Negative ion shower heads have become kind of popular in recent times. While most people usually just go for a KDF or Vitamin C shower filter, negative ion shower heads are a close third.
Disclaimer: I do not have a lot of good things to say about ion technology. In fact, I pretty much bash it in this post. While that may seem biased to some, I promise you- if you go through the research I went for this article(sources given throughout) you will come out with a similar opinion.
Let’s breakdown one such showerhead being sold online. The seller claims there are 3 main components of the shower head:
Anion Balls: Comprises of a variety of precious minerals, easily absorbed by the skin and makes it more elastic
Infrared mineral balls: Activate cells to promote blood circulation, delaying skin aging.
Energy Balls: Can adjust the pH of water to slight basic, beneficial to health.
First of all, these claims are quite generic. There is no explanation given as to how minerals make the skin elastic or ‘Infrared mineral balls’ delay skin aging.
While alkaline/ acidic elements are typically used in shampoos to adjust pH and mineral pellets could also easily be included in the shower head- the most ludicrous thing here are the infrared mineral balls.
A quick google search shows a few dodgy online sellers offering ‘tourmaline infrared mineral balls’.
The only article I could find about infrared mineral balls, immediately lost credibility by talking about miniature water clusters- a pseudoscience term thrown around while discussing the benefits of alkaline filters.
Keep in mind though, that this was only a 3rd party seller website. It seems like an ominous sign that I could not find a single ionic shower filter manufacturer who had a website, let alone a website with certifications and test results.
Are There Any Legitimate Benefits of Negative Ion Technology?
Improves Depression: The only benefit that has some sort of scientific backing. Multiple studies have found negative ions to be beneficial for depressive behavior, such as this one that found improvements in Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD) due to negative ions.
Other research, such as this 2013 study, found no appreciable difference in mood, sleep and other comfort measures from negative ions. However, lower depression scores were observed, and concluded by saying that more research was needed to understand this.
Other than this, I couldn’t find many more authoritative research articles about Negative Ion therapy. Seems like very little research has been done in this field in recent times, probably because of how snake oil salesmen have given it a bad name.
The few research articles I could find, however, all concluded on the same note- negative ions have no significant, measurable effect.
Here are a few more unverified claims made by manufacturers regarding their ionic gizmos:
Ionic Shower Heads:
- Improve blood pressure as negative ions are directly absorbed into the bloodstream
- Improves condition of skin and hair, makes them smoother and softer
Ionic Air Purifiers:
- Improve air quality, good for asthmatics
- Improve mood, sense of well being and constantly protect us against positive ions
Other Common Uses of Negative Ion Technology
Negative Ion Air Purifiers/Generators
The main selling point of these ionic air purifiers is that they neutralize bacteria, viruses dust and other impurities in the air by emitting negatively charged ions. Whether that actually works or not is debatable, however.
For one thing, their efficacy hasn’t been verified. So, while theoretically, yes it could work- whether it is effective enough in real life or not, no one can say for sure.
- There are doubts whether these negative ions even purify the entire room( it seems like the purification,even if it does happen, just occurs in the immediate range of the air purifier)
- Do the negative ions even carry enough charge to neutralize impurities?
All legitimate concerns that need to be verified with test results.
The slightly concerning side effect if ion air purifiers is the generation of small amounts of ozone, which can be very harmful if greater than 0.07 ppm(According to EPA)
The good thing is, while negative ions in air do create some amount of ozone particles, their concentrations are too low to be harmful – according to American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
The reason that these air purifiers are somewhat accepted is because ozone has a sharp, clean smell, which gives the feeling that air has been purified. That fresh, sharp smell right before it rains? That’s the ozone at work.
Apart from the general public, ionic air purifiers are also marketed blatantly to asthmatics and people with other respiratory diseases. In fact, This 2013 literature review of 23 studies, spanning 1933-1993, found no appreciable effects of air ions improving respiratory function.
Goes without saying, I won’t recommend you buy ionic air purifiers/ generators.
Ion Balance Bracelets:
The ion bracelet manufacturers claim that we are surrounded by positive ions due to the modern day infrastructure- which takes a toll on our health, and causes tiredness, even depression in some.
The way to counteract it…is by buying a bracelet that emits negative ions!
Again, whether these products work or not has never been verified. In fact, this study at the Mayo Clinic, Florida, was done to find if there are any benefits to muscle or joint point from ionic bracelets. Of course, they found no evidence to support this popular claim by ion bracelet makers.
The fact is though, that these bracelets are sold to uninformed consumers as remedies for cancer, asthma, depression and many other serious illnesses which is quite unethical.
One of the things that fool people further is the FDA approval for these ionic bracelets. According to popular science, these ionic bands are Class 1 medical devices, i.e: they aren’t critical enough to require extensive regulation and do not need verifiable proof backing up their claims, in order to get a FDA registration number.
Essentially, their FDA registration is marketed as an approval, which further hoodwinks the consumers.
Now, even if I suspend my disbelief about the science behind these products for a moment, the logic used for selling these seems flawed. If we’re bombarded by positive ions from all directions, how can having a localized source of counteracting negative ions(on the wrist, as a bracelet) help?
In case you’re still on the fence, here’s a news article about the Power Balance bracelet, which incorporates ‘ion’ and ‘hologram’ technology into it’s bracelets and was forced to admit in court that it’s claims are basically bogus.
You might’ve seen celebs like Lindsay Lohan wearing these- until the lawsuit that is.
Research has found limited benefits to humans from negative ions. Getting a negative ion generator or ionic shower head is fine if you want to experiment and test it for yourself, but you now know that there is no scientific basis for getting one.
If you’re thinking of going down that road, my advice is start small- such as this cheap ionic shower head(affiliate link).
Better yet, just go out into the nature. High concentrations of negative ions are found near waterfalls, according to this study. Even taking a shower helps, as running water produces negative ions.
As for me, I have better things to spend my money on.