We are such huge proponents of floating that sometimes we start suggesting that EVERYONE should float, and although that would be a great world to live in, the reality is, sometimes due to lifestyle choices, or medical ailments certain people may experience unpleasant side affects. This post isn’t meant to scare you away from floating, for the vast majority of people floating is a very safe, relaxing and serenity promoting experience, unfortunately, there aren’t many things in this world that are good for literally everyone.
We aim to know as much about our floaters as we do our float tanks. If you have questions or topics you would like us to research please reach out and spark that conversation. HUGE DISCLAIMER, we are not doctors, we are not in a position to diagnosis or provide advice about your medical concerns. The information collected here is based on reports from float centres across the globe, but not from medical professionals. When in doubt please ask your medical professional if floating could have any harmful effects to your medication or conditions. Please take all of this information with a grain of salt and do your own research. Above all, always remember to #PracticeSafeSalt.
For most of the possible issues listed here, the triggering issue is the high density of Epsom salts, which are not actually salt, but Magnesium Sulphate (MgS04). Float tanks contain 800 – 1000 pounds of Epsom salt! There are many resources that promote the health, beauty, and cleaning properties of Epsom salt, but that’s not what this post is about. For now, just know that there is a crap ton of it in every float tank.
There are studies that show the body’s ability to absorb magnesium through the skin, which makes floating an excellent method of replenishing this essential nutrient. But, there are also a lot of bullshit claims about toxins and detoxing, and we want to tread lightly on making such claims.
Here is a list we’ve complied of people who may not enjoy the experience to it’s fullest, and at a minimum should use caution and/or ask their medical professional if floating is safe for them.
Hair dye. You spend a lot of money on your hair and it looks damn good on you! We want your colour to stay as vibrant as it was on day 1; we also don’t want the colours left in our solution to stain or put extra strain on the filtration system. For our benefit, and yours, if you have recently dyed your hair we ask that you wait a minimum of 1 week (or 3 thorough washes) before floating. For the super vibrant colours - or any spectrum of red, you will want to wait longer. When you can shower with no dye running, and your towel doesn’t change colour, you should be good to float. If you float super frequently you might notice that your colour fades faster; this is due to the combination of Epsom salt, and hydrogen peroxide. Bottom line, for both our sake's wait the required time and then float away!
Hair extensions. We have been told that only alcohol will dissolve the glue that holds (some) extensions in place, and that floating is totally safe. You’ve likely invested a ton of money into your gorgeous locks so it might be a good idea to ask your hair stylist and do a trial run at home with Epsom salt for added security.
Hair keratin treatment. Anyone using keratin treatments for their hair are told to avoid salt water; and yes, this includes Epsom salt. On the advice of a hair professional, we recommend you wait 4 weeks after getting the treatment before hopping into a tank. Keratin extensions need to be adjusted monthly, and generally last 6-12 weeks. The best practice would be to float right before you get a treatment done. A float likely won’t damage the keratin any more than a swim in a chlorine pool.
Tattoos and piercings. We love seeing your personal expressions of individuality, but
you want to wait until your tattoos or piercings have fully healed before getting into the tank. Everyone heals at different times, and it also depends on the type of tattoo. Generally speaking, 3 to 4 weeks should suffice, after the scabbing and peeling has subsided. As a test, apply hand sanitizer to the area and if it stings you’ll want to wait a little longer to get in the tank. Henna tattoos will be stripped by the salt so you will be asked to wash them off before your float.
Tanning lotions & sprays. We’ve been advised that a spray tan itself should not run, assuming the spray tan is simply DHA (from sugar cane) that changes the pigment of your skin. However, if the spray tan contains a bronzer the float will strip the tan. If your spray tan includes a bronzer you shouldn’t float until it’s gone. Instead we recommend you come in right before you get the spray tan.
Medical Ailments – *CYA Disclaimer* we are NOT medical professionals. Do not rely on us for any specific advice concerning your condition. This is basic information we have gathered from multiple sources, but in no way represents medical advice. Always follow your intuition, no one knows your body like you do, and when in doubt ask a doctor.
Kidney / Liver / Detoxing issues. The kidneys process toxins and nutrients, so if they're weakened and suddenly put on double duty because of an external circumstance (magnesium) which is triggering the flushing of toxins, or absorption, it's potentially dangerous. In theory, too much magnesium absorption, or too rapid a detoxification could stress the kidney. There are reports from many people with kidney/liver problems, even those with only one kidney that report zero problems floating; on the contrary, credit the tank with healing properties, but if you have any liver or kidney issues it’s something you should be aware of.
The bottom line is that we don't have enough information about a) how much magnesium is absorbed while floating and b) whether your kidneys are impaired enough to produce a situation of too much magnesium in the bloodstream. There is a big range of "impaired" kidney function all the way from mild (like in well managed chronic kidney disease) to severe (like in people on hemodialysis). If you have liver or kidney issues you should consult your doctor and if you do float it’s recommended to drink plenty of water before and after your float.
Chemotherapy & Radiation. Chemo is an incredibly toxic substance; it’s so toxic, that it not only kills cancer cells but also the healthy ones too. It’s possible that because of the detoxifying effects of floating you could negate the effectiveness of the treatment. We require that patients undergoing chemotherapy wait a minimum of 4-6 weeks before floating. You may benefit from high density Epsom salt baths at home during this time.
