Have you heard the latest celebrity dirt? No, not a scandal — but a beauty trend.
Actress Keira Knightley is the latest A-lister to plaster herself in mud in the pursuit of glowing skin and other health benefits. The 33-year-old was pictured covered in the stuff on holiday in Italy with her husband, James Righton, 34, earlier this month.
But you can try a mud treatment in many UK salons or even at home — and it can be surprisingly effective . . .
FROM MURKY ROYALS TO MOVIE STARS
Cleopatra was an early lover of a mud bath, while modern fans include Prince William, who was pictured on the Balearic island of S’Espalmador in 2006 with Kate Middleton, covered in healing mud.
Movie stars are also devotees. Gwyneth Paltrow was covered in mud for the first issue of her Goop magazine last year, and Kate Hudson was spotted enjoying the red mud of a Balearic beach in 2016.
Jeremy Smith, of the Natural Spa Factory claims mud body wraps can improve skin tone and reduce the appearance of bloating. Alice Smellie revealed the best places for mud treatments in the UK (pictured: model Danielle Lloyd enjoying a mud bath)
Knightley was staying on Pantelleria, an Italian island with a crater lake, Lago di Venere. Fed by hot springs, the water is so turquoise, it’s said to have been used as a mirror by Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Its mineral-rich mud is considered therapeutic and good for skin.
NOT ALL MUDS ARE CREATED EQUAL
Don’t dash out to the garden and smother yourself in soil — it’s not the same. ‘Therapeutic mud used in the beauty industry is full of minerals,’ says Jeremy Smith, of the Natural Spa Factory, which supplies mud to 250 UK spas.
‘Ours is a glacial mud from the Austrian Alps that’s been created over millions of years. It is finely ground minerals that have moved over glaciers at the rate of about a millimetre a week, the weight of the ice creating a powder.’
Other mineral muds include volcanic mud, which forms in a similar way around volcanoes, and marine mud from the ocean. Then there’s peat mud, made by a long process of plant decomposition.
Jeremy says these muds even come in different natural colours and grades. ‘As a rule of thumb, the lighter the mud, the higher up the body it should go. Some grades are thicker and coarser — ideal for knees, elbows and arms — while a smoother, wetter mud is better on the face and stomach, as skin there is more sensitive.’
DIRT THAT CAN CLEAN YOUR SKIN . . .
Mud is used in many spa treatments and beauty products. ‘Beauty mud works by drying on the skin,’ says aesthetic expert Dr Mervyn Patterson. ‘As the water in it evaporates, oils, toxins and bacteria are drawn from your pores, so masks especially are said to be good for the acne-prone.’
Jeremy Smith advises: ‘Wash your face and apply the mud with your fingers. As it dries, it will suck out impurities. Use warm water to gently massage it away. This exfoliates and stimulates blood flow, leaving the skin feeling smoother, with tightened pores.’
Jeremy claims Arabian body treatment, Rasul, is the most common mud therapy in the UK and is ideal for sensitive skin (Pictured: Kate Hudson getting covered with mud in Ibiza)
Therapeutic mud is also said to help with conditions such as rosacea, eczema and psoriasis, as well as improving circulation.
Other, more serious benefits are also claimed: a mud product is apparently used in Austrian casualty departments as a burns treatment. ‘Cool mud may draw heat from the body,’ says Dr Patterson, although he doesn’t recommend trying this at home.
. . . AND SOOTHE ACHES AND PAINS
Therapeutic mud contains natural minerals including magnesium, said to help with muscle aches and pains. Studies suggest these benefits can be felt from magnesium applied ‘transdermally’ or directly on to skin.
An ingredient in many muds is bentonite, said to reduce the redness of acne and inflammation — it contains calcium, magnesium, silica, sodium, copper and iron.
Other useful ingredients in mud include sulphur. ‘Often found in volcanic muds, it creates a strong, eggy smell,’ says Dr Patterson. ‘But it’s antibacterial, antifungal and removes dry, dead skin.’
‘Mud can be used all over the face and body,’ says Jeremy Smith. ‘Body wraps can improve skin tone and reduce the look of bloating.’ But Dr Patterson says: ‘Any reduction in bloating is unlikely to be due to the mud itself. Applying mud then using compression — bandages or cling film — and gentle heat will make you sweat and may reduce water retention. It’s a temporary fix, but skin will probably feel tight and smooth.’
Experts claim the ability of mud masks and wraps to cleanse pores are especially good for acne-prone skin (file image)
Many treatments also contain fragrance and other ingredients, but these aren’t necessary to get the benefits of mud. ‘The mineral-packed mud with its millions of years’ worth of ingredients is the real gem,’ adds Jeremy.
SO WHERE SHOULD YOU TRY IT?
The most common mud therapy in the UK is the Rasul, an Arabian body treatment. ‘Rasul mud is 100 per cent natural and comes as a dry powder,’ says Jeremy. ‘Dry mud has zero preservatives, which is much better for sensitive skin. It’s then mixed with water.’
Sea salt and essential oils are incorporated into the treatment.
Pennyhill Park, in Surrey, has a mud chamber where Austrian mineral mud is slathered over the body and removed with salt and oil body scrubs (from £60 for two people, exclusive.co.uk).
Or enjoy a Dead Sea mud treatment at Leicester’s Ragdale Hall Spa (£67, ragdalehall.co.uk).
Want to combine travel with treatments? The Balearics are rich in DIY mud-spa beaches. Cavalleria Beach on Menorca is famous for the intense red of its rocks and clay, while Formentera’s Cala Saona has special muds said to relieve muscle strain.
Then there’s Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Bath Spa in New Zealand, where spa pools are heated by the Earth to 40c.
Meanwhile, a mud bath makes up the crater of the small Colombian volcano El Totumo.
A MUD BATH IN YOUR OWN HOME
Here are our top ways to try mud beauty treatments at home:
1. Natural Spa Factory Pure Rasul Mud Clay Face Mask (£18, naturalspafactory.com) comes as a powder, with no colour or fragrance. Mixed with water, it’s ideal for calming sensitive skin.
2. Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud Purifying Black Mask (£46, selfridges.com) contains seaweed, to hydrate the skin, and activated charcoal, to remove toxins.
3. The Anti-Blemish Mud Mask by Masque Bar (£9.99, Boots) uses kaolin clay, to boost circulation, and vitamin A, for cell turnover.
4. Annmarie Mud Mask (£35.95, liveinthelight.co.uk) firms skin with a powder-to-paste formula. Rose clay absorbs excess oil.
5. Skyn ICELAND Fresh Start Mask (£20, sulisandthermae.com) uses 13,000-year-old oxygenating mud from the Ice Age. It works well on the face, chest and neck.