The Water Cure

Erin Flaherty takes a float in Israel's Dead Sea and learns that high salt content isn't always a bad thing.

Do not shave your legs 24 hours prior to a dip in the Dead Sea. I repeat: Do. Not. Shave. Though the sun is shining, the mountain backdrop is luminous, and the water looks tempting, I suffer profusely the minute I enter the saline-rich bay. People who hear you're visiting the famous tourist spot do offer warnings—"Don't swallow any!"; "Don't get it in your eyes!"—but no one has mentioned the shaving tip, and sadly, it doesn't occur to me until my shins feel (ironically!) like they're on fire. Another thing to expect is that due to the heavy salt content, you will literally float in the water, and as the initial shock-slash-excruciating pain to my limbs begins to subside, I am completely distracted by the strange sensation of my body effortlessly bobbing in the shallow, wave-free sea. It's very, very cool. The consistency of the liquid itself feels almost oily to the touch. "The Dead Sea water contains a unique composition of minerals scientifically proven to be good for the skin," Ahava researcher Isabelle Afriat tells me of the blend of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and bromide. The beauty company's laboratory is located squarely in the Dead Sea region, where year-round, thousands following in the footsteps of early adopters like Cleopatra make the pilgrimage to experience the legendarily restorative waters. Indeed, I'm sharing my soak with a number of Europeans and other world travelers who have come here in hopes that the Dead Sea's benefits will cure any number of skin issues, from eczema to psoriasis.

A little more than two decades ago, Ahava scientists discovered a thermal pool near the Dead Sea's shore so rich in minerals that they developed "Osmoter," the line's signature ingredient. Now, just in time for the company's 25th anniversary, its research and development team has created another breakthrough product: Dead Sea Osmoter Concentrate, which contains triple the amount of Osmoter. They say it not only elevates skin's hydration level but has been shown to also help protect against UV damage, which is basically the holy grail of modern antiaging products.

Thanks to the silky-smooth texture and insta-glow the concentrate imparts, I am more than happy to slather on the stuff morning and night. That's because I'm now an official "Dead Head": After I exit the sea and rinse off in a nearby shower, my skin is supersoft to the touch. It's kind of crazy. Even the angry splotches on my legs seem to have calmed down a bit. Next time, though, I'll be sure to remember not to shave the night before

Erin Flaherty

Erin Flaherty is a beauty journalist and consultant who has contributed to numerous publications including the Wall Street Journal and Domino, among many others. She is a board member of the Women's Global Empowerment Fund and especially passionate about worldwide beauty anthropology and women's issues. She lives in Woodstock, NY with her husband and dog.