Can a Vacation Solve Your Skin Problems?
A vacation for your skin?
Treating problem skin can lead you down many roads. One of them cuts across continents, dipping into mineral waters and sunlit valleys. Climatotherapy—treating a disease by traveling to an advantageous climate—is an old-fashioned approach that is still popular. Dozens of destinations around the globe offer treatments, including sun, salt, and mineral baths for your worst outbreak of psoriasis or eczema.
These places can be pricey, and how much relief they provide is an open question. While studies have shown that the natural environment of some skin-healthy destinations can be beneficial, and individual patients report good results, some experts believe it's the stress reduction and respite that may make you feel better.
The Dead Sea
This unique combination of light is thought to provide the primary benefit to psoriasis patients, but the Dead Sea’s high salt and mineral content is also believed to aid treatment.
The price: Bathing in the sea is free (once you get there). The full monty—say, a 21-day package at the popular Ein Bokek hotel, which includes twice-weekly medical checkups, scalp care, and dermatologist-prescribed ointments—will cost you about $950 (in addition to airfare) during the winter.
Blue Lagoon, Iceland
A spot at the clinic requires a dermatologist's referral, and the center's 100° to 106° geothermal seawater is reserved for guests only. The center also offers UVB light therapy and encourages healthy eating and exercise.
The price: During the peak season (June through August), a single room runs $100 per night. Double rooms start at about $140.
La Roche-Posay, France
The dermatologists and psychologist at La Roche-Posay Thermal Center treat patients—with conditions ranging from eczema and psoriasis to scarring and postburn complications—with a combination of bathing and counseling as well as the drinking of local water. The center also specializes in children. Stateside, L’Oreal sells skin-care products containing the spring water under the La Roche-Posay brand.
The price: While a trip to the treatment center is a pretty penny, La Roche-Posay products are sold online and in some drugstores for around $25.
Mavena Derma Center, Chicago
The price: One treatment, which includes a Dead Sea salt bath and phototherapy, runs for $135; participating insurance companies might cover part of the cost.
Soap Lake, Washington
You can book a room at one of the nearby hotels. Popular remedies include soaks in the lake coupled with self-serve mudpacks applied during sunbathing.
The price: Only what it takes to get you there.
Warm Mineral Springs, Florida
The price: A daily pass costs $20 for adults, with a 10-day pass running $150 per patient.
What you should know before you go
According to small studies done in the 1990s, bathing in the Blue Lagoon for three hours a day for several weeks helped psoriasis, especially when combined with daily UVB therapy. Studies on the treatments at Mavena and La-Roche Posay have also found encouraging results.
But it's not entirely clear what factors are responsible when visitors find relief. "Just being out in the sun is beneficial for psoriasis," says Michael Traub, ND, a naturopathic physician in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. "Certain types of mineral baths can also be beneficial, but I'm not sure it's been demonstrated how much of the effect is from the bath compared to being outdoors." And conditions such as psoriasis and eczema can be exacerbated by stress, so rest and relaxation may help.
"If you have the money, and if it's going to help you get out of the rat race and focus on healing, it can be a good thing," says Barry I. Resnik, MD, who runs the Resnik Skin Institute in Aventura, Fla. "Taking people out of their stress-filled lives often serves to clear them."