How Saltwater Affects Skin Injuries

sunsetWith summertime in full swing, the beach is a popular destination. A swim in the salty ocean water can be both refreshing and relaxing. It’s also a good way to cool down. If you have recent cuts or wounds that have started to heal, however, you might wonder if this is a good idea. Wounds look different after swimming in saltwater than they do when you get out of the shower. Let’s take a look at how saltwater affects skin injuries.


Saltwater has been used to heal skin injuries for centuries. The first record of using seawater as a remedy for stomach ailments and skin wounds dates back to the ancient Egyptians. Saltwater was used in its natural form or dried, then mixed with other liquids to create saline solutions. In early Greece and Rome, saltwater and saline were used to heal scrapes, cuts, mouth sores and other skin irritations. Modern medicine has also harnessed the power of saltwater. Sterile saline solution is a popular choice in wound irrigation and surgical procedures. While saltwater can help wounds heal more quickly, it’s important to go about it carefully. A run into the ocean could have disastrous effects on open skin injuries.

Salty Solutions

One reason saline is a popular addition to medical treatment for wounds is that it kills certain types of bacteria. Unfortunately, it does make some types of bacteria thrive, like Staphylococcus Aureus, for example, so it’s not a good idea to just treat your wounds with saltwater and ignore medical care. Raw salt can sting, and it’s also abrasive, so it can be quite painful and even damaging when used by itself. Salt diluted in water as a saline solution or in seawater has a more soothing quality.

Do’s and Don’ts

While saltwater from the ocean or gulf can sometimes make your cuts heal faster, don’t count on a trip to the beach to make your skin injuries and scars all better. Follow these tips to avoid infections and making your scars more prominent.

  • If you go to the beach, don’t swim in polluted waters.
  • Avoid getting sand and debris in open wounds.
  • Use high SPF sunscreen on your scars when you’re outside.
  • Avoid direct sunlight on newly forming scars by covering up with clothing.
  • Check with your doctor if you have recently had surgery and want to take a trip to the beach.
  • Always rinse off with clean fresh water after a dip in the ocean.

Types of Saltwater

Not all saltwater is created equal. Seawater typically has a very high salt content. Some bodies of water, such as oceans, seas and gulfs, contain an average of about 3.5 percent dissolved salt. Keep in mind that seawater also has other things in it – like sand particles and living organisms. Sterile saline solutions are manmade. They’re used for many things, including cleaning contact lenses. These can vary in concentration. A .9 percent solution, for example, is often used to soothe irritated body piercings. A salt bath using Epsom salts has therapeutic effects on closed wounds and sore muscles.