Since ancient times, it has been a common practice to extract several types of natural salts found both underground and underwater, especially under sea water. Salt derived from evaporated sea water is also referred to as Solar Salt or Bay Salt. Dead Sea Mineral Salt is one example of a salt derived from seawater. In spite of being harvested from clay or from the foothills of mountainous regions, pink salts, and rock salts – Himalayan Pink Salt is an example of both – are also considered to be sea salts. This is because all salts originate from salt mines, or by evaporating the water of salt fields, salt flats, salt waterfalls, springs, salt pans, or saline bodies of water, including the ocean, salt-water lakes or ponds, inland seas, enclosed bays, or bodies of water that are rich in mineral content. Similarly, it is believed that Himalayan Salt – also called Himalayan Crystal Salt, Pink Salt, and Rock Salt – is dried leftover deposits from ancient sea salt. Accordingly, it is also called the Himalayan Sea Salt. Over the centuries, salts harvested from all these places have traditionally been used in culinary, aromatherapy, medicinal, cleansing, and cosmetic applications.
Salts are composed largely of 2 elements that are essential for human life, namely sodium and chloride. They work to support the general health and optimal function of the body in numerous ways. Minerals are elements that form naturally and that are chemically composed of chemicals in a way that results in their having structures that are crystal-like. Himalayan Pink Salt consists of many such minerals, such as sodium chloride, also known as Halite. Though sodium chloride is white and cubic in structure, the pink color of Himalayan Salt is caused by iron oxides.
According to historical narratives, natives of the Himalayan region used Pink Himalayan Salt to preserve foods such as meat and fish; however, it was discovered that this salt – known to be the cleanest in the world – also had healthful and therapeutic properties that made it beneficial for use in bath soaks and body scrubs, to name a few applications.
It is believed that Himalayan Pink Salt began to be mined around the time that it was discovered by Alexander the Great and his troops in 326 BC. According to the legend, they were stopped in the area to rest when their horses began to lick the rocks that turned out to be salt. The first record of salt mining in the Himalayas, however, is from the 1200s, and they refer to the Janjua community of Pakistan and India. As early as 2700 BCE, a detailed pharmacological account of various salts, their uses, and their methods of extraction were recorded and published in China. Known as the “Peng-Tzao-Kan-Mu,” this systematically charted publication was the earliest description of more than 40 varieties of these natural raw materials as well as an elucidation of salt mining.
Salt was highly valued in Greece and Rome, coming to be used as currency and to be traded for slaves. These historical practices established the expression “not worth his salt” and coined the term “salary,” given that the Latin word from which it originated meant “a sum given to soldiers to buy salt.” Hence, for thousands of years, the historical buying, selling, and trading of salt has been a significant source of wealth and an integral factor in the progress and expansion of cultures, economies, and metropolises in Asia and Europe. Salt has come to be not only one of the oldest seasonings and preservatives for food, but it has also come to be widely used in bleaching, dyeing, glazing ceramics, soap making, water softening, and preserving animal hides in a process called tanning.
To his fellow healers, the Greek physician Hippocrates promoted the submersion of patients in seawater, as he believed that salt water had healing benefits for numerous health problems. As for bathing in warm salt water – also referred to as “sole” and “brine” – became more widespread for the purposes of addressing muscle aches and joint pain, the medicinal application of bath salts became more prevalent. Gradually, they became popular in cosmetic applications for the treatment of freckles, acne, and psoriasis. Other ancient Greeks also continued the uses of these methods. Eventually, a publication entitled “The Uses of Sea Water” was published in 1753 by Charles Russel, an English physician.
In Roman regions, the heat of the sun was the main technique for evaporating the salt water of the sea, which was collected in “briquetage,” or ceramic containers. This concentrated salt and mud slurry, would then be scraped up and have any residual impurities rinsed out with clean sea water. The resulting brine would be poured into shallow clay pans and placed atop short clay pillars above a turf fire for the final evaporation of any remaining water. The final step involved scraping out the dried salt before selling it. This traditional production method was also carried out in rural areas of Sichuan, China, until the 20th century, when the process became industrialized. In a 5-volume publication entitled “De Materia Medica,” Dioskurides the Roman physician lists salt as a potent remedy for addressing wounds, bites, and ailments associated with improper digestion.
