Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Cosmetics Firm Puts New Face on Dead Sea Mud

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Cosmetics Firm Puts New Face on Dead Sea Mud

Article excerpt

OVERLOOKING the still, gray waters of the Dead Sea, the hills of Jordan on the far shore shrouded in a heat haze, two men in blue overalls are shoveling mud.

But this is not just any mud. At $3,500 a ton, this mud from the flats around the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, is the prized ingredient that has given a small Israeli cosmetics firm a tiny but growing share of the multibillion dollar international beauty industry.

Using the gray-black, mineral-rich mud, and salts from the Dead Sea waters, Dead Sea Laboratories (DSL), founded by five kibbutzim with capital of just $600,000, has boosted its sales tenfold since it launched its "AHAVA" line of cosmetics five years ago.

The company is continuing a long tradition. Cleopatra used to visit the Dead Sea for her facials, and for her toiletry she prized the balsam that grew at the Ein Gedi oasis, tucked under the bare Judean hills, where DSL digs its mud.

Today, the company pitches AHAVA (the Hebrew word for "love") on the strength of its products' naturalness. The firm's slogan, "your natural beauty from the Dead Sea," was designed to appeal to "the greater awareness of natural products" that emerged worldwide at the end of the 1980's, says DSL President Dan Benayahu.

AHAVA's facial freshener, for example, contains no alcohol. Dead Sea salts, says Director of Operations Aryeh Cohen, "does the job of alcohol for cleansing."

It seems to work. Elizabetta Mussini, a 29-year-old Italian tourist picking through the products on display at the visitor's center here recently, said she was looking for what she always hopes for from a cosmetic, "good skin, and nothing chemical."

Many customers first buy AHAVA products as a gimmick, says Export Manager David Koltin, or as a present for friends at home when they return from a visit to Israel. "Then they are amazed," he adds. "It's actually nice, and they become enthusiastic. …

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