help. Concentrated salts can irritate the airways, causing cough and mucus, which could make asthma worse.
Other studies have found more positive results for people with cystic fibrosis and smoking-related coughing, and some small studies have found benefits for children with mild asthma.
What about the skin? Can salt therapy improve the skin’s condition and appearance?
There is some evidence that the salts used in halotherapy may have calming properties that are helpful for those with eczema and psoriasis. The salts contain magnesium—like Epsom salts— which offers therapeutic benefits like improving skin barrier function and reducing inflammation.
Again, the scientific support for these claims is minimal. We couldn’t find any studies in peer-reviewed journals looking at salt therapy in these conditions.
Does Halotherapy Have Any Safety Risks?
As noted above, there is some concern that halotherapy could make symptoms of asthma and other lung disorders worse in some cases. Check with your doctor before trying it.
The treatment appears to be safe for the skin. It is important to make sure you get the treatment at a quality facility that has trained medical staff on hand to handle any problems. When you emerge from the therapy, be sure to moisturize your skin well, as salt therapy can be drying.
If you enjoy the spa treatment, it can be a great way to relax and unwind. But if you’re looking for skin beauty benefits in particular, you may experience equal or even better results by adding some Epsom salts to your bath or using a salt scrub directly on the skin.
Have you tried halotherapy?
AFA. (n.d.). Re: AAFA Explains: Is Salt Therapy Safe and Effective for Asthma? Retrieved from https://community.aafa.org/blog/aafa-explains-is-therapy-safe-and-effective-for-asthma?reply=516133844136251020
Colino, S. (2017, September 13). The Sweet (and Therapeutic) Truth About Salt Caves. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/mind/articles/2017-09-13/the-sweet-and-therapeutic-truth-about-salt-caves
Elkins, M. R., Robinson, M., Rose, B. R., Harbour, C., Moriarty, C. P., Marks, G. B., … Bye, P. T. (2006). A Controlled Trial of Long-Term Inhaled Hypertonic Saline in Patients with Cystic Fibrosis. New England Journal of Medicine, 354(3), 229-240. doi:10.1056/nejmoa043900
Melnick, M. (2010, November 5). Halotherapy: Is Salt Treatment For Real? Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2010/11/05/halotherapy-is-salt-treatment-for-real/