In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra was known to soak in the Dead Sea, a body of water reputed to be rich in minerals that exhibited softening, smoothing, and rejuvenating properties. Unlike non-salt baths, which dehydrate skin and cause it to prune, saltwater replicates conditions that are necessary for skin to remain balanced. In this way, salt water prevents skin from losing moisture. Hence, the cosmetic advantages of bath salts were especially thrown in the spotlight.
In modern times, salt continues to be a valuable exfoliating, stimulating, hydrating, strengthening, moisturizing, and cleansing component in countless cosmetic products such as shampoos and scrubs. Being hygroscopic, mineral salts are known to attract water. Hence, applied topically, they pull nutrients and moisture from deeper levels of the skin to the uppermost layer, thus contributing to the skin’s suppleness and minimizing the appearance of wrinkles.
With spas and other wellness centers advertising the use of bath salts in various crystal sizes, scents, and colors, bath salts continue to be widely applied today for the promotion of relaxation and the restoration of good health. This article highlights the various ways in which mineral salts can be used for enhancing the health of the skin, hair, and body.
MINERAL SALT BENEFITS
The main constituents of Himalayan Pink Salt are Sodium Chloride (Salt), Minerals (80+ natural minerals), and Trace Elements (Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, and Iron).
The main constituents of Dead Sea Mineral Salts are Magnesium Chloride, Potassium Chloride Sodium Chloride, Bromide, Calcium Chloride, and Sulphate.
MAGNESIUM is known to:
- Accelerate cell metabolism
- Be an anti-allergic agent
- Cleanse and detoxify the skin
- Contribute to the rejuvenation of skin
- Address feelings of stress
- Regulate fluid retention
- Delay the look of aging skin
- Soothe the nervous system
CALCIUM is known to:
- Soothe, strengthen, and cleanse skin
- Regulate fluid retention
- Stimulate and enhance circulation
- Contribute to the health of bones and nails
BROMIDE is known to:
- Be relaxing
- Be anti-inflammatory
- Be beneficial for addressing various types of allergies
- Cleanse and detoxify the skin
SODIUM CHLORIDE is known to:
- Hydrate and nourish the skin
- Facilitate the body’s elimination of toxins
SULFUR is known to:
- Enhance skin health
- Effectively address symptoms of skin ailments, including eczema, psoriasis, and seborrhea
POTASSIUM is known to:
- Promote the body’s feelings of being energized
- Balance skin’s moisture levels
- Replenish essential minerals in the body after intense exercise
Used in aromatherapy, mineral salts are known to purify indoor environments by attracting and trapping airborne pollutants, dust, and allergens. By drawing water vapor into their crystals, mineral salts can also function as dehumidifiers, thus one of the original therapeutic applications of mineral salts was for addressing respiratory ailments. This is referred to as Speleotherapy or Halotherapy. Both terms are derived from Greek words, the first term meaning “cave therapy,” which involves treating respiratory ailments by breathing the air found inside caves. The second term, derived from the Greek word for “salt,” involves inhaling a dry salt aerosol in an environment with controlled air that mimics the natural climate of a salt cave. Simply inhaling salt-rich air has been a common practice in Europe since the 1800s when people would visit salt mines for the same purposes.
By allowing the miniscule airborne salt particles to enter and travel through the respiratory system, the sinuses and lungs would be detoxified by the salt’s anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties. One modern Speleotherapy practice involves sitting in a room infused with salt-rich air, which is known to soothe asthma, clear the sinuses to address seasonal allergies, relieve chest congestion, reduce coughing, improve skin ailments such as dermatitis and eczema, and stimulate the respiratory function of smokers as well as those with cystic fibrosis. When mineral salts are combined with essential oils in a bath, the scented bath water creates an aromatherapy experience that works to naturally detoxify, soothe pain and inflammation, relax tightness in the muscles and chest, ease physical and mental stress, soften skin, clear congestion, and energize the mind and body.
