Nov. 21, 2005 — -- People travel from all over the world to slather themselves in nutrient-rich mud from Israel's Dead Sea.
Legend says it was the Queen of Sheba who first believed in the mystical healing powers of the Dead Sea. Then Cleopatra traveled from Egypt to build the world's first spa there. Today Hollywood royalty, such as Julianne Moore and Susan Sarandon, use products from the salty sea.
"The Dead Sea water contains 35 percent of minerals per liter of water," said Ziva Gilaad, chief cosmetics director for Ahava, a major packager of Dead Sea skin products.
Gilaad says that heavy mineral concentration of over 21 different minerals is believed to help with skin problems, like eczema and psoriasis, plus aching joints and even fluid retention. The sea contains high levels of calcium, magnesium, bromide, potassium and sulfate.
"The Dead Sea is the biggest, widest natural spa on earth," Gilaad said.
Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, a clinical professor of dermatology at University of Miami, agreed that the Dead Sea contains lots of helpful minerals and nutrients.
"My only caution to women is do not shave your legs before you go into the Dead Sea or you will be agony," she said. The salt would be very irritating.
Even if you can't travel all the way there, you can still get beauty benefits of biblical proportions at a store near you.
"The Dead Sea waters naturally contain clay and minerals which absorb into the skin, so the Dead Sea products are like the old fashioned -- but still good -- clay masks that so many of us love to put on," Ciraldo said.
To experience the sea's healing qualities, you can try the Ahava Dead Sea product line.
The modern take on the Dead Sea clay mask is "the more technologically advanced cream containing aluminum crystals," Ciraldo said.
"These aluminum oxide crystals will not dissolve in water, so you massage them in," she said. "The process is similar to an in-office micro-dermabrasion."
There are several products on the market, including a micro-dermabrasion cream from L'Oreal.
In addition to using the Dead Sea to treat her skin, Cleopatra also liked to take milk baths. The milk's lactic acid exfoliated and rejuvenated her skin. Instead of using milk, skin care queens can choose products containing hydroxy acids -- which include glycolic, salicyclic and other fruity acids. Products containing retinol will also work well.
Hydroxy acids help your skin make new hyaluronic acid, which is found in the deeper dermal layers of the skin, and will plump up the skin. It has a similar effect to anti-wrinkle injectibles such as Restylane.
Ciraldo recommends creams with hydroxy acids if "you want to fill out your wrinkles and maybe are just a little to cautious to jump into the injectibles."
You don't need a royal budget to try these skin care tactics.
"I tell people they can get them anywhere from the drugstore to the high-end skin boutiques. You should just buy the brand that you feel comfortable with," Ciraldo said.