Salt. It’s everywhere – on every restaurant table, in every kitchen cupboard, in every grocery store worldwide. It’s easy to take such a simple ingredient for granted.
But dig below the surface, and salt is so much more than just salt. Yes there’s the ‘pouring’ kind supplemented with iodine – a kind of everyman’s salt – the stuff we grew up with. But more and more these days, salt has gone posh.
The colors! The variety! Gray sel de guerande from France, pink Himalaya salt, coarse Atlantic sea salt, black, gray, coarse, fine, from Epsom or the Dead Sea – we’ve become much more discerning about which salt we use. (And where we use it … salted caramel anyone? Yum.)
Salt is also an amazing natural beauty ingredient. I love ingredients that you can find anywhere, and which have been used in various traditions all around the world. Wherever you are, you can find salt, and you can find stories and recipes about how the locals use salt for health + beauty. Let’s explore.
What is salt?
Salt is a naturally occurring mineral which forms crystals and is predominately made of Sodium Chloride. We need salt to survive, although the meat-eaters among us tend to get an adequate amount of salt from our food, while vegetarians traditionally needed to supplement (not really an issue in current society where if you eat any prepared or packaged food, you’ll get more than enough salt!) There are salt mines dating back to 6,000 BC in both Romania and China, and salt used to be a highly valuable trading commodity. (source)
How is salt made?
Salt is naturally harvested either from evaporating sea water, or from mining it inland (although most of this mined salt is actually from ancient dried-up lakes and oceans.) The different colors of salt are attributed to the sediment and additional constituents in the salt. Some salts contain constituents beyond sodium like magnesium, calcium or sulphates. For example, Epsom salts are actually magnesium chloride (which is great for sore muscles and if you want a magnesium boost!) Gray salt often contains sediment giving it the characteristic gray color. Some sea salts contain algae giving them a ‘oceany’ smell. Just imagine the different trace minerals you can add into your diet simply by alternating which salt you use!
How can I use salt in my natural health + beauty routine?
Oh Salt, how do I love thee? Here are some of my favorite ways to use salt in our natural health + beauty routines:
- In the Bath: Soaking in a salt-infused bath is one of the classic, and best, ways to use salt in your daily routine. Not only is this relaxing, but your skin absorbs some of the minerals from the salt. Epsom salts, with their magnesium content, are great for sore muscles, but also to induce sleep (simply take a warm epsom salt bath 30 minutes before bedtime.) You can use the salt straight in the bath, or you can add some essential oils and a bit of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) for an aromatherapy bath. You can use any kind of salt in the bath, although I avoid table salt which often contains anti-caking agents. Add approximately 1 cup of salt to the bath, and stir to dissolve before getting in the tub.
- As a scrub: Salt is made of crystals, which are a natural abrasive and perfect for sloughing off that outer layer of skin! I find salt too harsh for the face personally, so I only use it as a body scrub. You can choose the size of the salt crystals to suit your skin type – for me medium to coarse salt works well, but if you have more sensitive skin you might try a finer salt. At the most basic, pour some salt into a bowl, just barely cover with oil (so all the salt is damp with oil, and a little extra, then use as a body scrub in the tub/shower. Be careful though because the oil makes the tub slippery!
- As a mouth rinse or gargle: As a child, whenever I had a sore throat, my mother would have me gargle with saltwater. And it really did seem to help! Salt is a natural disinfectant, and gargling with warm salt water can help to soothe and cleanse the irritated tissues at the back of the mouth. If you have any kind of mouth pain or a canker sore, you can also rinse with saltwater several times per day to cleanse and soothe.
- In your neti pot: Here’s a traditional Ayurvedic use for salt water – dissolve salt in distilled water and use with a neti pot to rinse out your nasal passages!
- As a tooth polish: Here’s one I’m not 100% convinced on for modern use – but historically salt was used as a tooth polish (especially when mixed with herbs like sage.) However, there is some question about whether salt is too abrasive to the enamel to use regularly – so I don’t recommend this for long-term usage.
- In this super refreshing drink in hot weather: Try this homemade sports drink which is based on a very old-fashioned farmers drink for rehydration – just apple cider vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt… and it tastes good too! Get the recipe here.
What’s your favorite salt? How do you use salt in your natural health + beauty routines? Share your stories + tips in the comments.