Some meetings are meant to happen. I firmly believe that. This summer I went to Iceland, at last, and met with awe inspiring forces in both natural and human forms. Iceland is a place unlike any I’ve ever been, all rock and sky and water. It’s Scotland on Viking steroids. Vast stretches of volcanic terrain leading to mountains of muted tones under blue blue skies, you can’t help but wonder when the elves will pop out to greet you.
And then there’s the people. And their skin. I was meant to meet them and their spa culture. You cannot help but notice how healthy and vibrant they look, how they “glow” and look fine of pore. Is it the cold? Is it genetic? Is it their lifestyle? The water, it must be the water. Whatever the reason, it is apparent that Icelanders take their skin and their spa seriously. And because I wanted to walk like them, talk like them, be like them (sing like them!), I did the next best thing and went to the shops like them.
My first brush with Icelandic skincare was with SKYN eye masks, recommended for de-puffing the eyes of a certain someone who shall remain nameless and I didn’t have to go to Iceland to get them. Actually getting there opened up a whole new world of skincare possibilities. On the streets of Reykjavik, all over the place, you see ads for BIOEFFECT EGF Serum. I’d caught wind of it in the beauty world before this trip, so by the time I got there and saw it everywhere I was convinced it was a national treasure. It was my first purchase; I tucked it away into the suitcase for later use. I should have started to use it right away, but that’s a different story. I had already planned to do an article about winter skin care, so I put it aside for later.
A couple of days into my trip I went to the infamous Blue Lagoon which has its own spa and shop; very tempting to buy everything but I had two months of travelling to consider so called upon my Wendy Willpower, walking away with only the award-winning Blue Lagoon Rejuvenating lipbalm. There’s always online shopping after all.
I flew on from Reykjavik and on the plane read about Dr Bragi and his skincare line; third purchase, Marine Enzyme Age Management Moisturiser. I didn’t even have to leave my seat. How easy was that?
This trio stayed hidden away until the winter when I started my thirty day trial. So here they are, in the order I bought them, which seemed the fairest way to do this.
BIOEFFECT EGF Serum
Lots of stuff about this on the plane to Reykjavik…Icelanders are proud of local achievments, in all areas of expertise (I arrived just after the football defeat but the city was still celebrating the team and all it had done) and do much to applaud home success stories. Nothing wrong with that, especially when they’re of such a high calibre.
What is EGF I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you. Epidermal Growth Factor aka EGF is a naturally occurring skin protein, and “acts as the skin’s cellular messenger, kick-starting the production of youth-preserving collagen and elastin while promoting the skin’s own repair process”. Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1986 for their discovery of EGF and it’s vital function in the biology of human skin. The serum is a ground breaking cellular activating serum, containing only 7 ingredients with no preservatives or fragrance and suitable for all skin types. It takes a nightly dose (the serum works best on resting skin, not sure if that included lying on the sofa watching The Crown) for the serum to replicate the effects EGF naturally has on the skin. See it to believe it. It’s made in Iceland, from barley grown in volcanic pumice with pure Icelandic water. See, I knew it was all about that water.
This is a beautifully liquid serum making it easy to massage in (don’t forget those facial massages please). I used it nightly, only 2-4 drops, and it’s about to run out so I will repurchase. It feels extraordinary on my parched face during these winter months.
According to the company’s literature, it will deliver skin rejuvenating results for all skin types (suitable for even the most sensitive due to its lack of fillers, fragrances, parabens, preservatives or colourants). For more info and for their other anti-aging products go to www.bioeffect.com
DR BRAGI Marine Enzyme Age Management Moisturiser
The late Dr Jon Bragi Bjarnason was Professor of biochemistry at the University of Iceland and one of the world’s leading enzymologists. His life was dedicated to the study and therapeutic application of marine enzymes, starting with arthritis and wound healing and later expanding into dermatology; clinical evidence led Dr Bragi to develop a unique line of skincare based on marine enzyme technology. I was right again! It’s all because of the water!
