Scandinavian Beauty Believes Your Skin-Care Routine Should Be 3 Steps Max

Photo: Getty Images/Johner Images
When I studied abroad in Copenhagen during my junior year of college, there was a lot to get used to: There were approximately four hours of daylight, sandwiches only had one piece of bread, and everyone looked like straight-up supermodels.

Seriously: In the six months I spent living in Scandinavia—which encompasses Denmark, Sweden, and Norway—nearly every person I came across looked healthy, happy, (it is the happiest country in the world), and more than that, their skin was just so good. We're talking the type of all-over, inside-out glow that's enough to make you want to stop someone in their tracks and ask them what products they use.

But as I learned, the answer for most Scandinavians is: "not that many." While maximalism and the 10-step skin care routine has dominated the conversation over the past few years thanks to the rise of K-Beauty in the United States, Scandinavians do things differently. In fact, it's rare to find anyone in Scandinavia using more than three (maybe four) products on their face in a given day. "S-beauty takes a holistic approach to beauty. It's about finding balance in all the important aspects of health: what to eat, how to exercise, what to apply to the skin and hair," explains Christinah Nicolaisen, co-founder of Scandinavian beauty brand Eleni & Chris. "Overall, it’s about how to live our best, happiest lives."

Sounds pretty good, right? Here, she breaks down the elements of Scandinavian beauty, which you can replicate for yourself in your own bathroom. Or, you know, use it as an excuse to buy a ticket overseas. Whatever works for you.

Minimalism is key

Instead of crafting crowded shelves of singe-use serums, Scandinavians tend toward products that will give them the most impact for the fewest amount of steps. "For Scandinavians performance is key, so we tend to prefer products that are easy to use and have multiple benefits," says Nicolaisen, adding that her own routine (even as a beauty guru!) simply consists of  a cleanser, serum, eye gel, and moisturizer. "In Scandinavia, the weather changes quite quickly, so hydration for hair and skin is paramount. An effective serum is an absolute must for layering intense hydration for the skin."

It's all about local ingredients

Scandinavians incorporate a lot of good fats and antioxidants into their diets, and the same goes for their skin-care routines. "Scandinavian women are knowledgeable on how strong antioxidants and fatty acids can increase the barrier functions of cells," says Nicolaisen. Cloudberry for example, which Nicolaisen calls "one of nature's best kept secrets," is rich in antioxidants (making it an anti-aging dynamo) and one tiny berry contains four times more vitamin C than an entire orange. Eleni and Chris products also use Scandinavian Glacier Water, which is a hardcore hydrator, and Sea3Oil, which increases the elasticity of skin.

Beauty goes beyond the bathroom

Though Scandinavians' skin-care routines may be minimal, they prioritize self-care in a number of other aspects of their lives. "Scandinavians are big on saunas and ice baths," says Nicolaisen. "Both are great for increasing blood circulation and nourishing the skin." The Nordic Diet is also rich in fish and vegetables, aka good fats, Omega-3s and nutrients, which work wonders for hair and skin.

The Scandinavians aren't the only people we're stealing skin-care tips from. This three-step Moroccan shower equation holds the secret to smooth skin, and get ready to see Mexican beauty ingredients all over the US this year. 

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