Do Dead Sea Skin Care Products Work?
A look at Dead Sea skin care products
By Rochelle Eisenberg
They are at every mall — the “aggressive” and often attractive young Israeli men and women touting the benefits of Dead Sea skin care products. They see you coming and quickly approach, buffing your nails, applying lotions and salts. They aim to sell you on the miracle of Dead Sea minerals that keep nails shiny and hands soft.
Do these products really work? Is there a secret in this body of water that sits at the lowest point on earth — a body of water whose mythical powers enticed Cleopatra, and where it is believed she opened the world’s first spa?
Benefits of Dead Sea Skin Care Products
Ask Michal Brand, an Israeli who has lived in the United States for the past five-and-a-half years. While living in Israel she often traveled to the Dead Sea, and she believes there is something about the water that restores the skin. “I know after I go to the Dead Sea and after only one dip, my skin is definitely improved,” she says.
The Dead Sea, situated in the Jordan Rift Valley between Israel and Jordan, is located 1,300 feet below sea level. The water offers unique properties, stemming from its 27 percent concentration of salts, compared to 3 percent found in the ocean. It also boasts 12 minerals found in no other sea or ocean on earth.
Research into Dead Sea salts have shown a 40 percent reduction in the depth of wrinkling, according to a study published in the International Journal of Dermatology. In another study published in a different edition, researchers found that the high concentration of magnesium found in Dead Sea salts was instrumental in improving skin hydration and reducing inflammation. (See box for other benefits.)
For many Israelis who live in the United States now, skin care routines continue to include Dead Sea products. Brand has her mother send her mud samples and lotions, as well as samples for what she says is
a new trend there — face peels.
Orit Benor, who has lived in the United States for the past 17 years, tries to travel to Israel once a year. While there, she purchases Ahava skin care products, which she says are a lot cheaper than in America even at the duty-free airport shops.
Although Benor also uses Pond’s skin care products, she finds Dead Sea offerings effective in keeping her skin from drying. Currently, she uses Ahava body lotion and body scrubs.
Ahava, which sells in Israel, Europe, the United States and Canada, has been granted the exclusive rights from the Israeli government to mine the mud, salt and minerals from this region, according to Viva Manchester, senior brand manager of Ahava US. The company entered the U.S. market in 1991 and today is found in upscale department stores such as Nordstrom, as well as beauty stores like Ultra.
Larry Reznick swears by an Ahava Mineral Shower Gel when he shaves. He can’t recall how he first came upon the product — perhaps a gift, he thinks — but when a friend recently traveled to Israel he requested more. “It seems to retain its lather,” he says.
He prefers the shower gel over American products, yet wonders if its claim to keep skin refreshed and relaxed isn’t a little overdone. “How would you know if your skin is refreshed and relaxed?” he questions.
Although Ahava is the most popular Dead Sea line in the United States, there are a multitude of other products using muds, minerals and salts from this therapeutic body of water.
Todd Federman, a young Jewish man from Cleveland, met Amjad Muasher, an American-Jordanian classmate at Duke Business School. Muasher’s family was in the soap-making business in Jordan.
The two decided to launch a line of all-natural soaps, using salts and muds from both the Israeli and Jordanian side of the Dead Sea. Their line, One With Nature, is the only line of Dead Sea products, they say, that contain no artificial ingredients, colorings or animal ingredients. Pigments come from naturally occurring mineral pigments, many from the region.
This February, One With Nature will launch three new all-natural products, liquid hand wash, body wash and body lotion, in response to customer requests. “We would get so much feedback from customers at Whole Foods that there weren’t other alternatives for natural products,” Federman says.
As for whether the elements found in the Dead Sea work, Reznick shares a story. As a holiday gift, he used to give Ahava hand creams to his employees. One woman would have 12 hand creams on her desk and was constantly using all of them. But, she made a point of telling Reznick, “nothing made her hands feel better.”
The Dead Sea is Shrinking
Unfortunately, this body of water has been shrinking, appearing to fall by a meter in depth each year. One of the reasons being blamed is that its primary water source, the Jordan River, is being drained for irrigation.
Recognizing the vital importance of the Dead Sea, One With Nature is partnering with Friends of the Earth Middle East, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to preserving the Dead Sea. The company will donate a portion of its profits to FoEME to fund research and build public awareness.
Federman says the company chose FoEME because it specialized on research, particularly in rehabilitating the Jordan River.
He also believes that the increased interest in the benefits of skin care products using Dead Sea ingredients throughout Israel, Europe and the United States has actually benefited Dead Sea preservation. “The increased awareness has helped in preservation efforts,” he says. “This is one of the few things everyone agrees with in this region.”
Benefits of Dead Sea Minerals
Boron: Helps relieve symptoms of psoriasis
Calcium: Regulates cell permeability and plays an important role in cell protection
Manganese: Anti-aging skin care and anti-oxidant properties
Strontium: Anti-itching properties
Zinc: Facilitates skin renewal