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This Sea Salt Spray Is Going Viral For Clearing Acne — But Does It Really Work? 

July 19, 2021

Ever come back from the beach with noticeably clearer skin? You're not imagining it: Not only is the post-vacation glow very much real (considering stress and acne go together like sunglasses and SPF), but the salty ocean water may have some skin-healing properties, too. 

It's something this TikTok user noticed after returning from her most recent getaway—and so she decided to bring the beach to her bathroom with a DIY sea salt toner. The video (and her glowing complexion) practically made tidal waves—it currently has 4 million views and counting. 

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So what's the deal with this sea salt hack: Does it really work? Let's give it a proper breakdown. 

Does sea salt work for acne? 

It could—but you have to be mindful about how you use it. 

"Sea salt water can help dry out pimples," says holistic plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, M.D., in a duet video, similar to how a spot treatment can contain drying agents to draw out all the sebum and gunk from a blemish. (It's also why your hair may feel a bit strawlike after a dip in the ocean, as saltwater can yank precious oil and moisture from your strands.) Sea salt also has some antimicrobial properties1, which may make it a helpful remedy for acne-causing bacteria. 

Some limited data even touts sea salt for balancing inflammation, which can be helpful for those tender, puffy pimples. Especially if you use magnesium-rich types of salt: One study found that bathing in a magnesium-rich salt solution was effective for reducing dry skin and inflammation. Anecdotally, some people who suffer from eczema and psoriasis have also found salty ocean water helpful for calming flare-ups; the National Eczema Association even recommends adding 1 cup of table salt to your bathwater to ease flare-ups. 

So, sea salt can simultaneously dry out pimples while tempering inflammation associated with those painful bumps. However! You can potentially damage your skin if you overdo it on the saltwater. Says board-certified dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, M.D., in another duet video: "It can also be irritating to the skin," especially if you're scrubbing at your face with larger salt crystals (um, ouch). Sea salt is also mildly exfoliating, so she says you should avoid it in tandem with other exfoliating ingredients. 

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How to use the DIY spray correctly. 

As always, it's best to consult a derm if you're dealing with stubborn breakouts, as resorting to DIY might not be the answer for some. But if you're curious about how to replicate the viral video, here's how to create the DIY sea salt spray:

  1. Pour 1 teaspoon of sea salt with ½ cup of warm water into a spray bottle. Shake to combine. 
  2. To use, simply spray the salty solution onto your face after cleansing. You can also mist it onto a reusable cotton round and swipe it across your skin. 
  3. Don't forget to follow with moisturizer so you don't over-dry your skin. (You may also want to skip the saltwater step on nights you exfoliate.)
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The takeaway. 

Does sea salt work for acne? It can, but you still want to replenish your skin with moisture so you don't dry it out completely. Other tried-and-true ingredients may even work better for clearing acne: Drying ingredients (like clay) can zap a pimple quickly, as can exfoliators like AHAs and BHAs and antibacterial ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. Meaning, you have options—but you can perhaps try saltwater to see if you have any success.