In the same way that there are concebollists and sincebollists, the world is also divided into those who prefer holidays in the mountains and those who prefer the Beach. The latter usually do so by sunbathing on the sand and swimming in the sea. But, in some cases, also by the mud massages.

In fact, there are guides that indicate which are the best destinations if we are looking for a little mud therapy. The best known is the Dead Sea, since its mud, or even its water, is conferred many properties. But there are also destinations of this type without leaving Spain.

Now, are they really as effective as these promise? mud massage? We must not forget that mud is not exactly sterile. All kinds of microbes live in it and, if we have a wound on the skin, they can cause infections. Is it worth the risk? Let’s see what science says about it.

Mud massages in spas

Lovers of mud massages can choose two variants. Directly in nature or in spas and beauty centers. As explained to Hypertextual the dermatologist Montserrat Fernandez Guarino, from the University of Alcalá and the Madriderma Clinic, in the latter it is used clay or mud that have been tested and disinfected, thus eliminating the risk of possible infections. In these cases, “a classic is the green clay for acne, because it helps to remove the fat and dry the lesions ”.

In spas, therapies to treat conditions such as psoriasis or atopic dermatitis are also common. However, Rosa Taberner, dermatologist at the Hospital Son Llàtzer (Palma) and editor of the blog Dermapixel, also tells in statements to this medium that the treatments of each institution “they are not standardized, so it is difficult to compare them, because the composition of the water varies, the salts it contains, the times, the exposure to the sun… ”.

Now, beyond helping to dry excessively oily skin, one of the reasons why mud massages are so precious is that it has been publicized that they act on the skin microbiota, producing benefits at the immune level. However, in 2018 a team of Italian scientists carried out a revision of five studies on this topic, which concluded that, although there appear to be certain beneficial effects at this level, More research will be needed to better characterize them.

The precious mud of the Dead Sea

Beyond the spas, the Dead Sea mud is highly valued. “The Dead Sea is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the world for people with psoriasis, because a series of circumstances converge that favor this beneficial potential,” says Rosa Taberner. “This below 400 meters of sea level and has one of the concentrations of salts and minerals higher (10 times more than in open sea), but it is also that the high barometric pressures provide 10% more oxygen in the air compared to sea level. On the other hand, due to its low elevation, UV radiation is attenuated, with higher ratios of UVA rays than UVB ”.

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And the composition of the water and mud from the Dead Sea is also important, since “they contain, in addition to a lot of salt, sulfur, microorganisms, algae and other bioactive materials that contribute to their potential skin benefits”.

The Dead Sea mud is possibly the most studied for having very special characteristics

Therefore, very interesting qualities are brought together, sometimes demonstrated in scientific studies. However, it should be noted that some of them state that the effects are very rare and that more research is needed.

On the other hand, Rosa Taberner reminds us that there may be other factors that affect the results of these investigations. For example, that the high temperature of the waters promotes the endorphin release, with already beneficial effects on their own. In addition, therapies with hot springs or the Dead Sea are usually carried out in Vacation periods, which means “a decrease in stress.” Finally, both Taberner and Fernández Guarino recall that the exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun it also has numerous beneficial effects. As long as it is done with protection, of course. Ultimately, not everything is a consequence of mud massages, but rather, in the words of Fernández Guarino, “a conjunction of various factors.”

Photo by Silas hao on Unsplash

What about the beaches?

Some Spanish beaches, like the Bologna, in the Cadiz town of Tarifa, or Las Charcas de San Pedro del Pinatar, in Murcia, are famous for the supposed curative properties of their mud.

People with atopic dermatitis are especially sensitive to infections

It is very normal to see tourists and locals smearing in the mud, giving mud massage or even exfoliating with it. And here, of course, things get complicated.

In Taberner’s words, mud from natural environments cannot be compared with those used in spas for reasons of “health, hygiene and safety”. In fact, as an example of its consequences, he cites a 2019 study in which it is analyzed how contact with mud in obstacle courses affected the health of a group of athletes. It is observed that it had detrimental consequences, not only for the skin. Also at the respiratory and gastrointestinal level. Therefore, mud massage directly on the beaches can have negative effects on our health.

On the other hand, the dermatologist points out that, “although skin with psoriasis have a low risk of infections, this is not the case for people with atopic dermatitis”. This is another of the diseases that supposedly can be treated with mud massages. For this reason, these patients often come to them without any security, exposing themselves to infections with the slightest injury.

Finally, it should be noted that some muds, such as those from the Dead Sea, they can have traces of metals, like nickel or chromium, for which there is a fairly frequent skin sensitization in the population.

In short, although the causes are not totally clear, it could be that mud massages have some beneficial properties for some particular cases. In addition, swimming in the sea and sunbathing are very beneficial for the skin. But let’s not confuse going to a spa with thoroughly rubbing our body with the mud from a beach. We could get out of the mud much worse than we got into it.