Look, the idea that salty air has magical healing properties does sound a little dubious. But we recently had a bad cold—we’re talking deep coughing, sneezing and a throat so sore and body so achy that we couldn’t get out of bed—and we were ready to try anything. After an urgent-care visit ruled out strep, we visited a local day spa where we reclined alone in a quiet, dimly lit room with salt-encrusted walls and took deep, peaceful inhales as little bursts of salty air were pumped into the space.
Forty-five minutes later, we left breathing freely for the first time in days, with a happily lightheaded feeling. (The ten-minute cat nap we stole may have helped a bit too.) So…why is that? We asked industry experts to explain why we’re just now discovering halotherapy and how it works.
So what is actually happening in halotherapy?
Dry, micron-sized, pure pharmaceutical-grade salt particles go deep into the respiratory system, according to Steve Spiro, founder of Global Halotherapy Solutions. The treatment aims to reduce inflammation and absorb mucus in the airways.
And what is it good for?
It’s recommended for people with allergies, asthma, bronchitis or sinusitis, and there may be benefits for serious long-term lung disease. Proponents say it even protects against illness (it’s a popular pre-travel treatment). Because you’re instructed to breathe deeply, it induces a yoga-like state of relaxation. And over time, advocates say, your fitness levels will improve and you’ll recover from exertion faster. In fact, this past weekend, MMA champ Amanda Nunes successfully defended her world title after opting for halotherapy over surgery for sinusitis. (Apparently, trainers even use it to keep their racehorses in fighting shape. The mind reels.)
What should you look for in a treatment?
Spa expert Amy McDonald says to make sure you’re not just led to a room with a glowing salt lamp or salt-covered walls (although those are fine as decorative flourishes). What you’re looking for are “halogenerators,” which look like Glade automatic air fresheners. Also make sure the room is less than 400 square feet so the salty air will waft over to you before falling to the ground. Some spas also have small glass rooms, glass-encased beds or little rolling portable units. Basically, the idea is that just sitting by a big chunk of salt, which is what many traditional Korean spas call a salt room, isn’t going to benefit you, according to McDonald.
Is halotherapy expensive?
Since it’s not as labor-intensive as other treatments, spas can charge around a reasonable $25 for a 45-minute session or over it as an add-on while you’re having a facial or massage.
When will this be available near me?
Chances are it already is. In the past 18 months, Spiro says, there’s been a surge of halotherapy services being added to spas—more than a thousand are in the U.S. now. In the L.A. area, there’s one in practically every neighborhood, such as The Salt Studio in Pasadena, Halo Salt Spa in Westlake Village and Massage Masters in Sherman Oaks. So now you don’t have to live near the ocean to get that salt-air pep in your step.