Dead Sea water has ‘great potential’ for cosmetics applications, but challenges remain – Review
To better understand DSW’s unique ion concentration and composition, as well as contribute to product development in the cosmetics industry, researchers from Fosun Cosmetics (Shanghai) Bio-Technology Co., Ltd conducted a review on DSW’s mechanism of action, skin care properties and future research directions.
Based on previous studies, DSW’s action modes are summarised as the direct penetration of mineral ions, and the moderate ionic osmotic stress (MIOS) mechanism, which can activate cellular osmotic stress-related pathways via ion channels (membrane proteins).
Multiple studies also discovered DSW’s efficacy in skin moisturisation, anti-inflammation, skin barrier repair, and anti-pollution.
Specifically, it can resist skin senescence (major driver of ageing) in three different ways — keratinocyte rejuvenation, photo-protection, and cellar energy elevation — which indicate its potential for application in anti-ageing products.
In addition, the abundance of magnesium, calcium, chloride and potassium ions in DSW can prominently improve the barrier function of the skin.
An experiment found that the application of 5% magnesium chloride can inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. The high concentration of magnesium ions in DSW is indicative of its anti-inflammation potential.
“The skin care benefits of DSW and its related complex have been demonstrated in many studies and cover a wide range of functions. However, these conclusions were proven by experiments at the molecular level, and the fundamental mechanism remains to be learned.
“Also, other aspects of the resource, such as the Dead Sea mud, secondary metabolites of Dead Sea bacteria and fungi, and their effects on the skin microbiome are still unknown and need to be further investigated,” the authors wrote.
Adjuvant therapy for skin diseases
The Dead Sea, located on the border of Israel, Palestine and Jordan, is one of the three most saline lakes in the world.
Numerous experimental and cohort studies have found therapeutic effects of DSW in dermatological conditions. For example, bathing in the Dead Sea is said to be able to significantly improve skin dryness, peeling, itching, and pain.
These are common symptoms of chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and seborrheic dermatitis, and autoimmune disorders like vitiligo.
“Such conditions have a high rate of relapse, and their treatment typically involve topical medications such as corticosteroids, antihistamines, immunomodulators and antibacterial agents, which can lead to side effects and drug dependence.
“Dead Sea climatotherapy (DSC) has been evaluated in both in vitro and in vivo studies for its therapeutic efficacy. It has become a recognised adjunctive treatment for skin diseases recommended by dermatologists,” said the authors.
In a cohort study of 1,718 patients with atopic dermatitis, over 95% of them were cleared of symptoms in four weeks or more following DSC.
Furthermore, DSW-containing cream has been shown to improve skin parameters associated with atopic dermatitis in children, particularly transepidermal water loss levels and Objective Severity Assessment of Atopic Dermatitis (OSAAD) scores.
Challenges to overcome
Though DSW boasts "great potential" for cosmetics application, there are still challenges to overcome.
Firstly, environmental factors, human intervention and changes in biodiversity could aggravate the exhaustion of Dead Sea resources.
The ion concentration and ratio between different minerals and metabolites of DSW could also be affected by seasonal changes, locational differences and water pollution, which leads to unpredictable quality.
Moreover, a high concentration of DSW in products may cause skin irritation and discomfort. Its relatively high ion strength may affect the stability of cosmetic formulas, or even cancel out the efficacy of other active ingredients in a formula.
Efforts have been made to enhance the utilisation of DSW in formulations. For instance, scientists dispersed nanosized Dead Sea minerals in mixed oil and achieved concentrations that are six times higher than normal DSW. Clinical tests have recorded a better performance in terms of wrinkle reduction, firming and radiance with no irritation.
At the same time, new delivery systems have been developed, such as liposome or strontium hexaferrite nanomagnets, to improve the safety of DSW and provide longer-term skin care benefits.
“The Biological Role of Dead Sea Water in Skin Health: A Review”
Authors: Daoxin Dai, et al