Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, Limited (Hebrew: אהבה, Love) is an Israeli cosmetics company that manufactures skin care products made of mud and mineral-based compounds from the Dead Sea. The company’s administrative headquarters are located in Holon, while the main manufacturing plant and showroom are in Mitzpe Shalem,[a 1] an Israeli settlement and kibbutz located on the Dead Sea in the West Bank. The company has flagship stores in Israel, Germany, Hungary, the Philippines and Singapore. As of 2010, Ahava income was more than US$150 million a year. Ahava products have caused controversy, as critics say the company uses natural resources of occupied Palestinian territory, and that the products are incorrectly labeled as made in Israel.
Ziva Gilad, a spa technician, came up with the idea of marketing Dead Sea mud after watching women tourists scooping up the mud to take home. Ahava was founded in 1988 as a single stand selling bottles of body scrub to tourists, generating $1 million that year.
Ahava’s shareholders include Hamashbir Holdings, Gaon Holdings, Kibbutz Ein Gedi, Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem and Kibbutz Kalya. Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem and Kibbutz Kalya are located north of the Green Line, in the West Bank.
In 2009 Ahava took on new shareholder Shamrock Holdings, the Walt Disney Family’s investment arm, which purchased 20% of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories from its existing shareholders The company has 200 employees, 180 of them in Israel.
In 2009, the company reported sales of nearly $150 million a year. In the United States, the largest overseas market for Ahava products, the company signed distribution deals with Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom and the beauty-supply chain Ulta.
Ahava is the only cosmetics company licensed by the Israeli government to mine raw materials at the Dead Sea. On the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, there are approximately fifty small companies producing cosmetics, but only 15 have a global presence. Israel has imported raw materials for its Dead Sea mud cosmetics from Jordan since 1994.
Ahava product lines include a basic product for all skin types; other products for dry, sensitive skin and for men’s skin; and anti-aging products for face and body. Product lines include hand cream, foot cream, facial cleanser, body milk, facial nourishing cream, facial moisturizer, moisturizing shower cream and body cream. Some products claim to use citrus and citrus products as a source of vitamins and minerals.
Dead Sea mud, alone or in combination with other ingredients, is believed to have benefits for deep cleansing and stimulation of the skin. Minerals extracted from Dead Sea water such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, are said to improve the metabolism, stimulate circulation and aid in the natural repair of cells. In 2009, Ahava Dermud range of skincare products has been shown to have protective, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can antagonize biological effects of UVB radiation on skin, reducing skin photodamage and photoaging, and reducing oxidative stress and inflammation in skin pathologies.
Therapy with mud packs for conditions such as osteoarthritis is relatively expensive and requires the assistance of a therapist and a treatment room. In the wake of these limitations, Ahava developed mud compresses used in the home which are heated in a microwave oven or a pot of hot water and placed over painful joints. A clinical research by the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, supported in part by a grant from « Ahava », has concluded that the group treated with natural mud compresses had a reduction of 20% or more in Knee Osteoarthritis pain scores at treatment completion, at one month, and at three months, compared to the control group.
Embracing the trend toward more natural ingredients in cosmetics, Ahava purifies its own water and, according to the company, employs minimally invasive techniques to harvest mud and minerals. Ingredients are not tested on animals and Ahava products are packaged in recyclable containers.