The Dead Sea seems at first a paradox for those who travel to this desert-like coastline looking for skin rejuvenation. On arrival, travellers discover it isn’t actually a sea, but a natural lake. A lake, where no living sea or plant life can ever exist, hence the Dead Sea name. Not what you would normally have in mind to experience skin renewal!
The lake also goes against all your usual understanding of physics (where else can you lie down in the water and immediately float to the top?!) and the floating experience seems like it should be a manufacturers trick, incorporated to generate tourist interest. However, this is all as nature intended, a natural phenomenon, and the benefits for human well-being are proven to be extensive.
For centuries, mineral enriched water has been heralded as one of the most significant, natural treatments for a variety of skin conditions. Spa waters from around the world have provided relief from debilitating conditions such as eczema and psoriasis as well as offering pure, natural, anti-ageing benefits. The Dead Sea is arguably, the most infamous of these unique locations. Since ancient times, people have travelled in their droves, to absorb the benefits of the salt laden water and gain access to the healing properties of its mineral rich mud.
The Unique Mineral Content of the Dead Sea Water
At 417 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and has been nick-named as the ‘lowest health spa in the world’. This body of water has the highest concentration of salt in the world (340 grams per liter of water and the reason you can float so easily, despite the fact it can be 400 metres deep at points). It’s the composition of the salts and minerals makes this water so unique and beneficial for the body – a reported 21 different minerals can be found. With over 33% salt content, this is one of the most dense waters with these type of minerals! (As a comparison, the ocean only has a 3% respective salt content.)
Dead Sea Water and the Effect on the Skin
This unique mineral salt content has been recorded in leading dermatology publications(1) to show significant benefits in the treatment for skin conditions where the skin’s natural barrier function has been damaged. The high magnesium content (4.9%) is thought to be the main influence in improving damaged skin. It can help with enhancing hydration, reducing roughness and redness, and has consistently shown to be effective in improving the skin’s barrier function. Bathing for regular periods in the Dead Sea water can therefore naturally help to improve the skin, restoring the natural barrier function with no drugs, downtime or side effects. It’s a perfect treatment for those who suffer from atopic dermatitis or psoriasis and have struggled with standard medical treatments, which have often provided no comfort.
Dead Sea Mud
Not only does the water itself hold significant wellbeing properties, but the Dead Sea mud also contributes to the overall benefits of a spa treatment. We’ve all seen the photos of tourists slathering themselves from head to toe in the slimy dark mud for fun, but this odd looking ritual is actually proven to work.
The mud has a high content of minerals, plus a unique ability to retain heat for many hours stimulating blood circulation (great for respiratory problems) and helping to get rid of any dead skin cells (the perfect exfoliator in other words!). Your skin feels softer and smoother in just over 10 minutes of mud indulgence. The feel of the mud as you slather it on, is smoother and altogether a lot slimier than you’d ever find in your own back garden (don’t try this at home), and glides over your skin with an ease that you’d only normally find in a manufactured cosmetic product, tested and developed for years to provide the best ‘cosmetic elegance’ to the consumer. Yet, this is totally pure and natural.
One study, published in the Journal of Dermatology, also showed how the mud had a pronounced anti-bacterial action, probably owing to the combination of high salt and sulfide concentrations, plus a low pH. This combination, might explain the therapeutic properties of the mud and the anti-acne effect attributed to facial Dead Sea mud masks. (Z. Ma’or, unpublished observations, 1998).
Dead Sea Skincare Products from Israel
With so much evidence showing how the Dead Sea can effectively treat the skin, it is no wonder that cosmetic product manufacturers harnessed these natural properties, bottled them, and exported them around the world to bring the health benefits to a wider audience.
Some of the most prominent Dead Sea skincare companies based in Israel are Kedem, Aroma and Revival. Their products contain high levels of dead sea minerals and also comply with the Israeli authorities in manufacturing. Each brand provides products that can help with everything from dry skin to anti-ageing benefits. You can purchase the real thing – packets of pure Dead Sea mud, Dead Sea salts or the more sophisticated serums containing high levels of other proven anti-ageing ingredients (Vitamin C for example). In fact, it seems that the UK is finally requesting a demand for these products with the recent launch of a flagship Kedem store and salon in Manchester, 6 King Street, Manchester, M26AQ (www.kedemcosmetics.com)
Dead Sea Spa Treatments in Israel
Specific Dead Sea spa treatments are also available from many of the local hotels around the Dead Sea. Many of these spas now choose to utilize Western methodologies with facials from the likes of US skincare brand Dermalogica but if you hunt around you can still find Dead Sea body treatments for refreshed, rejuvenated and smoother skin. The most highly recommended spas by the Dead Sea are the Isrotel Dead Sea Hotel & Spa and Le Meridien Dead Sea Resort and Spa Hotel.
Medical Clinics at the Dead Sea, Israel
As well as an increase in physical well-being, the Dead Sea climate and experience can also help to provide psychological benefits to anyone who decides to spend quality time by this infamous retreat.
However, to ensure long term benefits for the more severe skin conditions, it would be best to follow a strict protocol from a resident dermatologist or doctor who can combine a prolonged treatment programme, alongside emollients and potentially other spa treatments to give the best results. There are a number of medical clinics at the Dead Sea that offer this kind of service. The Dead Sea Clinic http://deadseaclinic.com/en/ and the DMZ medical spa, run by dermatologists. www.dmz -medical-spa.com
*Always seek medical advice before you undergo any treatments and you may want to seek more thorough medical advice for severe treatments from a leading dermatologist once you’re there. The Dead Sea Research Centre continues to create research into the benefits for skin conditions and provides a contact address for anyone wishing to request further information.
Should I Visit the Dead Sea, Israel?
If you’re visiting Israel and want to know whether the Dead Sea is worth a visit to test the benefits of the mud and water, I would wholeheartedly say YES. It’s a fun experience floating on the Dead Sea, slathering yourself in mud and feeling how soft your skin feels afterwards, if nothing else! If you’re looking to really utilize the dead sea water and its mud for improving your health and well-being, the evidence is significant and the treatments can help restore skin balance, so go for it, and book yourself into one of the leading medical clinics. It can be a messy way to get results, but it works!
- Shani J, Barak S, Levi D, et al. Skin penetration of minerals in psoriatics and guinea pigs bathing in hypertonic salt solutions. Pharmacol Res Commun 1985: 17: 501–512.