Can Sea Salt Water Really Improve Your Acne?

There are so many online hacks telling us the newest, trendiest ways to shrink our zits. Supermodel Hailey Bieber has touted a DIY hack that she swears by — using diaper rash cream ON HER FACE to shrink her zits. Before you gag, she might be onto something. Speaking to Refinery29, she said, "I have found that diaper rash cream is a great thing for bringing down redness and healing. If you think about what it's actually used for, which is red bumpy skin, it's essentially the same thing." You could consider Bieber an expert on clear skin, seeing as how her Rhode Skin beauty line sold out within ten minutes of being on the market.


The supermodel and entrepreneur also swears by another DIY hack to clear up her breakouts, but she's only able to access this hack when she puts on a bathing suit. Back in 2020, she posted to her official Instagram Stories that her zits always clear up after swimming in the ocean. "My skin is always the best when I've spent time in the ocean... ever wonder why?? Me too," she wrote over a picture of a turquoise marine sea (via Cosmopolitan). "Sometimes nature is the ultimate beauty hack."

Is she onto something? And can we harness the power of salty seawater at home? We investigate.

DIY sea salt facial sprays have gone viral on TikTok

TikTok has run away with this idea that spritzing sea salt water on your acne is a DIY hack to clear skin without a visit to the Dead Sea. User @aubyrnjadeart posted a video, which now has over 1.5 million likes, saying sea salt sprays cured her acne because "it balances your pH and kills bacteria" associated with acne, and she credits @leacrylics, whose original video has over 1.1 million likes, for the idea.


According to experts, there is a kernel of truth here that shouldn't be overlooked. The director of The Joyful Skin Clinic, Dr. Kemi Fabusiwa, spoke with Cosmopolitan and confirmed that sea salt or salt water found in oceans can actually "draw out impurities and unclog the pores" due to its exfoliating effect. "Salt water also has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. This reduces the number of acne-causing bacteria on the surface of the skin and helps to promote wound healing," she told the outlet. 

In a 2005 study, participants with dry skin soaked their forearms in a Dead Sea salt bath for 15 minutes and reported a variety of results, like reduced inflammation, better hydration, and less roughness. Dead Sea salt is known to be chock-full of magnesium chloride. However, unless you live on the Jordanian or Israeli banks of the Dead Sea, you might not have its salt handy, so should you replicate this effect with regular sea salt? It gets complicated.


You can't replicate ocean sea salt at home

Boo, you just KNOW whenever there's a viral hack, we're gonna break it down to reveal the truth. Don't call us party poopers — we're pimple poppers! Connecticut dermatologist Mona Gohara told Allure that, sure, salt can in theory draw out oils that clog your pores, but ocean water and DIY saline solutions are not equal. "No science here yet," she told the outlet. "I think there [are] a lot of other options that work better, too."


Dr. Kemi Fabusiwa agrees, telling Cosmopolitan, "There is a difference in the composition of minerals in salt from the ocean versus salt from the table. Sea salt contains minerals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium in a particular composition that is beneficial for skin health." 

And — spoiler alert — you can't replicate those mineral benefits with table salt. So says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick, who told Shape that spraying a DIY saline solution on your face could dry it out, leading to more irritation, not less! Undissolved salt crystals applied to the face should also be avoided because "it can be too abrasive on the skin and actually can cause disruption in the skin barrier," she says. And — you guessed it — your skin will dehydrate and make way for more bacteria in the skin without a healthy skin barrier.


Sorry, boo. For now, you might just have to stick with Proactiv until the science is clear.