The skin disease psoriasis is not contagious, yet it feels like the social equivalent of leprosy.

It is a common disorder characterised by unsightly, red, scaly patches produced by a pile-up of skin cells that have replicated too quickly. Little is known about underlying causes and even less about a complete cure.

As a life-long sufferer of psoriasis, I had exhausted most forms of orthodox and complementary treatment and was intrigued to hear of the miraculous healing qualities of the Dead Sea in Israel.

I decided to pack my bags and test the waters for myself ( I travelled with All Abroad, Dead Sea Resort Specialists, Tel.0208 905 5024).

You cant help but float in the Dead Sea: the saltiest, most mineral-rich lake in the world. Every litre of water is saturated with 30 per cent salt and minerals, compared to a three per cent mineral content in the oceans.

Surrounded by desert mountain ranges, the area is arid and swelteringly hot, but hotels to suit all pockets provide an oasis for those suffering from chronic skin conditions, respiratory and rheumatic complaints.

The sun seems to play a key part in repairing Psoriasis. The Dead Sea is 400m below sea level and harmful UVB rays are naturally filtered out, leaving UVA rays to tan and heal the skin.

Exposure to the sun is progressively increased by lounging around on the beach or on segregated sunbeds on top of hotel roofs (so you can expose those bits that never see the sun).

In general, psoriasis sufferers are advised to stay for at least three weeks and attend a local medical centre which monitors progress and recommends ointments.

The air at the Dead Sea is dry, unpolluted and pollen-free, containing above average concen- trations of oxygen and bromine which contribute to an overall relaxing effect.

In order to underpin treatment, diet high in fibre (vegetables, rice, legumes) helps colon health and elimination. Essential fatty acids prevent dryness of the skin and are anti-inflammatory. These are found in oily fish (sardines, herring, salmon, mackerel, trout), nuts and seeds.

There is some evidence that psoriasis sufferers improve when cutting out red meat, alcohol, sugar, yeast, excess wheat and the Deadly Nightshade family of plants (tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers and paprika)

So what of my own skin? Although I stayed for only two weeks, the lesions substantially improved after the first week and had virtually disappeared by the end of the second.

Psoriasis is a tenacious customer and tends to stage come-backs but for now I look forward to flaunting my flawless epidermis on Brighton beach at every given opportunity.