“Go and have a swim at the beach, that’ll clear it right up.”
If you’ve ever had a pimple — so that’s all of us, isn’t it? — you’ve probably been encouraged to give your face the ocean treatment.
Salt water is not only known to do great things for your hair (hello, texture), it’s also widely believed to be good for your skin. That said, a long day spent in the sea can also leave your skin feeling a bit dry and dull.
So is all that saltiness helping or hindering your complexion? According to Dr Adam Sheridan, a spokesperson for the Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD), it’s a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
Though he was unaware of any scientific research to indicate sea water can benefit skin, there is some anecdotal evidence that it helps with certain dermatological conditions.
At the correct concentration, Dr Sheridan says salt water can help to clean pores, balance oil and sebum production, and kill the bacteria that can contribute to acne vulgaris and rosacea. It also has a slight exfoliating effect, which increases the turnover of the outer skin layers.
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On top of that, he adds, the right amount of exposure to sea water can increase the hydration of the outer site later of your epidermis.
However, we can’t separate sea water — or its potential side-effects — from the environment it exists in. For instance, what you actually do in the water can also have an effect on your complexion.
“[Swimming] is a great resistance exercise to stimulate circulation. You get oxygenation and massaging of the soft tissues and muscles … so you get a good circulatory effect that is positive for the skin,” Dr Sheridan explains.
Exposure to sunlight can have an impact on the skin, and Dr Sheridan says the calming psychological associations we have with the sea might also come into play.