The Dead Sea is anything but dead if you’re looking for a place teeming with enriching minerals and life-enhancing properties. Granted, the hypersaline nature of this lake, due to its significant concentration of sodium chloride and other mineral salts, make it literally impossible for fish, plants, and other macroscopic aquatic organisms to survive within it. Miniscule quantities of bacteria and microbial fungi do exist.[i] It's the deepest of its kind in the world--and, with 33.7% salinity, it is reportedly 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. Located in the Jordan Rift Valley, the Dead Sea's unique beauty attracts tourists all-year round; it is its mineral content, low degree of air allergens, reduced solar radiation (due to increased levels of ozone in the air above it), and higher atmospheric pressure that have transformed the Dead Sea into a mecca for health research.
Splashed by the Fountain of Youth
Dead Sea mud has been cherished for centuries. The Dead Sea itself is one of the world’s first health resorts, since the time of Herod the Great, and was the source for mummification balms and fertilizer potash for ancient Egyptians and Jordanians. Queen Cleopatra was known to soak away her ailments in the healing waters of the Dead Sea; according to legend, she bade her lover Mark Antony to conquer the region so that she could enjoy a lifetime supply of Dead Sea mud, known even then for its rejuvenating properties.[ii] The Sea itself has been nicknamed “the Fountain of Youth”, particularly due to the mud located around its beaches.
The Dead Sea mud’s healing properties, however, are not contained within a myth or fanciful story. Due to the lake’s unusually high concentrations of sodium, phosphates, bromides, magnesium, and other highly nourishing and skin-enhancing minerals, studies have suggested that the mud can improve the quality of life for people suffering from a variety of ailments. Researchers from Germany’s University of Kiel, Israel’s Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, and the Dead Sea Research Center have revealed multiple benefits of this mud, such as the favorable effects in inflammatory diseases exhibited by magnesium salts (the Dead Sea’s prevalent minerals), which influence epidermal proliferation and enhance its permeability barrier repair.[iii]
Silky, Smooth, and Rehydrating
Ahava development manager Isabelle Afriat, PhD, explains that the minerals of the Dead Sea are hydroscopic: “when you put them on the skin, they act like a pump, drawing moisture and nutrients from the deeper levels of the skin up to the epidermis,” which can drastically reduce roughness and inflammation.[iv] Dead Sea mud is the perfect type of moisturizer, with its salt absorbing moisture and replenishing the skin’s mineral quotient.
The mud effectively removes toxins and pollutants from the skin’s pores, resulting in purified, healthy skin with a smoother, supple texture and glow. Given its extremely rich abundance of minerals, proteins, and vitamins, mud from the Dead Sea seals the skin and accelerates its functions; the mud itself improves circulation and thus the communication between skin cells, triggering the formulation of new cells and warding off the aging process. It is safe for topical use, making for a very effective facial mask that will leave the skin feeling silky and hydrated.
Homemade Facial Mask[v]:
- Wash face with warm water to open pores;
- On your face (avoiding the eyes) apply a thin layer of your mixture with gentle circular motions: 1 tsp. Dead Sea mud + 2-4 drops myrrh essential oil + 2 drops frankincense essential oil;
- Let the mask dry and leave it for 20-30 minutes (remove immediately if you feel a burning sensation; you may be allergic);
- Rinse with warm water until the mask is removed.
Extensive Healing Benefits
As soft and soothing as it is to the skin, Dead Sea mud is tough when it needs to be, with its antibacterial properties shown to kill excess amounts of Propionibacterium (the bacteria which triggers acne).[vi] It’s been shown to nourish and detoxify the skin, used in a variety of masks, lotions, soaps, and exfoliators; this mud soaks up the excess oils and normalizes the skin’s oil glands’ production of oil while also restoring your skin’s natural pH balance (helping to reduce and remove pimples).[vii] Many people swear by the mud for erasing stretch marks, wrinkles, and cellulite, and studies have indeed shown that the minerals in the mud help to speed healing and therefore leave less opportunity for the skin to scar. By minimizing pores, clearing sebum and oils, removing toxins, and improving elasticity and moisture, Dead Sea mud naturally leaves the skin looking and feeling pure and reinvigorated. The mud is even used to treat rheumatoid diseases, as well as extreme cases of dry or inflamed skin. Its benefits apply to all skin types.
Homemade Body Cream for Sore Muscles/Joints[viii]:
- Mix (best if you slightly warm the mixture first) and apply topically: ¼ cup Dead Sea mud + 5 drops lavender essential oil + 2 drops rosemary essential oil + 1 drop peppermint essential oil;
- Massage gently to stimulate circulation;
- Once mask is dry, rinse with warm water.
The health benefits of Dead Sea mud, however, go well beyond the skin; its therapeutic capabilities are thought to delve far deeper into our bodies. Scientific evidence has shown that the mud’s benefits include relief from joint pain and arthritis to psoriasis and cardiovascular problems to allergies and even cancer.[ix] In fact, some of the most common diseases that lure people to the Dead Sea include atopic dermatitis (eczema), acne vulgaris, and early stages of skin cancer.[x] The Dead Sea’s effects—particularly that of the mud, used in pelotherapy—on psoriasis has been a topic extensively researched; some studied show that 76% of people with psoriasis who visited the Dead Sea found that their conditions improved by 75 points on the Psoriasis Area Severity Index within their 23 weeks of treatment; moreover, their skin did not develop resistance to this natural therapy as it does to cortisone/steroid treatments.[xi]