The Age Management Mosturiser combines his patented formula of super-active marine enzymes with hyaluronic acid, known for it’s plumping and hydrating abilities (hyaluronic acid can hold up to 1000 times it’s own volume in water) so this one claims to offer advanced relief for persistently dry and sensitive skin and to prevent the breakdown of collagen by supporting optimal cell function. In fact, one would think this product has superpowers, with those two ingredients for parents! I was kind of hooked after the first application – applied on my damp face after a steamy Sunday bath (I feel another of those coming on) it felt immediately nourished and a bit “sticky”. The packaging says if it feels sticky you’ve applied too much, but that’s one of the things that comforted me about it during daily use – that tiny touch of “tack” I felt assured me it was in place and doing it’s amazing job. I used a bit too much, obvs, but I liked it that way, my skin felt amazing and my makeup stayed on all day (wait 15 minutes before applying) so it works as a beautiful primer as well. According to the company info, because the marine enzyme products optimize cell function, and enhances the skin’s natural rejuvenating mechanisms, other products aren’t as necessary. You can use just this as your moisturiser and eye cream. Financial bonus. All in all I loved it because my face felt smooth and hydrated, and it didn’t suffer through the freezing weather, a surefire way of knowing that a product is working.
The Dr Bragi skincare line contains no parabens, perfumes, silicones, glycols, artificial preservatives, lanolin, lipids or dyes; safe for the most sensitive skins and for use during pregnancy. My skin is not overly sensitive but dry and dehydrated but I would have no problem recommending it to anyone who is sensitive or problematic skin because the ingredients are so pure, which means they are much less likely to cause any reactions. I rather like this graphic from the literature about the Bragi approach to caring for the skin:
I was genuinely saddened when my moisturiser ran out and not only ordered more but delved into other products from the line. I have an Intensive Treatment Mask waiting for me to use on my next at-home spa day. That may not be for a couple of weeks, boohoo, but I’m really looking forward to it.
Oh, by the way, the Dr Bragi line was a CEW Beauty Insiders Choice for best new skincare line in 2008. That’s the equivalent of an Oscar for beauty products.
The Blue Lagoon Rejuvenating Lipbalm
This is a cheeky little number – it’s actually made in Denmark! But I’ll let it off, it has Icelandic ingredients and maybe all the facilities in Iceland (there can’t be very many) were busy making other stuff so they had to go somewhere else to mix it up. This balm is velvety but matte, stays on really well and doesn’t interfere with lipstick, in face I love it under a matte. By itself it looks natural and is uncoloured. I did lend this to ‘im indoors and got very gentle whiffs of chocolate every time he went by. Yummy.
What can I say about my impressions of Icelandic skincare so far? The products I’ve come across are symbolic of everything I loved about the country itself – they are pure, clean, modern, and really, really well designed. If you’re a regular reader you might have gathered that I’m a skincare fanatic. Good skin equals good makeup, which makes my work easier to do and the results more beautiful, so all of these are staying in my kit for good, to use on both women and men. In fact, all of the things I’ve talked about here would fit amazingly well into a his/hers bathroom. It’s the kind of stuff you want to keep for yourself but can, generously of course, because we’re good people, lend to the guy who’s interested in skincare but doesn’t know where to start. The packaging is ultra modern (right up my alley) and non gender oriented. If he likes it make sure he gets his own or yours will be gone too quickly! I think I have made good skincare choices in the last ten-fifteen years (when I became very serious about it in terms of helping with the aging process) but honestly wish I’d come across these Icelandic lines sooner. They really deliver, and in the purest way, which is no bad thing. It feels as if they are the way forward in modern skincare, with Iceland leading the charge. Which makes it Viking skincare, no?! Charging forward with purity and science, the modern Vikings of the beauty industry. It is in their blood. And in the water.
I would go back to Iceland in a heartbeat, I absolutely loved it. Would be nice if the next trip was a winter one, to see northern lights and have lots of amazing spa time and imagining a Christmas there gets me all hygge; I am a Viking myself, after all. The next time I go, whenever it may be, I aim to have skin like a local! I’m hoping they’ll give me citizenship.
P.S here’s another meeting that was meant to happen…and another reason I need to return to Iceland.