Here at Hg2, we are always on the lookout for a good skin product that works well for travelling and everyday use. We know hydration is key, but there has to be more! We recently caught up with Sarah Kugelman, founder of a skincare line called skyn ICELAND. With the holidays coming up, you’re probably looking for some good gifts for the traveller in your life (we certainly are, and more on that in a few days…) and we think some of the skyn ICELAND products could be a great option.

Tell us a bit about what inspired you to start the SKYN Iceland line? 

I had some very serious health issues as a result of the stress in my life and because I worked in beauty, I was very conscious of the terrible affect this had on my skin. I experienced cystic acne, accelerated signs of aging and a lack of tone and poor texture in my skin.  I became very interested in the whole connection between stress and skin and eventually quit my corporate job as a VP at a leading cosmetic company and spent a year and a half studying the impact of stress on the skin with a team of doctors and experts.

When I discovered that there were 5 main symptoms of stressed skin, I decided to create a skincare line that specifically addressed, alleviated and treated the affects of stress on skin. I felt that not only could I help treat the damaging effects of stress on skin but also use skincare as a tool to have a deeper conversation with women about holistic health. Iceland became my source of inspiration as I discovered the amazing mineral-rich glacial waters and their healing properties on a vacation to Iceland. Now I put these waters in all of my products along with special Icelandic botanicals, medicinal herbs and marine elements.

You have such beautiful skin! Was there really a time when your complexion suffered? 

You have no idea! I had such bad cystic acne that I used to spend about an hour in the morning (before work) trying to cover it over with medicated concealers. Then I would wear my long hair down and use it to hide my face.  I was embarrassed to even look people in the eye because I knew they were thinking, “Ew, her skin is disgusting.” That’s a terrible feeling to go through the day with.

And, no matter how much we say it doesn’t matter what you look like, it does affect your confidence. And especially because I was working in beauty, I felt like people were thinking ‘She of all people should have good skin!’ On top of the acne, I had scarring and uneven skin tone. I was really a mess.  But skyn ICELAND really, genuinely changed my skin. And, I’ve seen it do the same for many others. That is the part I find most rewarding about this whole journey – being able to make other people feel and look better and also, hopefully, live healthier, higher quality lives.

What are some of the biggest pitfalls people fall into regarding their skin? 

It’s usually the most basic things like going to sleep without washing your face (the dirt and makeup really clog pores, not only inducing breakouts but enlarging pores over time). Picking blemishes causes scarring and uneven skin tone. Sitting in the sun is probably the worst offender. It ages skin terribly. People always tell me I look so young for my age and partly it’s because I have not exposed my face to the sun since I was in my early twenties.  All of these things – scars, large pores, dehydrated skin, poor tone and texture – contribute to skin looking older and more worn. Stress accelerates all of these symptoms and can make them worse.

If you could advise people to do three things to make their skin better, what would you say?   

Stay out of the sun. Get at least 8 hours of sleep a night (this is when the skin repairs itself). Use a performance oriented, naturally based skincare line that works for your skin type (not irritating, not pore clogging, but one that will give you results). Also, a trip to the dermatologist is never a bad thing; the equation is: good skin/lifestyle habits, advanced skincare and dermatological procedures in moderation (such as lasers).

Tell us a bit about the ingredients you use in the skyn ICELAND line? 

The key to our line and the reason why it works so well is that we combine natural anti-bacterial and natural/potent antioxidants + natural anti-inflammatory. We use pure and potent ingredients from Iceland and the arctic region, which are unique to our line – you will not find these ingredients in any other skincare line – and cutting edge science.

In every product you will find our proprietary complex which includes  mineral-rich Icelandic glacial water, Angelica Archangelica (an Icelandic medicinal herb), arctic berries rich in omega essential fatty acids, carotenoids and tocotrienols arctic cloudberry and arctic cranberry, thyme extract, butterfly bush (arctic botanicals that are natural anti-inflammatory) and encapsulated oxygen (which helps give energy to the cells to replenish, fortify and renew them).

Why Iceland?

It is pure, pristine, untouched and home to unique natural ingredients in the world. I call it my natural laboratory because you can literally pick ingredients from fields at the side of the road and eat them. Not only are the glacial waters incredibly special and have been proven to heal all types of skin ailments, from psoriasis to eczema to arthritis, but there is a short growing season in the Iceland (as it is dark all winter) which, combined with the volcanic soil, creates plants with hyper-potency.  The same plant growing in a different place will not have the same properties.

And because stressed skin is damaged skin, I needed to find ingredients that could get to the root of the problem, healing skin, replenishing skin, neutralising the antioxidants we create when we are stressed, calming skin….and many of the ingredients I found in Iceland ironically, addressed the symptoms of stressed skin. Recently we have also incorporated cryogenic technology into our newest cream, the Arctic Hydrating Balm. This technology comes from the arctic and antarctic and actually helps to repair skin, protect skin (as it protects plants from freezing in subzero temperatures) and boosts collagen production.  It is already our fastest growing product in popularity.

You’ve obviously travelled quite a bit. What are some tips on keeping your skin fresh on the road? 

I always travel with my Glacial Cleansing Cloths, which are cloths that foam and deep clean without water! You don’t need water to generate the foam nor to rinse off…these enable you to detoxify your skin when you have that grimy travel feeling.  I also always travel with my Arctic Face Mist, which not only deliveres the mineral waters directly into the skin but also has a multivitamin complex to energise and replenish stressed skin.

Then I also never leave home without my eye gels for depuffing under the eyes (especially from air travel) and my Arctic Hydrating Balm to do double duty infusing skin with intense hydration and anti-aging ingredients while soothing and calming stressed, worn out skin. I also do a lot of steam showers when I travel just to purify the skin and then cold wash cloths to close the pores and tighten the skin.  A good daily work-out also keeps the blood flowing in the skin (bringing oxygen to the skin and toxins away).

On a personal note, what are some of your favourite cities to visit? Any restaurants or spas that you never miss?

There are SO many….I LOVE London and Paris. Of course Reykjavik is top on the list. And Barcelona is up there, too. I lived in Paris for a while as a student, so I have my favourite spots I never miss. Restaurants in Paris would be L’amis Louis, L’Avenue, Stressa, Maison du caviar and in London, Zuma, Le Caprice, The Ivy. In Reykjavik, I love The Lobster House and, of course, the Blue Lagoon Spa, which is very special because not only do you get to sit in the natural thermal baths but also there is a holistic and health oriented slant to the spa.

One of my favourite spas is at the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo (So posh and luxurious…and you can sit in the jacuzzi and glance out amongst the whole city of Tokyo from a floor-to-ceiling window).  It’s divine!  I also love the spa at the Berkeley Hotel in London. What’s particularly special is the indoor pool with the roof that opens so that you can swim in this luxurious pool even in winter with views of London from the windows all around the pool!

On a side note, I also LOVE San Francisco. I lived there for 5 years and go back whenever I can. There is a spa at the Hotel Vitale there that has this jet lag foot treatment that is the most hedonistic and revitalising treatment I’ve ever had. It’s totally de-stressing and is such a hidden secret. I literally dream about that treatment!

skyn ICELAND products are now available in the UK from Marks & Spencer!