Used cosmetically or topically in general, mineral salts soothe dryness and itchiness, balance the skin’s oil production and pH level, soften and smooth skin afflicted with roughness, wrinkles, or cellulite, while dilating the pores to facilitate the cleansing of impurities and toxins, and exfoliate to remove dead skin and reveal a healthier layer. These properties make mineral salts beneficial for addressing acne and maintaining a refreshed and youthful look by softening and plumping skin to smooth out the look of wrinkles. While occlusive moisturizers often leave greasy residues that clog pores and make them problematic for acne-prone skin, mineral salts are known to enhance natural moisturizers’ abilities to bind moisture to the skin while leaving a protective moisture barrier. Mineral salts are reputed to reverse irritation, dullness, uneven skin tone, and dryness without leaving traces of a greasy residue.
Used in hair, mineral salts are known to contribute volume, shine, resilience, and softness to the strands. By moisturizing the hair, they repair and prevent damage caused by dryness. Conversely, they also absorb excess oils and moisture such as perspiration. With their sulfur and sodium content, mineral salts not only cleanse the scalp but they also address problems associated with flaking skin, such as dandruff.
Used medicinally,mineral salts can maintain proper muscular function, relax the muscles to soothe or prevent cramps, soreness, spasms, and aches, maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes, reduce or prevent dehydration, regulate blood pressure, eliminate bodily toxins, maintain the health of bones and connective tissues, and enhance circulation. Along with improving skin health, mineral salts – especially when used in baths – are known to contribute to a more relaxed, refreshed, and positive mood. This is known to have the effect of relieving stresses such as symptoms of insomnia. By balancing the body’s pH levels, mineral salts are known to boost overall health by enhancing immunity, stimulating digestion, and improving the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food.
Mineral salts are reputed to have many therapeutic properties. The following highlights their many benefits and the kinds of activity they are believed to show:
- COSMETIC: Hydrating, Exfoliating, Softening, Smoothing, Conditioning, Clarifying, Invigorating, Cleansing, Stimulating, Circulatory, Anti-Aging, Rejuvenating.
- MEDICINAL: Relaxant, Cleansing, Nourishing, Stimulating, Circulatory, Energizing, Healing.
CULTIVATING AND HARVESTING QUALITY MINERAL SALT
Pink Himalayan Salt is mined by hand from Pakistan’s Khewra Salt Mine near the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range, which extends from Afghanistan before passing through Pakistan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan, and China. The second largest salt mine in the world, this range is 300 miles from the Himalayan Mountains and is a hill system with a vast amount of rock salt deposits. The belief that Himalayan Salt is the purest form of salt stems from the fact that, more than 200 million years ago, lava functioned as a protective cover for the sea salt beds within the Himalayas, protecting these crystalline salt formations from being exposed to the toxins of the modern day. These impurities include polluted air and water.
According to historical sources, it is believed that this salt range remained untouched until 1849 when Dr. Warth, a British mining engineer, aided in the design and construction of a passageway that would allow for easier access into the mine for the harvest of salt deposits that were 5000 feet below the mountain range. His mining technique, which continues to be used in modern times, involved a “pillar and chamber” method in which half of the salt would be removed while the remaining half functioned as the mine’s architectural support. Presently, 40 km (25 miles) of tunnels extend across 11 levels of the mine, going nearly 0.8 km (half a mile) into the mountain.
After Pink Himalayan Salt is hand-mined as per tradition, it is also crushed by hand and washed by hand then sun-dried. Like table salt, Himalayan Pink Salt is largely composed of sodium chloride; however, unlike table salt, its trace minerals are not removed, anti-caking agents are not mixed into it, and it does not undergo any other similar processes. Pink Himalayan Salt ranges in clarity from transparent to opaque and ranges in color from white to pink to dark red. The colors indicate that the salt crystals vary in their mineral and iron content, where red indicates a high level of iron content.
Mineral salts obtained from sea water are harvested through the solar evaporation of sea water. In this centuries-old technique, a sequence of shallow artificial salt evaporation ponds – also referred to as geological salt pans, salterns, or salt works – are typically separated by levees. The levees are built high in order to leave ample space for the eventual accumulation of salt.
