When you soak in a mud bath, you're not soaking in the stuff on the side of the road after the rain. The mud in a "mud bath" is special. For one thing, it's highly refined to be exceptionally smooth; it also has a higher mineral content than your standard wet dirt.
Sulfur, as we already discussed, can have anti-inflammatory effects, but it can also be antibacterial, anti-fungal (both useful in treating acne), and keratolytic (removing dry, flaky skin). Just a couple of the other minerals you might find in therapeutic mud include calcium, which can increase cell-turnover rates in the skin; and iron, which is crucial for oxygen-distribution throughout the body. Well-oxygenated skin cells are happy skin cells.
Whether applying these minerals to your skin can achieve the desired effects is still uncertain, but the potential benefits of mineral-rich mud are enough to get many people to the nearest spa -- and there's another one that will probably get even more people there. The stress-reducing qualities of spa treatments in general are practically impossible to argue with, as is the connection between skin quality and stress hormones. You might be able to improve your skin by the simple act of sinking in, breathing deep and getting thoughtlessly, unabashedly dirty.
For more information on mud baths, spa treatments and skin care, check out the links on the next page.