Beauty from around the world: Scandinavia


Not content with gifting the world flat-pack furniture, bingeworthy television and Greta Thunberg, Scandinavia has also become a wellspring of exceptional beauty. Scandi beauty, or S-beauty, is instantly recognisable for its pared-back aesthetic, pristine ingredients and impressively functional formulas. In Scandinavia, skincare is recognised as one part of a holistic take on personal upkeep that values nutritious foods, ice-cold baths and a cheery demeanour. Despite its long, dark winters, the region of countries made up of Sweden, Denmark and Norway always ranks highly in global quality-of-life surveys. If K-beauty from South Korea is about multiple steps and bizarre ingredients, and J-beauty from Japan merges technology and tradition, S-beauty radiates with hygge—the Danish term that refers to the pursuit of daily happiness. Want to get happy? Read on for more S-beauty traits.

A devotion to less is more

Stockholm-based Verso is on a mission to simplify your daily routine. Working with a team of local dermatologists and scientists, brand founder Lars Fredriksson developed a proprietary vitamin A called Retinol 8. The complex is eight times as effective as traditional retinol, when it comes to triggering collagen production and fostering glow, and half as irritative. Verso prizes potent yet gentle formulas with fewer ingredients than the norm. Unsurprisingly, Fredriksson is not a fan of elaborate 12-step regimes. How many Verso products does he regularly use? Just one. The multitasking Super Facial Serum. “If you’re using 12 products each time, with an average of 50 ingredients per product, that’s 600 ingredients you expose your skin to every day,” he says. “I do not necessarily believe that’s good.”

Using the best of Mother Nature

Though Iceland is not technically a Scandinavian country, the neighbouring island nation shares many of the hallmarks of S-beauty. Chief among them is a reverence for detoxifying ingredients that calm the complexion; think mineral rich waters, Arctic superfruits and Nordic herbs such as angelica archangelica, known for its anti-inflammatory powers. Icelandic glacial water is at the heart of Skyn Iceland, the line designed to remedy the negative effects of chronic stress on skin. Its biggest hits include Berry Lip Fix (a replenishing balm), The Antidote Cooling Daily Lotion (a decongesting tonic), and Pure Cloud Cream (a smoothing moisturiser). The brand is headquartered in New York, but founder Sarah Kugelman was so enamoured of Iceland’s immunity-boosting resources that she tied the entire collection to them.

Hair is as important as skin

Scandinavians are known for seeking balance in all they do. Their diets feature foods rich in fatty acids and antioxidants, they have a penchant for hot saunas and icy baths, and they view beauty from top-to-toe. Consider Swedish hair brand Sachajuan. It relies on nourishing ingredients drawn from cold water algae to improve the quality of both your strands and scalp. “By strengthening and protecting hair’s natural characteristics, we can improve it,” says co-founder Sacha Mitic. Aside from its reparative treatments, the brand makes killer styling products, including Ocean Mist. The azure-coloured spritz is the secret to nailing perfect beachy waves. “Our products are like a toolbox to achieve transformation,” adds Mitic. “The new approach to hair is very much about texture and manipulating textures to create any look you desire.”

READ MORE: Want healthier hair? It’s time for a scalp detox

An indie and artisanal spirit

With slick designs, trailblazing inspirations and free-spirited scents that smell differently on everyone, it’s hard not to be drawn to Byredo. The Stockholm brand, hatched by Ben Gorham, has disrupted the fusty fragrance industry with smash hits such as Gypsy Water, Mojave Ghost and Bibliothèque. Gorham works in an intuitive manner, looking to memories, emotions and travel as starting points for his avant-garde fragrances. He shares these olfactory cues with perfumers Olivia Giacobetti and Jerome Epinette. “I can have an idea about something that smells interesting, and then it kind of lingers and grows and changes shape,” he told The Memo. And when you land on a winning scent, why not apply it to candles, hand washes and hair mists?

An eye on technological innovations

It wouldn’t be an S-beauty edit if there wasn’t a display of industrial design prowess. At the forefront of beauty tech is Foreo, the Swedish company that makes sonic cleansing devices. Foreo’s Luna has become the benchmark for smart cleansing tools, while its UFO mask gives self-care an otherworldly twist. The Luna tool gets raves for its ability to create cleaner, smoother and firmer skin (“Won’t go back to normal cleansing,” writes one enraptured customer), and it’s available in several versions for different skin types. The UFO, meanwhile, uses a combination of sonic waves and LED technology, so that mask ingredients can penetrate the skin and stimulate cellular renewal. You won’t look at a sheet mask again.

READ MORE: How to pick a beauty device according to what you need for your skin

Elegant packaging and pure design

S-beauty brands stand out for their spare elegance and restrained palettes. Most of Sachajuan’s stylish dispensers are transparent, allowing the colour of the product to shine through, while Verso favours opaque white componentry ornamented with black numerals. “The packaging is part of the brand DNA—the simplicity,” says Fredriksson. Verso uses mirror-image numbers to delineate different capsules. “Verso means ‘reversed’ in Latin and there was something missing when we were doing the design,” he adds. “Once we added the numbers and reversed them, it looked complete.” Like Verso, Byredo favours monochromatic statements. Its candles come in black vessels with white labels, while its perfumes have stocky glass bottles with domed black tops. So, if you can’t afford that Scandinavia sofa, add a modernist flourish to your home with a few S-beauty products instead.

READ MORE: How to match candles to your décor style


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