Icelandic Skin Care at Your Fingertips

A World of Skin Care at Your Fingertips

Article by Elspeth Waters

Natural? Organic? Antioxidant-rich? Cheap and cheerful? With such a wealth of skin care products on offer and so many factors to consider, country of origin is not usually high up on the list. However, once you start looking, it can become alarmingly addictive. What home-grown cosmetics are Italian Vogue readers salivating over? And what does it really take to be a Grecian Goddess?

ICELAND

The Nordic countries may be short on skin-ageing sun for most of the year, but the extreme cold brings its own problems – namely, dry, lacklustre complexions. Iceland, in particular, has pioneered in the cosmetics field to overcome its citizens’ particular skin ills and thankfully increasing numbers of them are hitting our shores. The illustrious Dr Bragi is a biochemist with a penchant for age-defying marine life and his range includes highly concentrated amounts of his scar-healing and wrinkle squashing patented enzyme formula – ‘penzyme’. Tær Icelandic is a perennial favourite for sensitive souls. Rich in Iceland’s soothing Yarrow and other healing herbs, Tær’s Restore & Replenish and delicate Eye Contour Cream rarely disappoint. Gwyneth Paltrow is a reported fan of Moa The Green Balm, another multi-tasking dry-skin-saver. Legend goes, the founder Thury Gudmundsdóttir used the balm to heal her son’s third-degree burns when doctors had given up hope of any real recovery. The miracle formula is again resplendent in Yarrow, as well as Tea Tree Oil, and the mini version is the perfect size for travel skin emergencies.

USA

With La La Land’s emphasis on anti-ageing, women’s beauty in North America is still a league ahead of us. Alongside stalwarts Avon and Elizabeth Arden, newer brands, such as celeb-favourites Kate Somerville and Sonya Dakar have become household names. Thanks to Oprah’s firm endorsement, Hope in a Jar from Philosophy has elevated the brand’s status and Bliss products are must-haves for anyone who can’t afford the cha-ching price of a facial at the New York spa… and even for those who can. Especially the Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask; Steep Clean is a firm favourite too.

AUSTRALASIA

With such intense sun exposure, wrinkles are a prime concern for Aussies. Up the top end of the scale, Rebecca Körner has continued the family business of anti-ageing dermatology pioneered by her Austro-Hungarian grandmother in the early 1900s. The result is an underground brand that’s been exciting savvy beauty sleuths for a while now. Packed with killer antioxidants, Körner’s Loaded: The Anti-Ager is the cat’s pyjamas of anti-ageing skin products. All-natural Jurlique formulates its range of skin problem-solvers with organic and biodynamic ingredients, including preservatives. Recovery Gel, in particular, has earned cult status among beauty junkies. Animal-cruelty activists might not approve, but Golden Emu Oil has recently been recognised as one of those illusive multi-tasking beauty products that no women, or metrosexual man, should overlook. Packed with essential Omegas 3,6 and 9, it is both anti-ageing and a great stress-relieving, all-over body moisturiser that soothes tired and aching muscles. Demi Moore swears by it. Sun protection is a top priority, of course, and all-natural SPF brand Invisible Zinc is gaining notoriety for its range of clear and tinted moisturisers for face and body. Having a scantily clad Elle Macpherson fronting the campaign presumably hasn’t hindered their success either. A few co-ordinates over, in New Zealand, along with Manuka Honey and Flight of the Conchords, natives are also justly proud of Trilogy. Packed with Vitamins and Essential Fatty Acids, these all-natural skin products smell so good you can almost taste the fresh mountain air infused into every jar.

JAPAN

Given their penchant for perfection (here we’d call it OCD, there it’s just normal), it is little wonder the Japanese love functional beauty products. As well as cute, kitch designs that have infiltrated make up departments all over the country, more luxury Japanese skin care brands are starting to make waves in the West. Cate Blanchett’s flawless visage has firmly put SK-II on the beauty map. Centred around a lesser-known vitamin-rich yeast form – Pitera – SK-II views skin care as a ritual, which is as much about visualising better skin as it is rubbing in any particular anti-ageing ingredients. Its facial treatment masks are particularly well-loved for their brightening and rejuvenating powers. Shiseido has the look and feel of an Eastern Clarins – clean lines but not overly clinical. The men’s range is hugely popular, especially the facial scrubs and moisturisers – uber-masculine in scent and branding, but effective solutions for the wrinkles and tired eyes that men are starting to care about, too. Designed for mature women, Suqqu is one of Japan’s fastest growing cosmetics lines. Already a backstage favourite, leading make up artist Mary Greenwell swears by its Lip Essence Cream for creating tantalizingly photogenic lips.