The first in this sequence of ponds is the “intake” pond into which seawater is pumped. The water gradually circulates to the rest of the ponds in the system, undergoing natural evaporation as it is exposed to the sun and wind. As the decreasing volume of water causes the pond to become increasingly saturated with salt, this concentrates the brine. The salt passes through crystallization ponds in which it crystallizes and is harvested. To remove impurities, the harvested salt is washed in clean saturated brine.
USES OF MINERAL SALT
The uses of mineral salts are abundant, ranging from medicinal and odorous to cosmetic. Its many forms include aromatherapy, body scrubs, bath salt blends, various spa applications, hair sprays, body and room deodorants, and homemade soaps.
Used in cosmetic or topical applications, mineral salts can be added to a warm bath for a cleansing experience that is simultaneously detoxifying and replenishing. To create a bath salt blend that will nourish the skin, soothe aching muscles, and stimulate circulation, begin by pouring 3 cups Dead Sea Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt into a large ceramic or stainless-steel mixing bowl. To the salts, add 30-60 drops of a preferred essential oil or oil blend, then stir the mix with a metal spoon until the oil has thoroughly blended into the salt. This aromatic bath salt mix can be spooned into and stored in a glass or plastic jar. To use, dissolve a handful in warm bath water.
For a bath blend with a focus on relaxation, the abovementioned steps may be followed with the following suggested blend of essential oils: 30 drops Lavender Essential Oil, 5 drops Roman Chamomile Essential Oil, 5 drops Geranium Essential Oil, 5 drops Sandalwood Essential Oil and 5 drops Ylang Ylang Essential Oil. For an uplifting blend, mix 15 drops Grapefruit Essential Oil, 15 drops Orange Essential Oil, 10 drops Lemongrass Essential Oil, 5 drops Peppermint Essential Oil, and 5 drops Ylang Ylang Essential Oil. For a bath salt blend that addresses pain, mix 30 drops Lavender Essential Oil, 10 drops Marjoram Essential Oil, 10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil, 5 drops Eucalyptus Essential Oil, and 5 drops Rosemary Essential Oil. For a detoxifying bath blend that cleanses pores of dirt, grime, and bacteria and prevents breakouts, pour the following into a warm bath: 1 cup of Himalayan Pink Salt and 1 cup of whole milk that has been mixed with 10 drops Lavender Essential Oil and 10 drops Juniper Berry Essential Oil.
To create an exfoliating face scrub, blend 1 tsp. Fine or Ultra Fine Dead Sea Mineral Salt and 1 tsp. Olive Carrier Oil. Rinse the face with lukewarm water, then gently massage this blend into the face to remove dead skin and promote a healthy-looking radiance. Alternatively, for a sweetly-scented body scrub, mix 1 cup of Fine Dead Sea Salt and ½ cup of Coconut Fractionated Carrier Oil in a large bowl. Next, add 10 drops Geranium Essential Oil. Adding a handful of dried rose petals is optional, though it does add to the attractiveness of the final product. Blend all the ingredients together and gently massage it into the wet skin of the face or body to achieve a softer feel with a youthful glow.
For a facewash that balances skin’s pH levels, first, add 1 tsp. of Himalayan Pink Salt to a foaming soap dispenser. Next, add 3 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil, 3 drops Geranium Essential Oil and 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil. To this, add ¼ cup of Liquid Castile Soap and 1 cup of distilled water, then shake the bottle to thoroughly mix together all ingredients. This face wash may be used twice daily. For a mineral salt facial toner that reduces excess oils, firms and tightens the skin, and diminishes the appearance of enlarged pores, simply combine ½ tsp. of Himalayan Pink Salt, 1 tsp. Coconut Fractionated Carrier Oil, 1-2 drops of Lemon Essential Oil, and ½ cup of pure water in a spray bottle. To use, mist the toner over the face, avoiding the eyes. Allow the toner to dry, then moisturize the face.
For an antiseptic facial steam treatment that is beneficial for acne-prone skin, pour 1/3 cup of Dead Sea Mineral Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt into a small pan filled with water and heat it until it boils. Pour this salt-water solution into a large bowl. Stand over the steaming bowl with a towel draped over the head for at least 10 minutes. Ensure that the eyes remain closed to prevent irritation.
