Mud and clay treatments have been around for a millennia. Uncover the history and the pleasure behind mud therapy.
The tradition of slathering mud on the body goes back centuries. Cleopatra believed black mud scooped from the bottom of the Dead Sea made her more beautiful, and the Romans discovered the healing benefits of soaking in warm mud as far back as 120 B.C. As Nicole Kiger, head esthetician at Mepal Spa in New Marlborough, Massachusetts says: "Mud is the ancestor of all body treatments"
Today, the mud bath remains a staple at spas all over the world. It's a tradition practiced in Japan, California, Europe, and New Zealand, basically, wherever both hot springs and volcanic ash appear.
Why has mud enjoyed such staying power? Well, to begin muds possess numerous healing attributes. Mud baths have a long history as a natural cure, and they are said to relax muscles, soothe body aches, improve circulation, and tone the skin. "Mud is such a wonderful element from the earth. It's got everything, vitamins, biominerals, amino acids, and hormones from plants. And it absorbs into the skin very easily" says Sharron Hopley, the Gerente de Spa at Mexico's Maroma Resort and Spa.
In fact, muds and clays are used extensively in European spa clinics to treat everything from arthritis and joint problems to skin diseases and menopausal issues. Mud baths are believed to help clear metabolic pathways, improve waste elimination, and boost cell oxygenation.
But the most simple reason to jump in the mud is because it's so relaxing. Held afloat in the soft, sultry substance, all worries melt away. Warmed between 102 and 108 degrees, mud causes the body to perspire, which cleanses the pores, flushes out impurities, and leaves the skin feeling soft and renewed. Plus, mud retains heat, which means you can enjoy a toasty soak longer than a mere bubble bath.
Of course, you don't have to have a tub of the stuff to reap the benefits of mud and clay. At Kinan Spa at Maroma Resort and Spa, guests slather on a variety of muds from the spa's unique Mud Bar. Originally created for guests who were shy about having their bodies touched, this do-it-yourself treatment has become extremely popular. "People apply the mud to their face, body, and hair before they step in the steam room" says Hopley. "It's fantastic to do before a treatment, because it draws out all those toxins and really feeds your skin"
A good clay mask deeply cleanses the complexion, leaving it radiant and refined. "It's very detoxifying, that's the biggest deal with clay. And it's an antioxidant, meaning it rids the skin of free radicals, which cause the skin to age" says Annika Jackson, the general manager of Mii amo in Sedona, Arizona. Psoriasis, eczema, and extremely dry skin are actually helped by a clay mask, you would think it would be drying, but it's actually very beneficial for dry skin.
Adds dermatologist Ellen Gendler, "mud is used for acne to absorb oil, and it does a good job. [Plus] the salts of the Dead Sea really do have some benefit for psoriasis patients."
There is also something special to be gained from where the mud or clay is procured. French Green clay, a fine, pale green substance that hails from southern France, is purported to be a fabulous treatment for oily skin. And rhassoul, an earth-toned powder found in Africa's Atlas Mountains, is legendary for its cleansing abilities.
"We, of course, feel that our clay is special because it's from Sedona" Jackson says of the mineral-dense product Mii amo uses in its Sedona Clay Wrap. "We feel it is infused with the sacredness of the earth that is right here. Also, iron is a key ingredient, since it is the iron that makes Sedona's rocks red."
At Cranwell Resort & Spa in Lenox, Massachusetts, guests can enjoy the Thermal Clay Body Treatment. After a manual exfoliation with wildflower gommage, Phytomer's thermal clay mask is applied to the entire body. The magnesium-rich bentonite-based mask heats up when mixed with water, tingling and bubbling on your skin while you're cocooned in foil and blankets. After a multi-jet shower, the treatment concludes with the application of a blend of moisturizer and anticellulite balm to enhance body contouring and rehydrate the skin.
Mepal Manor & Spa's Monticelli Mud Wrap, featuring Comfort Zone products from Italy, is designed to reduce adipose deposits and relieve pain. After a full-body exfoliation, the esthetician applies a blend of mud from Terme di Monticelli, which is rich in sodium bromide, chloride, and iodide, purported to help reduce cellulite, and extracts of elderberry, cypress, lemon, fennel, focus, and ivy. A massaging, moisturizing mini-facial intensifies the relaxation while the mud works its magic on your cocooned body. Your skin glows after the mud is removed with hot towels.
Another great earth-based option for at-home use is Moor Mud, a natural product that results from the slow decomposition of thousands of plants, herbs, and flowers over thousands of years. Mildly acidic, black magma has long been reported to relieve body aches, stress, and fatigue. It is rich in natural vitamins, minerals, and enzymes and has been a holistic favorite for centuries.
Part of the appeal is the versatility of Moor Mud, which can be used as a mask, in full-body baths, as a compress with other herbs, or as a mask for the face. Pevonia offers an excellent Aromatic Moor Mud, a dense, organic paste of black magna with the invigorating scent of pine. This rich black substance contains minerals, amino acids, phyto-hormones, vitamins, enzymes, natural antibiotics, humic acid, and salicylic acid. It's especially beneficial for those who suffer from arthritis or post-workout pain, and it's an effective jet-lag treatment, too. A half-cup of Moor dissolves easily in a warm tub and provides a dark and decadent bathing experience without the risk of clogging your drain (it is not, however, recommended for use in a whirlpool tub).
Whether you soak in a fluffy mud bath in Calistoga, indulge in a clay mask in Sweden or slip into a Moor Mud bath at home, there are lots of ways to experience the nourishing delights of mud and clay. And why not? The warm stuff stretched across the skin is both sensuous and soothing. As it dries, it tightens the skin ever so slightly, providing an enlivening tingle. It draws out toxins, closes the pores and even after it's been rinsed off, leaves beneficial trace minerals behind.
No wonder mud and clay have been enjoyed since ancient times and quietly remain on spa menus as other treatments go in and out of style. "Mud and clay treatments have been around forever and I think they're one of the most powerful ways to treat your body in a really simple way" Jackson says.
A Menu of MudsThink mud and you're likely to conjure up visions of making brown mud pies in the backyard. But muds come in many shades, each with its own special properties. Here's a primer to the types used at Maroma Resort's Kinan Spa.
GREEN MUD Good for oily or acne-prone skin, green mud is very astringent. It also acts as an antiseptic and is good for treating external wounds.
RED MUD Used primarily to refresh the skin, red mud is excellent for skin irritations. It's also good for muscle tension and appropriate for all types of skin.
BLACK MUD A mix of volcanic mud, arnica extracts, and eucalyptus, black mud is anti-inflammatory and great at healing scars. It is also extremely hydrating, so it's good for anyone who is sunburned or has very dry skin.
MAYAN CLAY Chock-full of nutrients, Mayan clay is purifying for the whole body. It's also extremely moisturizing and good for aging skin. This clay is appropriate for all skin types and great for the hair, too.
Sharron Hopley, Kinan Spa's Gerente de Spa, recommends trying several muds, sincevirtually all of them can work for everybody. "What's so great about mud is that you can just slap it on," she says. You don't have to have any expertise. I think that's how Mother Nature should always be, simple, to the point, and good for anyone who wants to try it.