Imagine walking into a dimly lit space where everything is tinted millennial pink. The floor is covered by three inches of loose salt minerals, which you can freely walk barefoot in. And for 30 minutes, you just sit there—catching up with a friend, meditating, napping, whatever you want to do—and that alone is working all sorts of health wonders. Pretty dreamy, right?
It’s not a hidden cave tucked between glaciers in Iceland—or anywhere exotic, really. These man-made Himalayan salt rooms are popping up across the country, and they’re becoming the healthy hangout hot spot du jour. (Sorry infrared saunas, there’s a new cool kid in town.)
This month alone, luxe wellness center Modrn Sanctuary—which also offers many other holistic treatments, such as crystal light therapy—and Montauk Salt Cave have both opened salt rooms in Manhattan. And that’s in addition to the OG New York salty spot, Breathe, which now has Himalayan salt booths for expedited sessions in Saks Fifth Avenue’s new Wellery.
And it’s not just New York. There are so many salt rooms in Los Angeles that Yelp has a whole page ranking them. Miami has two popular salty destinations: Health by Choice and The Salt Cave, both of which welcome adults and kids. There’s even one in Kansas City, proving the trend is going seriously mainstream. But how exactly are these otherworldly dens supposed to benefit you (and what will your visit be like)?
Scroll down to see three ways salt rooms are being used as the new healthy hangout.
People are looking for physical healing
Shannon Coppola was inspired to open Montauk Salt Cave, which now has four locations, after seeing the profound effect salt therapy had on her son. “He had allergy-induced asthma and coughed every hour on the hour,” she says. “He didn’t sleep until he was four-and-a-half years old when we took him to a salt room in New Jersey.”
Afterward, Coppola and her husband were relieved, but also skeptical. Was it a placebo effect? “But then, we saw that it helped my husband, who has really bad Lyme disease, as well as my eczema. So that’s when we knew there was really something to it.”
Halotherapy—which literally translates to salt therapy—has been linked to improved respiratory health and a decrease in depression, two major draws. “The people who come regularly definitely have a health intention in mind,” says Ellen Patrick, founder of Breathe. “Why turn to prescription drugs—many of which are antibacterial and have the side effect of killing the good bacteria in your gut—when you can just sit in a room and breathe?” she says. “Why not try that first and turn to medicine if it doesn’t work?”
Patrick is seeing a move toward halotherapy booths, which is what Breathe offers at the Wellery. “The salt is more dense since it’s a smaller space, which helps you get the effects quicker,” she says. “People are going to start seeing portable salt therapy booths pop up in hotels, airports, and malls, making it easier to get a quick fix.” You heard it here first.
It’s a vessel for spirituality
Coppola, the Montauk Salt Cave owner, says one of the main reasons people come to the caves is to resolve spiritual issues. “As a society, we have trouble detaching from technology and turning our brains off,” she says. “The salt cave is a sort of forced relaxation.”
Modrn Sanctuary owner Alexandra Janelli agrees. “Even if you don’t believe in the science behind halotherapy, if you sit in the salt room for 30 minutes and leave feeling calmer and more relaxed, I consider that a win,” she says.
It’s the ultimate form of multi-tasking
While it’s great to unplug, Janelli also says salt rooms make great meeting places, not only to hang out with friends, but also for work—she even offers companies a corporate deal so they can come on the reg. “You can work while also doing something for your health. It’s the ultimate form of multi-tasking,” she says. While she still tries to keep the space a tech-free zone, she encourages people to brainstorm ideas and have meetings the OG-way, face-to-face.
At Breathe, Patrick is using the salt rooms to make other healthy practices, like yoga, even more effective. “I developed salty yoga to help people learn how to breathe better. Yoga [can] strengthen the primary and secondary muscles of respiration, like the muscles between your ribs and your upper back muscles, so you can have a taller posture and your diaphragm can move more freely,” she says.
Regardless of your health goals, Patrick brings up another good reason salt rooms are worth trying: “There’s absolutely no negative side effects,” she says. “Maybe you’re a little thirsty—that’s it.” And besides, doesn’t kicking off your shoes and playing in a room full of pink salt just sound fun?
Speaking of healthy habits, here’s a rundown of ones celebs love. And here’s how to maintain your wellness practices while traveling.