For a mineral salt deodorant that will not only mask body odor but also absorb sweat while promoting the body’s detoxification, blend 2 tsp. of Dead Sea Mineral Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt, 30 ml (1 oz.) Witch Hazel Distillate, 90 ml (3 oz.) distilled water, and ½ tsp. Baking Soda in a spray bottle. Next, add 10 drops of Lemon Essential Oil or any other essential oil of personal preference. To use, simply spray the blend like a regular spray-on body deodorant.
To create a hydrating mineral salt face mask that soothes acne reduces inflammation and addresses other skin irritations, simply create a paste consisting of 2 tsp. of organic Honey and 1 tsp. of Ultra Fine Dead Sea Mineral Salt. Apply this mask all over the face, avoiding the eyes. After leaving it on for 15 minutes, rinse it off with warm water, then apply a moisturizer.
Used in aromatherapy applications, mineral salts can be effective in aromatic baths, as mentioned earlier. Although essential oils can be diluted in carrier oils before being blended into bath salts, both carrier oils and essential oils may separate from water, float on the water’s surface, and come directly in contact with the skin, thus potentially causing it to burn or become sensitized. Accordingly, it is recommended that a solubilizer is included in the mix when creating bath salts. For an aromatic Dead Sea bath salt blend, first, combine 1 Tbsp. Jojoba Carrier Oil, 15 drops of an essential oil of personal preference, and a solubilizer (follow the usage amounts outlined by the supplier) in a small bowl. Mix them together thoroughly. In a separate bowl, combine 3 cups of mineral salt. This can be Himalayan Pink Salt, Dead Sea Salt, or a combination that also includes Epsom Salt. Note that salts with larger grains generally take longer to dissolve in water. To this bowl, add the oil mixture and mix both blends together thoroughly with a spoon. This blend can be stored in an airtight container. To use in a bath, pour ½ cup or 1 full cup of the salt under running water in the bathtub. Allow it to fully disperse and dissolve before getting into the bathtub.
Used in hair, mineral salts can add texture and volume. For a natural recipe that addresses the problem of flat hair, simply mix together 1 Tsp. Himalayan Pink Salt, 5 drops Bergamot Essential Oil and ½ cup of pure water in a spray bottle. Spritz this mix onto clean, damp hair and scrunch the strands using a towel to absorb the excess moisture. For an aromatic, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory mineral salt scrub that moisturizes and conditions the scalp, stimulates circulation for healthier hair growth, and soothes dryness and itchiness, the first mix together 2 Tbsp. of Fine or Ultra Fine Dead Sea Salt, 2 Tbsp. of Olive Carrier Oil, and 3-4 drops of either Peppermint, Lavender, or Tea Tree Essential Oil. Before washing the hair with shampoo, gently massage this blend into the scalp and leave it on for 3-5 minutes. Rinse the hair out as usual. This scrub can be applied once a week. Alternatively, an anti-dandruff shampoo can be made by adding 2 Tbsp. of Dead Sea Mineral Salt or Himalayan Pink Salt to a regular shampoo.
Used in medicinal applications, mineral salts gently detoxify the skin and body. For a medicinal washcloth compress that uses the restorative and regenerative benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt, a “sole” can be made. Sole is a solution wherein water is infused with mineral salt, and it is known to soothe the discomforts of skin ailments, such as psoriasis and eczema, while cleansing and exfoliating the skin to remove impurities and dullness. Sole has numerous other benefits that include: the ability to detoxify the body by balancing its pH level, the ability to provide trace minerals that improve the body’s hydration, the ability to soothe or reduce muscle cramps, the ability to balance hormones, which has a positive impact on sleep and weight loss, the ability to work as an antihistamine, and the ability to boost energy.
