You’ve wiped mud off your tires, shaken it from your shoes, and possibly even splashed around in it on a rainy day, but in the spa world, mud is known as more than just a sludgy nuisance or an opportunity for play. When dug up from the right source, this gritty ingredient is perfect for detoxifying and relaxing and can even be used to address a bevy of skincare concerns.
Muds from different corners of the world offer various benefits. Cleopatra preferred hers from the Dead Sea, because it made her skin glow. Ancient European rulers mined theirs from areas around present-day Hungary and the Czech Republic, believing it to be a cure for everything from digestive issues to inflammation.
Today, mud remains a popular skincare cure. At Spa Django at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa (Austin, TX), estheticians use Éminence Organic Skin Care’s Hungarian Herbal Mud Treatment in the Detox Facial ($140, 60 minutes). The spicy mixture of cinnamon, mud, and paprika unclogs pores, while an invigorating eucalyptus cleanse and pink-grapefruit mask restore skin’s natural beauty. “Hungarian thermal mud has high amounts of mineral trace elements and sulfur, which improve acne conditions and nourish the skin,” says spa director Heidi Smith. “With regular use, the mud reduces sebum production and improves skin’s texture, tone, and vitality.”
Hungarian mud is a longtime staple in the industry, but a new beauty brand is making fresh waves with clay derived from another European locale—the Iberian Peninsula. Clayspray uses deposits from the Irene Mine in its line of facial, body, and hair sprays. Formed 100 million years ago, the emulsion is buried 200 feet deep and protected by a natural spring. “The clay’s high mineral content is very beneficial for the body,” says Clayspray representative Susan Budman. “It is anti-inflammatory, purifying, toning, and soothing, and it promotes healing.”
No matter where clays or muds originate, they often prove popular with clients. Lapis, The Spa at Fontainebleau (Miami) has a treatment even the Queen of the Nile would appreciate. With mud derived from the Dead Sea, the spa’s new Mudslide ($140, 50 minutes) body wrap features Thalgo’s marine mud and helps rid skin of impurities while replenishing it with more than 20 healthy minerals, including calcium, iodine, and potassium. Amino acids and vitamins also impart anti-viral and antibacterial qualities. “This particular mud is excellent for detoxifying the body and making skin softer,” says Josie Feria, director of spa operations. “But it’s also known for its analgesic benefits, acting as a pain reliever for inflamed joints and even rheumatism.”
Spa-goers interested in taking advantage of such benefits flock to Calistoga, CA, for its blend of volcanic ash and clay. “Calistoga has a rich history—dating back to the Wappo Indians—of using the healing powers of mud and thermal waters,” says Karen Ray, spa director of Spa Solage at Solage Calistoga. There, guests can visit the Mud Bar & Bathhouse and indulge in the identically named signature Mudslide ($98, 60 minutes; $148, 90 minutes), which is a three-part journey recommended for detoxing and reducing stress. “Couples love this treatment because it’s both playful and relaxing,” says Ray. “They get to paint mud on each other and ‘bake’ together in the mud lounge, and then experience deep relaxation in the bath and sound chairs.” According to her, many guests like to repeat the experience each time they visit and customize it based on their favorite parts.
Also in Calistoga, Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort serves up the earthly goodness in The Works ($139, 2 hours), which relies on volcanic ash found on property mixed with Canadian peat for buoyancy. As the spa’s most popular treatment, The Works immerses guests in a natural hot spring and includes a mineral whirlpool bath, an aromatic wrap, and a full-body massage. “The combination of the various baths and massage makes people leave with a sense of relaxation and peace,” says co-owner Mark Wilkinson.
When it comes to ingredients that work well with mud, options are wide-ranging. Keisha Darby Hines, supervisor for the Spa at Round Hill (Montego Bay, Jamaica) likes to give it a bit of a caffeine jolt. Round Hill’s Espresso Scrub and Mud Wrap ($240, 2 hours 30 minutes) starts with an invigorating coffee scrub to boost circulation before enveloping clients in warm Dead Sea mud. An aromatherapy massage follows a Vichy shower, relieving stress and smoothing skin. According to Hines, the experience is rich in minerals like bromine and magnesium, which are essential to the body’s balance. “The mud wrap also helps reduce the appearance of cellulite while toning and moisturizing,” she says.
Feria also pairs mud with another exfoliant but favors a different kitchen mainstay—salt, which is sprinkled on during Lapis’s Mudslide treatment and gently rubbed over the body to refine the skin. “For more detoxification benefits, you can add an algae hydrotherapy bath to reduce bloating,” she adds. “A lymphatic massage with stimulating aromatherapy oils can also assist in the elimination of fluids.”
Because mud treatments often include heated wraps, Feria doesn’t recommend them for spa-goers who have issues with claustrophobia. She also advises clients with high blood pressure or heart conditions, sunburn, and recent surgical scars to stay away for the same reason. Wilkinson agrees, adding that he also instructs pregnant women against getting into the mud. But for most other spa enthusiasts, it’s the perfect excuse to get down and dirty.