Nestled in the Middle East is an extremely salty lake called the Dead Sea. The concentration of the water in the lake is almost 10 times saltier than the ocean and is in fact so salty that very little life can survive for long near the Dead Sea. Although the saltiness prevents much from enduring in the area, it is believed that the Dead Sea salts (DSS) may also have therapeutic capabilities. In effect, people from all over the world travel to this region so they can soak in the water or cover themselves with mud from the sea.
How Do Dead Sea Salts Work?
Ocean water mostly contains a sodium-based salt that is similar to the type of salt used in cooking. Unlike water from the oceans, DSS contain more magnesium salt. Magnesium can have several different benefits for the skin. Magnesium chloride has an antibacterial effect on the skin, and it has been suggested that a high magnesium content can improve skin barrier function, enhance skin hydration, and reduce skin inflammation. Studies have shown that DSS can be helpful for health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and eczema. It has been speculated that DSS could be helpful for psoriasis, but what can the salts actually do for this condition?
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory condition that can affect the skin, hair, nails, and the joints. It is characterized by red plaques with silver/white scales and can be found in most locations on the skin. People who suffer from this condition are often dealing with the symptoms for many years.
Combining Dead Sea Salts and Ultraviolet Light
A retrospective study conducted in 2005 found that patients with different clinical types of psoriasis can benefit from a combination of DSS and Ultraviolet light, although those with the plaque-type variant of psoriasis tend to have the best response. A systematic review from 2012 found water from the Dead Sea to be helpful for psoriasis and also had a good safety profile. Patients with psoriatic arthritis have also found relief from exposure to Dead Sea Salts. However, it is notable that just like psoriasis, this therapy will likely not be sufficient as the sole treatment for psoriatic arthritis.
Climatotherapy is a technique that involves a temporary or permanent relocation of a patient to a place where the environment better suits their condition. There appears to be compelling evidence in support of Dead Sea climatotherapy for psoriasis. Because of its exotic location, very few people are able to have an extended stay at the Dead Sea, and even fewer people can move there. So Dead Sea climatotherapy may not be a possibility. The good news is that it is possible to achieve similar benefits with an artificial environment using a bath that contains a highly concentrated magnesium salt solution and sun exposure. Sun exposure must always be achieved cautiously to avoid sunburn or damage to the skin from excessive ultraviolet rays. Another option would be to combine the use of phototherapy where booths that deliver medical-grade ultraviolet light (not the same as tanning booths) may be used along with baths. More studies are needed to assess how combining baths with light therapy may help with controlling the skin lesions of psoriasis.
There appears to be evidence to support the benefit of DSS as part of a comprehensive treatment regimen for patients with psoriasis. As with any form of treatment, the effects can be different for each person and should be used on an individual basis.