Epilepsy and/or seizure disorders. This is a tough one; our family has been impacted by epilepsy so we have a soft spot for suffers, yet almost every float centre’s waiver includes a clause that you cannot float if you have one of these conditions. Seizures can be triggered by stress and overactive sensory input; therefore, practical wisdom suggests that people with seizure disorders would benefit significantly from floating – and we truly believe this. In all the research we’ve conducted, it seems the primary reason for not allowing people with seizures to float is a liability issue. If you have a seizure while in the float tank there would be no way for us to know that you were in distress and get you the required medical attention. If your epilepsy or seizure disorder is under control with medication, and you get clearance from your doctor, please seek out floating.
Slipped or damaged vertebrae. I’ve only heard one unverified account of this happening, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The float tank all but negates the effects of gravity from your joints and muscles. For most this is a relaxing and comfortable place to be, but if you have existing or unidentified slippage in your vertebra discs or other skeletal issues the lack of support might put you in a precarious position that could cause more harm than good. This is a very rare occurrence but something to be aware of if it effects you. It may help to use the Float Ease halo, Nekdoodle or poodle noodle for added support.
Incontinence. You can’t float if you have problems with bladder leakage or incontinence. This is purely from a tank solution sanitation position and not because it would be harmful to you. If you want to float perhaps you should invest in a personal float tank set up? Call us, we can recommend tanks and we would love to help you set it up!
Insulin pump / glucose monitor. Most diabetic floaters I’ve come across are comfortable removing their pump for a duration of time, and usually do so for other activities like swimming. This is entirely up to you and your comfort level. You can apply Vaseline to the insertion site to minimize irritation from the salt. You know your body better than anyone, always follow your intuition and doctor’s advice.
Pregnancy. There are very few instances when it would not be safe to float during pregnancy. Most soon to be mothers find valuable relief from common pregnancy woes (see our blog on the topic here), but when in doubt always consult your physician, and (if I don’t sound like a broken record by now I will soon) – follow your intuition and listen to your body.
Prone to ear infections. Float related ear infections don’t come from pathogens in the solution, rather from not cleaning your ears well enough post float. Once dry, the salt crystallizes and may cause irritation. We provide a bottle of vinegar/water ear rinse as an optional, post float ear rinse. The vinegar will help dissolve any left over salt residue. Ear plugs are provided and work really well to keep the solution out of your ears. Human error is often the cause of water entering your ears. We all struggle with ear plugs from time to time, but if you are overly prone to ear infections take extra precautions by using silicone ear plugs, putting them in before you get into the shower, and rinsing passionately after your float.
Tubes in ears. Following the importance of cleaning your ears, those with tubes in their ears may want to steer clear of floating. If you can master a good seal with the silicone ear plugs you will likely be ok, but we've heard reports of excruciating pain when salt solution enters the ear canal. It's unfortunate, but it might not be worth the risk. If you're adamant you want to float I would also recommend using a tool to keep your ears propped up above the water line for an extra measure of caution.
Motion sickness / vertigo. Sometimes the lack of motion can trigger motion sickness symptoms. Reaching out and touching the sides of the tank can bring you back to centre, or leaving the light on can help. You are always in control of your experience. Feel free to step out of the tank and gather yourself, but we recommend you get back in and try again once you settle out. Another thing that helps some people is to use a float pillow to prop your head up as much as feels good. Most people report this being a temporary problem and once they’ve gotten a few floats under their belt their dizziness goes away, but if you are sensitive to motion sickness or vertigo it’s something to be aware of.
Super sensitive skin. The Epsom salts are super helpful and provide amazing relief to people with psoriasis or eczema (or the like) but some people suffer so bad that the burn of the Epsom salt would be intolerable. If you are concerned we suggest starting slow, and starting with baths at home to test your tolerance. It’s rare that skin irritations would affect someone to the extent that you couldn’t float, but knowledge is power!
Tinnitus. This condition is a constant ringing in the ears, exacerbated by quiet environments. People with tinnitus can absolutely float, but may be distracted/irritated by their own body. For people with tinnitus we suggest listening to music or keeping lights on, maybe only at the beginning of your float journey, and experiment to see how things change/evolve. Most float centres can accommodate a request to listen to music, and may have tracks to recommend.
Personal Aversions –
Anxiety. Anxious people are more likely to be put off by the idea of spending time alone, naked, and in a dark place. This is incredibly unfortunate, because research shows that people with anxiety benefit from floating, almost two-fold over those without anxiety. Evidence shows that floating might be the most effective stress and anxiety treatment, with the fewest side effects. See our blog post on the topic for more information. If you suffer from anxiety I strongly urge you to try floating, and not just once, but a handful of times to get a well rounded understanding of the richness floating has to offer.
Claustrophobia. This is the number one concern we hear about people’s aversion to floating. For most people, once they see the tank and actualize the experience have no problem at all. You can open the door, leave the light on; whatever makes you feel more comfortable; you are in complete control at all times. I assure you, there is far more room to move around and stretch out in a float tank than in any vehicle. So if you can drive, I have full faith in your ability to lay comfortably in a float tank.
We have another journal entry that digs into it a little deeper. Float tanks come in many sizes and shapes, there are open float rooms and cabins sure to accommodate anyone.
Please reach out to us if you have concerns that are not addressed here. There are so many possible ailments that people could have, and this is not an exhaustive list. We will do everything we can to research and provide you with the most up to date information possible. This post is intended to be an evolving list; we want to keep it as current as possible.
We want to reiterate that for most people, floating is an incredibly safe, lovely experience that promotes positive fuzzy feelings of serenity.