But lately, a new nation is bubbling up in the beauty world: Iceland. With harsh winters and a water-centric culture, Icelandic women are no strangers to having to keep their skin hydrated and protected from inclement weather and dry conditions. And now, finally, a whole crop of skin-care companies are tapping into the purity of local Icelandic nature. Think: water, marine enzymes, seaweeds, and the plants that are able to survive in such a Northern climate—grabbing the attention of celebs and dermatologists alike.
Icelandic lines like Taramar feature organically grown products rich in seaweed and medicinal herb extracts, ingredients that are said to protect cells from aging and free radical damage—sans all of the chemical additives.
With ingredients like Icelandic kelp, skin-care company Hannes Dóttir sells mineral mists and floral water sprays to hydrate your face the natural way (and killer exfoliants). Sóley Organics harvests active ingredients from the highlands of the country—some of the least-touched places on earth. In Iceland, berries like cloudberry and sea buckthorn can also live through harsh climates (and then be infused into creams and lotions that nourish the skin).
But the star of Iceland skin care right now might be a company called BIOEFFECT, which presents a uniquely scientific approach to a skin-care ingredient called epidermal growth factor (EGF).
Derms already know EGF works to help skin look younger. “Most epidermal growth factor used in skin products comes from human sources—mainly male foreskin cells—which are cultured and then used in creams,” says Jeff Dover, M.D., codirector of SkinCare Physicians in Chestnut Hill, MA, and an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine. (Yes, really.)
BIOEFFECT’s approach is different: They grow EGF (proteins that can only be made by living cells) in barley. The barley is grown in nourishing volcanic rock in an environmentally friendly greenhouse heated with geothermal energy.
“You can accumulate the proteins in the grains, harvest them, and purify them with no contaminants and no negative effect on the proteins in a pristine environment,” says Einar Mäntylä, a cofounder of BIOEFFECT. “By applying them to the skin in a carefully developed formulation, they help the skin renew itself again, so it becomes more youthful.” (You only need to use two to four drops of BIOEFFECT’s EGF Serum, a potent anti-ager.)
While there are some small studies on the effectiveness of growing EGF in plants, Dr. Dover notes that none are rigorous. But he adds: “I think it’s a very exciting opportunity and it may be a new biological and organic approach to skin care.”
Ultimately, that’s the root of this boom in Icelandic skin-care products: using science, healing water, and local ingredients to go back to the basics and do things in a way that preserves both Mother Nature and your skin. Consider the way Mäntylä puts it: The complex chemical cocktails that are typical skin-care products today include 70+ ingredients: “Our formulations were generated with only seven ingredients.” That’s especially important if you have sensitive skin, which can be easily irritated by some chemical ingredients, including fragrances and preservatives.
But beyond knowing which bottles to add to their skin-care routine, Icelanders have more skin-care secrets worth stealing too. A big one: Thanks to being covered in darkness for half of the year, women in this region save their skin from the sun damage brought about by excess exposure to harmful UV rays. While you might not be able to mimic the lack of sunshine for six months of the year, you can beef up your SPF routine.
Plus, Icelandic culture includes bathing in mineral-rich waters. After all, the Nordic country has long been known for Blue Lagoon, its geothermal spa just outside of Reykjavik (you’ve seen the Instas). Bathing here is even said to ease the symptoms of skin conditions like psoriasis, thanks to the high mineral and salt content of the water. It leaves skin looking and feeling dewy and hydrated.
Basically, not only should you add a few products to your routine, but you might want to consider a trip to the Nordic nation. It’s all in the name of beauty research, right?