We're all looking for that elusive product to keep us looking soft, kissable, clean, clear and glowing. You could spend hundreds of dollars each year on lotions and potions all purporting to give you a youthful look. And some people even undergo chemical peels or plastic surgery looking for that magical effect. But what if you could tap into that fabled "fountain of youth" by simply taking a dip in your own bathtub or a natural spring? It costs next to nothing, and studies show that it actually really works. Yes, it's true: Mineral baths can revive and improve your skin.
Hot springs are very high in naturally-occurring minerals like salt, magnesium, sulfur, calcium and sodium bicarbonate, and for about as long as man and woman have been around, they've been bathing in these mineral-rich waters around the globe. The ancient Greeks called the practice of relaxing in natural hot springs "balneotherapy," or "taking the waters." And many historians agree that the hot springs in Florida are actually the "Fountain of Youth" Ponce de Leon so famously sought. There's even a story that Cleopatra was so enamored of the magical beauty powers of the Dead Sea's mud and water that she urged her lover Mark Antony to conquer the region so she could have unlimited access!
Today in Europe and Japan, hot springs are an accepted method for treating musculo-skeletal issues, as well as high blood pressure, arthritis, nasal congestion, digestion problems and other complaints. It's said that the high concentration of minerals in the water has healing properties. What are they?
Benefits of Minerals on the Skin
A 2005 study by the University of Kiel in Kiel, Germany, showed that the primary minerals in the Dead Sea, one of the most famous sites for people seeking health benefits, are magnesium salts, and that subjects with dry, rough and red skin achieved positive results after soaking their arms in Dead Sea water (as opposed to regular tap water).
Even though it might seem backwards to moisturize your skin with salt water, it really works. The key is magnesium salts. Regular table salt won't have the same effect. Research labs all around the Dead Sea study the effects of Dead Sea salts and mud on the skin, and they've found that the mineral compounds improve cellular metabolism, stimulate circulation and can even protect against UVB radiation. They also moisturize the skin, reducing roughness and inflammation.
Magnesium salts moisturize the skin through a process called osmosis. The minerals are hydroscopic, meaning they attract water. When you put these minerals on the skin, they attract water from deeper levels of the skin up to the surface. Your skin is moisturized from the inside out. The salts also provide another way for the moisture to stick around -- they exfoliate. They very gently remove dead skin cells from the epidermis, leaving the skin open to the absorption of nutrients and moisture. Mineral salts work best with warm water, which is why a good mineral bath soak is so effective. Warm water also increases circulation. More positives? The salts also provide relief from skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema. They help fade bruises, remove splinters and soothe sunburn.
By the way, you might know magnesium salts by their more common name Epsom salts. A one-pound box will set you back about two bucks. See? A luxurious, healing mineral bath need not cost a lot of money. Of course, it's more picturesque and exciting to visit hot springs in person, but Epsom salts will do the trick right in your own home.
- DeCarbo, Beth. "Quick Cures/Quack Cures: Is Epsom Worth Its Salt?" Wall Street Journal. April 9, 2012. (April 24, 2012) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303302504577327722133289222.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
- Long, April. "Sea Salt Benefits." Elle.com. Jan. 10, 2012. (April 24, 2012) http://www.elle.com/Beauty/Makeup-Skin-Care/Sea-Salt-Benefits
- Pander, Christina. "Epson Salt Bath Treatments." HowStuffWorks.com. Aug. 20, 2009. (April 24, 2012) https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/treating/epsom-salt-baths1.htm
- Proksch, E. and Nissen et al. "Bathing in a magnesium-rich Dead Sea salt solution improves skin barrier function, enhances skin hydration, and reduces inflammation in atopic dry skin." Int. J. Dermatol. February 2005. (April 24, 2012) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15689218
- Weil, Andrew. "Q&A Library." DrWeil.com. March 18, 2004. (April 24, 2012) http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA326578