You might be familiar with the words hygge or lagom, which sum up some of the most important values in Scandinavian life – a focus on happiness and contentment, and never too much. Scandi beauty brands often tell a story steeped in a tradition that revolves around three main principles: simplicity, functionality and a deep connection with nature.
Beauty products inspired by Scandinavian nature use potent, locally sourced ingredients in its formulations to achieve a radiant glow. If you’re looking to adapt the effortless beauty routine of a Scandinavian, here’s a bit of insight on their secrets:
Potent active ingredients
The Scandinavian environment is dramatic and harsh, and is home to a unique treasure trove of ingredients. Plants in nature have adapted to survive very little sunlight in winter and extreme cold, which gives them a unique evolutionary advantage in the form of high concentrations of antioxidants. The midnight sun and extremely long days in summertime also help maximize photosynthesis for plants.
During the winter months – which can last for up to half the year – it is necessary to take extra precautions to protect your skin. Winters in Scandinavia can be brutally cold and windy, so it’s important to have products that work under the most extreme climate conditions. Furthermore, skin dryness can become a constant battle during the winter, making ingredients that nourish and quench thirsty skin essential.
Here’s a description of some of the Scandinavian beauty ingredients that will help skin to look dewy and radiant in even the harshest weather:
Picking wild berries is a tradition ingrained in Scandinavian life. Because of freedom to roam (allemansrätten in Swedish), access to public and private land is not restricted for activities like hiking, camping and foraging for wild edible plants. Cloudberry, lingonberry, bilberry (European blueberries), and red and black currant are just a few examples of some of the wild berries that you can find growing in the region.
Gold of the Arctic is an epithet for cloudberries, which are almost as rare and coveted as gold itself. Cloudberries (rubus chamaemorus) are incredibly difficult to find and are one of the most expensive berries in existence. Growing almost exclusively in the arctic region, these resilient super-berries can thrive in temperatures as low as −40 °C (−40 °F). They also come loaded with Vitamins C, E and omega fatty acids, and have proven anti-aging and moisturizing benefits.
Fruitliquid™ Cloudberry, Croda (UK)
Lingonberries (vaccinium vitis-idaea) are a staple ingredient in Scandinavian cuisine. Lingonberry seed oil contains high contents of ALA and Vitamin E (tocopherol and tocotrienol), which neutralizes free radicals and protects against oxidative damage.
Lingostem™ (INCI: Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea), Centerchem (USA)
Finnish beauty brand Lumene’s award-winning Arctic Berry Oil-Cocktail is formulated with cloudberry, lingonberry and cranberry oils, helping even the driest skin to achieve that Scandi glow.
Birch, willow and pine
Sweden and Finland are two of the most forest-rich countries in Europe and the birch tree itself has become a symbol of Swedish nature. Bark extracts and sap from trees such as birch, willow and pine contain a multitude of compounds that are used in skin and hair care.
Betulin, which is responsible for the white color in the birch tree’s outer bark, helps to shield the tree from extreme temperatures. It also has multi-faceted benefits for skin repair – as a triterpene, it assists with collagen production and inhibits elastin breakdown.
Nixalin ™ Betula Papyrifera (Betulin), Terlys (Canada)
Founded in Sweden, the beauty brand Björk & Berries (Björk is the Swedish word for birch) uses this tree as one of their signature ingredients.
Willow (salix purpurea) bark extract, contains tannins and salicin – a natural source of salicylic acid – which help to reduce the appearance of pores and alleviate acne for a clearer complexion.
Salixin® willow (salix purpurea) bark extract, Actera Ingredients (USA)
And pine bark extract has been shown to enhance skin elasticity, boost hydration and inhibit photo-aging and hyper-pigmentation.
Nordic Beauty Pine Bark Extract, The Innovation Company (France)
Glacier and spring water in Scandinavia are some of the purest in the world—you can even drink straight from the source, as many locals do. Arctic spring water has a low mineral content and ideal pH for skin hydration.
GLACIER WATER H.GL. - M.S., Provital (Spain)
Oats (avena sativa) are a hardy grain that can tolerate colder temperatures. As one of the world’s top producers of oats, Finnish oats are of the purest quality and are GMO free. Oats are incredibly soothing and moisturizing for the skin, which is perfect for those living in cold and dry climates. It also contains anti-inflammatory phytochemicals that help treat eczema, psoriasis and other rashes.
Oat Extract EC (avena sativa), Croda (UK)
Rhodiola rosea, also called Arctic root after where it normally grows, was used by the Vikings for strength and endurance. It packs powerful antioxidant protection and supports collagen synthesis and skin repair.
Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea L.), In vitro Plant-tech (Sweden)
Eleni & Chris is a Norwegian skincare brand inspired by the beauty of Scandinavian nature. Their award-winning anti-aging face serum includes rhodiola rosea extract, glacier water, cloudberry seed oil among its list of ingredients.
Scandinavian beauty is the polar opposite of the Korean skin care routine. Simplicity and functionality are two key tenets in Scandinavian culture, so beauty products strive to be multi-functional and uncomplicated. In order to achieve a low-maintenance skin care routine, formulations often include multi-tasking ingredients.
Less is more with the Swedish skincare brand Verso, which was founded under a philosophy of everyday simplicity and develops products with no unnecessary ingredients. Only ingredients with maximum impact, such as Retinol 8, are used in its formulations.
Scandinavian minimalism is repeatedly seen in packaging as well. The Swedish beauty brands Byredo and SACHAJUAN, and Danish brand Nuori are great examples of Scandinavian minimalistic packaging with their monochromatic sans-serif typeface and simplistic design.
Consumers in Scandinavia care a lot about the sustainability of the products they buy. Many Scandi beauty products are 100% vegan and cruelty-free like skyn ICELAND and Swedish brand Estelle & Thild (famous for their baby care series), in addition to many of the beauty brands already mentioned.
Spas and saunas are another aspect of Scandinavian culture which contribute to wellbeing, beauty and health. Dry heat from saunas increases blood flow and helps to bring important nutrients to surface tissue, while sweating also helps to remove toxins from the skin. Twigs and leaves from birch, oak or eucalyptus trees are bound together to make sauna whisks, which when heated release aromatherapeutic oils. Combined with the rhythmic interlude of jumping into an ice-cold lake or ocean (winter bathing), the sauna ritual helps to reduce inflammation and rejuvenate skin.
Icelandic skin care brand Blue Lagoon sources its ingredients straight from its namesake, Iceland’s famous geothermal spa Blue Lagoon, including mineral-rich volcanic powder and algae extracts. L:A Bruket, a Swedish brand inspired by the country’s rich spa traditions, creates natural and organic skincare and haircare products, and Danish beauty brand Karmameju produces a line of aromatherapeutic skincare and sun care products that are natural, organic, and vegan.
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