GREECE

The youthful olive sheen of Mediterranean skin is the holy grail of complexions for many a pale English Rose; but complacent they are not – especially the Greeks, who have recently been storming ahead with beauty promises based upon the symbiosis between science and nature. Greece’s native antioxidant-packed pomegranate is a key component of super brand Korres Natural Products. Korres bases its body, hair and skin products on time-honoured homeopathic herbal combinations. Stocked in practically every pharmekia in the country, the brand signifies natural but decadent cosmetics for all. The body butters in fig and yoghurt are deliciously rich, while the Omega-rich Men’s Borage Cream helps give the perfect close shave. Recent UK favourite Rodial is also big on pomegranate power. Rodial’s founder Maria Hatzistefanis does not appear to have any physiological flaws, but maybe that’s because her range has got all ills covered: Tummy Tuck, Stretch Mark Eraser, Glamtox (the bottled alternative to Botox), each one pretty much does what it says on the tin. Glam Balm has become an on-the-go staple for everything from chapped lips and in-flight dehydration to Eczema and après-ski skin-tightening.

ITALY

Founded in 1221, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the world’s oldest apothecaries and still a fixture in Florence. Renowned for its luxurious fragrances, soaps and candles, SMN’s facial waters and moisturisers add a touch of glamour to night-stands across the country too. Giorgio Armani is mostly synonymous with expertly-designed fashion and fragrances and high-end make up, but his Crema Nera and Skin Minerals ranges have made him a rightful player in the skin care arena – for both sexes – as well. Duty Free outlets have been all over Pupa Milano’s quirky make up compacts for years, but the company is trying to expand its remit with new skin care line Milk Therapy, which is rich in lactic probiotics and other reportedly beneficial skin-renewing nutrients. With their cartoon cow branding, they don’t look very grown up but your teenage nieces might thank you for them. While Borghese may be based in New York, its heart and soul are firmly entrenched in14th Century Tuscany, whose volcanic hills gave rise to the spa tradition of harnessing mineralised water. Borghese is famed for its mineral-rich exfoliating and restorative Fango mud masks. They really do bring the toxins out though so best to indulge a good few days before an important event!

FRANCE

France has long been synonymous with breath-taking beauty and fabulously graceful ageing. Admiringly, the elegant Francaises manage to keep their sculpted visages, while shunning the surgeon’s knife. Rumour has it they rely on facial massage rollers, such as Yuroll, as well as their favourite skin products, of course. Guinot, Yves Rocher, Decleor, Givenchy, Guerlain, Lancome, Sisley… not to mention Chanel and Clarins – the list of high-end Parisian skin care brands is vast and, according to the upper echelons, still vastly superior. While these brands want to appeal to your mother (hence the resistance to updating their ‘classic’ – read: dated – appearances), younger generations have come to rely on them too. No party girl worth her Bellinis would forego Guerlain Issima Midnight Secret, and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm has swiftly become a trusted pick-me up for young, stressed complexions. Cool new kids on the block include Doux Me, which is as mild as it sounds. Founded by the beautiful Caroline Wachsmuth, it’s 100% natural and organic skin care and blends essential oils like Rose and Neroli. Caroline’s signature anti-ageing skin concoction, Crème Caroline, smells like childhood walks in the forest.

UK

Those concerned with air miles and such, fret not… an increasing number of superb brands are springing up here. Sophyto is the only Soil Association-certified organic line that works in harmony with your skin’s specific needs, making it perfect for all ages. The monodose Polyphenol Drops are made from specifically bred Hertfordshire apples, which fight toxic free radicals. REN is another slickly designed brand. The Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash is heaven-sent, while the Omega 3 Overnight Lipid Renewal Serum is guaranteed to improve any skin type. Sienna Miller has helped put her favourite 200-year old skin salve Butler’s Pommade Divine firmly back on the beauty editors’ radar. Its warming clove smell is gorgeously homely and, apparently, it saved the starlet from stunt-induced bruise hell.

About the Author

Elspeth Waters is the editor of Cult Beauty, a savvy independent online beauty boutique and guide, which cherry picks the best in global cosmetics, backed by consumer trial and expert opinion.

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