When it comes to cosmetics, Israelis are just as enamored of their skincare and beauty regimes as are most other Western nationalities. Perhaps even more so; after all, this is a country where the sun shines for much of the year, wreaking havoc on skin, whether it’s on your face or your feet.

And so, Israeli companies produce their own antidotes to the harsh Mediterranean sun, creating products that have ended up in the global drugstore because they’re just so good.

True, anything made with minerals from the Dead Sea, whether by Ahava or any other company, tends to win the most accolades.

But don’t take our word for it, trust the experts. ISRAEL21c consulted with local cosmeticians, beauty bloggers, editors and skincare experts to get their take on which products deliver results.

1. Gigi face cream


Jerusalem cosmetician Avishag Zakkai has been using Gigi face cream for her discerning skin-care clientele for the past 10 years. “It really penetrates the skin and keeps it supple and moist,” says Zakkai.

While Gigi Cosmetic Laboratories is one of Israel’s smaller cosmetic companies, it has a fairly long history, having been established back in 1957 by Eliezer Landau. Gigi’s line of 400 skincare products are not available in pharmacies, but can usually be found in cosmetics studios and spas.

2. Anna Lotan’s pineapple scrub


Israeli feet take a beating, given the long summers of wearing sandals and flip-flops, not to mention the salty Mediterranean Sea, which wears away at the skin on heels and toes. Anna Lotan’s pineapple scrub is “the best antidote” to rough, dry skin, according to Zakkai, who also ministers to the feet.

Made by Anna Lotan Bio-Cosmetic Laboratories, which manufactures professional skin care products for licensed skin care professionals, as well as a line of retail products, the company specializes in formulas for dry, dehydrated, oily, acne-prone and sensitive skin types.

Anna Lotan, an active esthetician and teacher, puts her name behind the products, all of which are environmentally friendly and carry the PETA symbol.

3. Ahava Butter Salt body scrub


Among the beauty product aficionados, blogger Product Girl likes the Ahava body scrub Butter Salt, from the Pure Spa line.

Instead of the usual “oily, coarse salt scrubs” that are “so unappealing,” Ahava’s body scrub is dry, and requires a small amount of water before being rubbed into your skin for optimum moisturization and exfoliation.

“The scent is soothing – Mandarin and Cedarwood – and clings lightly to the skin. By the time your scrubbing is complete, the product has evolved into a lotion consistency, sealing in moisture.” She tells readers to check it out at any Ulta store.

4. Sabon’s Lemon Loofah soap


The bloggers at Product Girl also like Sabon, the Israeli bath product, skincare and soap shop now found in Chicago, New York and Boston, with natural offerings made from Dead Sea ingredients using a secret Australian recipe.

Christina’s personal treat is the Lemon Loofah soap, made of glycerin and containing actual loofah bits for an easy exfoliation process that invigorates and doesn’t strip moisture from the skin. With 50 locations worldwide, check out their website for a location near you.

5. Ahava Hydration Masque


According to SELF Magazine’s 2009 Health Beauty Award issue, the Ahava Hydration Masque is the best leave-on treatment mask on the market. It “intensely nourishes” very dry skin, boosts elasticity and restores skin’s natural texture.

The mask is made with Ahava’s patented Mineral Skin Osmoter, and is approved for sensitive skin and all skin types. Instructions say it should be applied to clean, dry skin up to three times a week, or left on overnight for more intensive treatment, with no need to rinse off afterwards.

6. Ahava Sun Protection Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30


The third Ahava product on the list is Ahava Sun Protection Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 30, considered the best mineral sunscreen by Self Magazine Beauty Awards 2008.

According to the judges, the sun block “soaked in faster than other chalky formulas,” and with aloe vera to calm sun-exposed skin, as well as minerals to protect against free radical damage, it deserves all the accolades it gets.

7. Yarok’s Green with Envy Shampoo and Conditioner


At SugarShock Beauty Blog, where writer and Elle Canada beauty editor Kristen Vinakmens reviews the latest “under-the-radar” and cult beauty products, Yarok’s Green with Envy Shampoo and Conditioner received high marks.

YAROK Haircare was created by Mordechai Alvow, an Israeli who divides his time between Israel and the US, who wanted to produce a botanically based line of restorative hair care products.

Granted, they’re not made in Israel, but they are created by an Israeli who has used his Israeli knowledge of traditional, nutrient-rich oils to create a line of organic products. Vinakmens loves the floral/botanical packaging, but she especially likes the “invigoratingly aromatic” shampoo and conditioner that cleanses and conditions but doesn’t coat the hair with gunk.

8. Sabon’s Organic Hand Cream


SugarShock’s other Israeli favorite is Sabon’s Organic Hand Cream, from its organic line of skincare products approved by leading organic authority EcoCert. Free of parabens and sulfates, the face and body products nurture skin with extracts from the Swiss Alps.

The Sabon Organic Hand Cream is a salve rich in olive and macadamia oils, shea butter, aloe and vitamin E “that nourishes hands without feeling greasy.” And like all Sabon products, “the smell is divine”: A rejuvenating lemony/botanical smell that’s uplifting but won’t overpower any existing fragrance you’re wearing, says Vinakmens.

9. Sea of Life Mineral Butter with Fig Extract


Kristen Kelly, creator of the Beauty Addict blog, is, well, addicted to her tub of heavy-duty Sea of Life Mineral Butter with Fig Extract.

It’s an extremely rich body cream packed with mineral water, Dead Sea mud, oils and extracts that sinks right into your skin, despite its thickness, says Kelly, who reports that she has been “a believer” in Dead Sea mud for years.

It’s not cheap, but Kelly promises that “your skin will thank you in the morning.” Sea of Life is another Dead Sea-focused cosmetics firm, much smaller than Ahava, and actually based in the town of Lod in central Israel, far from the salty waters of the Dead Sea.

10. Obey Your Body peeling gel


Finally, “beauty generalist and pop culture scientist” Amber recommends another Dead Sea product, but from the unlikely venue of one of the kiosks staffed by young Israelis to be found in numerous American malls.

Her pick is Obey Your Body, which includes a “phenom” body/hand lotion as well as peeling gel about which she is “wildly impressed.”

This is a blogger who has been to Israel (on Birthright), loves Israelis and found that her case of eczema disappeared after a dip in the Dead Sea, so she may be biased. But her evidence can’t be refuted.

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