I’ve wanted to try salt therapy since I first heard about it a couple of years ago. My brother, who suffers from bad asthma, used to do it in New York, and I immediately became intrigued with the whole concept.
Studies show that breathing in ocean air — which is basically what salt therapy simulates — has many health benefits, including improved lung function and decreased sinus pressure. Salty air is also charged with negative ions, which research has shown can help improve sleep and mood, and according to the Skin Research and Technology medical journal, is also beneficial for the skin, especially for those with chronic conditions like dermatitis.
I was sold. The only problem: These salt therapy studios aren’t necessarily super easy to find, especially in a city like Miami that’s in such close proximity to the ocean. So you can imagine my excitement when I found a medical spa located just five minutes from me — which is a lot more convenient than the 45 minutes to an hour it would normally take me to get to the beach. The air in salt rooms is also said to contain less pollutants than natural air, though it's worth noting we couldn't find any evidence to support that claim.
When I first heard the term “salt studio,” I imagined an awe-inspiring cave covered in thick salt crystals with strange chandelier-like shapes hanging from the ceiling like some sort of eighth wonder of the world. Not quite. At first glance, this salt studio wasn’t entirely impressive, looking more like a fancier row of dentist chairs than it did some mysterious salt oasis.
But onward I went, and after accepting an iPod stocked with relaxing music, and discovering these “dentist chairs” were actually zero gravity recliners that elevate your legs slightly above your body, I was ready to immerse myself in some salt-induced relaxation.
The session, which lasted 45 minutes, was also not what I expected. There was no tornado of salt making its way around the room as I imagined. In fact, had it not been for the faint salty smell in the air and the eventual taste of salt on my lips, you wouldn’t even have noticed that there were microscopic particles of salt blowing out of the air vents at all.
When it was all said and done, I can’t say I noticed any immediate improvements as far as my skin (which is normally very dry) or my breathing (my allergies weren’t acting up that day). Experts, however, note that salt therapy isn't a quick fix, and could take several visits before you notice any significant results.
Pulmonologist Alina Chervinskaya told the Wall Street Journal that while salt helps respiratory conditions by drawing water into airways, thinning mucus, and improving the function of cilia (those small hairs that help move mucus out of the lungs), 10 to 20 sessions in a salt room can have effects of six months to a year.
"It's like a massage," allergist Dr. Leonard Bielory, told WSJ. "Great while you get it but after that [the benefit is] gone."
While salt therapy was extremely relaxing (though that could have been in part to the dimly lit room, crazy comfortable chairs, and the music serenading my ears through my borrowed headphones), I can't say it changed my life. It may be a good option for anyone who doesn't live near the ocean, but if you can get to the real thing, you're probably better off.