To make a sole, first, fill a glass mason jar with 1-2 cups of Himalayan Pink Salt or Dead Sea Salt. Pour filtered water over the salt until there is only 1 inch of space left between the water and the mouth of the jar. Screw the lid on tightly and gently shake the jar to blend the water and salt before allowing it to sit overnight for further interfusion. Salt that remains on the bottom of the jar indicates that the water is unable to absorb any more of it. At this time, the sole will be ready for use. To create the compress, dissolve 2 tsp. of the sole in 240 ml (8 oz.) of purified water. Soak a clean washcloth into this solution and apply it to areas of skin afflicted with psoriasis or eczema and leave it pressed to each area for 5-15 minutes. This can be applied daily. For larger areas of skin, a larger sole-soaked towel may be used and left on for 20 minutes. This can be applied 3 times a week. To remain warm during this process, a dry towel may be placed over the wet towel.
A GUIDE TO MINERAL SALT VARIETIES & THEIR BENEFITS
HIMALAYAN PINK SALT
INCI Name: Sodium Chloride
Country of Origin: India
- Be the purest form of salt available
- Be hand-mined and harvested from ancient salt beds under the Himalayan Mountains
- Be rich in over 80 minerals and trace elements, including Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper, and Iron, which are reputed to soothe the body and promote its relaxation
- Relax, energize, and refresh the body
- Be ideal for use in therapeutic baths, room sprays, body sprays, hair sprays, and shampoos
DEAD SEA MINERAL SALT – ULTRA FINE, FINE, and COARSE
INCI Name: Maris Sal
Country of Origin: Israel
- Be obtained from a body of water with a concentration of minerals higher than that of any ocean
- Contain Bromides and Iodine
- Contain minerals such as Magnesium, Sodium, Calcium, and Potassium, which are reputed to soothe the body and promote its relaxation
- Contribute a sense of well-being
- Be white in color
- Be similar to table salt in its consistency
- Have exfoliating properties that make it ideal for use in skin scrubs
- Be beneficial in combination with Epsom Salts (Magnesium Sulphate)
- Be ideal for use as a relaxing additive to baths
- Be ideal for use in cosmetic applications such as moisturizers, face masks, body scrubs, bath salt blends, body sprays, shampoos, hair sprays, and room sprays
CONTRAINDICATIONS FOR MINERAL SALT
Cosmetic mineral salts are for external use only. It is highly recommended that a medical practitioner be consulted before using mineral salts for therapeutic purposes. Pregnant and nursing women and those taking prescription drugs are especially advised not to use mineral salts without the medical advice of a physician. These salts should always be stored in airtight containers in cool, dark, dry areas that are inaccessible to children, especially those under the age of 7.
Mineral salts must never be used near the eyes, inner ears, or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin, especially those afflicted with scratches or wounds. Mineral salts should not be applied on dry hair, as this can cause breakage or hair loss. In oily hair, salt masks should not be used more than twice per week. In dry hair, salt scrubs should not be applied more than once within ten days.
In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the product and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use. Those with health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, liver damage or skin disorders are especially recommended to be advised. Those seeking medical care to manage moods, behaviors, or disorders should treat these salts as a complementary remedy rather than a replacement for any medicinal treatments or prescriptions.
- Mineral salts are composed largely of 2 elements that are essential for human life – namely sodium and chloride.
- Mineral salts support the general health and optimal function of the body by regulating muscular and cellular function, blood pressure, digestion, detoxification, nutrient absorption, and fluid balance.
- Used topically, mineral salts reduce roughness, dryness, tenderness, and swelling. They are valuable for exfoliating, stimulating circulation, hydrating, strengthening, moisturizing, and cleansing.
- Used in aromatherapy, mineral salts are known to purify indoor environments and address respiratory ailments. In combination with essential oils in a bath, they naturally detoxify, soothe pain and inflammation, relax tightness in the muscles and chest, ease physical and mental stress, soften skin, clear congestion, and energize the mind and body.
- Used in hair, mineral salts contribute to volume, shine, and resilience while softening the strands. They repair and prevent damage caused by dryness, absorb excess oils and moisture, and cleanse the scalp.
- Used medicinally, mineral salts can relax the muscles, maintain their proper function, and soothe or prevent cramps, soreness, and spasms. They are also known to maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes, reduce or prevent dehydration, regulate blood pressure, eliminate bodily toxins, maintain the health of bones and connective tissues, and enhance circulation.