I cannot remember the year we went on this trip. I’m sure it was definitely prior to 2012 since the journey was with my school mates; now life long friends. The school had organised a trip to Jordan and we decided to visit the dead sea.
It was surprisingly really fun. The sea itself is a bit of a challenge; the beach opens smoothly with sand surrounded by warm shades and spritzed with the welcoming natives selling their oils and mud packs. As you near the sea though, the salt crystals begin encasing the tides and the distinctness of the water becomes more clear. Its very beautiful until you realise you have to step over the crystal shard; oh lord ._. so many cuts. And that’s very important because if you’re heading into a sea with a very high salt content, it stings like hell.
The salt sieges your skin and digs into all your wounds. I remember being surprised about how many cuts I had all over my body; half of which from just entering the beach. Once you make it through and once the pain subsides, the concentration of salt is so high that you end up floating on the surface. Ironically, considering I’ve never swam before I had a very skewed first impression of how ‘easy’ swimming is.
In the distance lies a coast leading to Israel with bootstrap coast guards so we didn’t venture too far out. Not to mention, floating is a necessity because if the water gets in your eyes you can imagine how it feels. And thats the last thing you want if you’re that far from the beach.
Fun aside, a very memorable experience and it is definitely a place to check out once in life. The dead sea minerals that I experienced felt marvellous on the skin. And sea salts baths were added to my training routine until a few years ago. (Remember this is an old story)
The Science – Do salt baths work?
The impression the dead sea left me made me feel like it was worth emulating the scenario in my own bath. The purpose being to help reduce muscle soreness and also regulate mineral content in my body to boost recovery. There aren’t many scientific studies I’ve seen on the topic (not that I’ve extensively looked).
Originally, the concept I believed explained the idea was diffusion. The ions in the salt packs diffused across the skin into your cells. The issue with this is the purpose of the skin; it is meant to keep stuff out. It protects us from harmful diseases and there’s also the analogy where you can still die of thirst if you’re bathing in water for multiple days.
Nonetheless, I’m sure it does have an effect on micro-organisms on the surface of the skin. In particular, the more concentrated the salt the greater the effect of the skin. So the exfoliating properties are significant. As a result, it doesn’t suit my purpose and is seen more as a luxury gift for mum or my sister.
On the other hand, for rougher training that involves tissue damage (like cuts) its a good recovery technique so its not completely out the bag.
An additional aspect of interest is trying a wet sauna with dead sea salts. The conditions of the dead sea involve high levels of heat coming from the sun and this might be an underlying cause for promoting (possibly) ion regulation via inhalation of gaseous products or simply better exfoliation. Just guessing. All in all, the real thing is far better than the tub version.
TL;DR Definitely check out the dead sea if you haven’t, but despite its glorious refreshing effect on the skin using dead sea salt baths may be at best just good exfoliation