Going to Extremes

It probably comes as no surprise to learn that many spa-goers would travel to the ends of the earth to achieve healthy and radiant skin. Interestingly enough, it turns out that many skincare companies are doing just that to reap the benefits of plants found in the Arctic, a polar region near the North Pole that can include parts of Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, the U.S. (Alaska), and the Arctic Ocean. While the Arctic may seem a spartan and unforgiving place, it is actually teeming with life. In fact, a variety of algae, berries, kelp, peat, and other vegetation thrive there despite the harsh conditions. These Arctic ingredients provide valuable contributions to skincare thanks to their highly adaptable nature. “Some Arctic plants belong to a class of biologic organisms called extremophiles, a scientific term used to denote plants that have adapted for survival in very extreme environmental conditions,” says Charlene DeHaven, M.D., clinical director for Innovative Skincare. Plants that grow in the region are faced with multiple hardships. According to Angela Eriksen-Stanley, director of education for Phytomer Group, Arctic plants must contend with extreme climates, intense UV rays, severe dehydration, and more. “As a consequence, they have developed protection systems, which we are able to analyze then apply to cosmetics through a process known as bio-mimicry,” she says. Learning about and replicating ideas from nature, skincare companies are now able to take advantage of plant life in the Arctic and maximize the extraordinary benefits these ingredients have to offer the skin.


Protective Properties

To help them survive, extremophiles produce enzymes that protect their cellular DNA and other genetic matter. It was this knowledge that piqued DeHaven’s interest, along with that of Bryan Johns, CEO of Innovative Skincare. “We thought the technology borrowed from these fascinating plants might assist human skin in shielding us from our own environmental extremes,” says DeHaven.

According to Rhonda Allison, CEO of Rhonda Allison Clinical Enterprises, rhodiola rosea root, also referred to as golden root and root of the Arctic, is her favorite Arctic ingredient thanks to its versatility and effectiveness. Containing powerful antioxidants called proanthocyanidins, the ingredient protects cell tissue while enhancing cellular immunity. “It supports skin in resisting stress and improves its defensive barrier function when challenged by pollution, UV exposure, and hot and cold temperatures,” says Allison. “It also works well for rosacea skin types and for menopausal women, as it keeps the flush in the skin from escalating.” As a result, it’s a key ingredient in Rhonda Allison’s Exotica Rhodiola Cream, which targets inflammation and strengthens the skin’s protective barrier.


Pure Power

In addition to adaptability, Arctic ingredients are also extremely potent. “Arctic berries and plants have a short and intense growth cycle, allowing for a more powerful concentration of nutrients, such as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and provide intense antioxidants, which nourish the skin to reduce inflammation, diminish age spots, and improve overall skintone,” says Yael Alkalay, founder of Red Flower. “The purity of the soil they grow in enhances their potency and generates an abundant source of anti-aging benefits. These plants are rich in vitamins that protect the skin from free-radical damage and increase regeneration.” 

Because Alkalay is a fan of white peat on account of its purity and super concentrated benefits, carefully sourced Arctic white peat from Finland, which contains decomposed plant material from the last Ice Age are used in a variety of Red Flower products. It is rich in nutrients, essential fiber, fatty acids, and minerals that produce warming enzymes on the skin. “The intense potency of Arctic white peat combats dry, mature skin and improves skin’s moisture balance,” says Alkalay. Spa-goers can benefit from this effective Arctic ingredient along with others in the Miraval Nurture Facial ($235, 80 minutes) at Miraval Resort’s Life in Balance Spa (Tucson, AZ). This rejuvenating treatment exfoliates the skin with a mix of bioactive peat enzymes, berries, and sea minerals that deliver an antioxidant boost to the skin. It also includes a marine-based mask with essential oils, mushrooms, and white peat to help improve the skin’s texture and repair environmental damage. The facial concludes with an enzyme-rich exfoliating hand treatment followed by a relaxing hand massage with Arctic Berry Milk Cream.


Arctic Anti-Agers

Taking advantage of the tools Mother Nature has provided, Éminence Organic Skin Care relies on a unique blend of four Arctic berry plants—Arctic roseroot, cloudberry seed, juniper sprouts, and meadowsweet—in its Arctic Berry Peel and Peptide Illuminating System. Each ingredient works to protect skin. For example, cloudberry seed helps maintain skin elasticity by inhibiting elastase, the enzyme that breaks down the elastin protein. “Arctic plants and berries were found to work synergistically in our unique illuminating peel and peptide system to effectively protect against environmental factors and assist with anti-aging,” says Stephanie Baresh, brand and product creative director. “They reduce inflammation and slow the oxidation process that can age the skin prematurely.”

Another berry garnering a lot of attention these days is sea buckthorn. “It is rich in fatty acids, which help to heal and nourish the skin,” says Erin Ferrill, director of east coast sales and education for HydroPeptide. “Additionally, sea buckthorn has a balancing effect that can help to diminish hormonal breakouts.” This makes it especially effective in treating adult acne. “Acne, especially mature acne, is a multifaceted issue that is difficult to treat,” says Ferrill. “Sea buckthorn berry provides multiple benefits in one natural ingredient, making it perfect for helping to address such a widespread and complicated issue.”

Sea buckthorn is also beneficial to aging skin. “When epidermal functions start to slow, the skin can appear dull and thin, and fine lines show up more readily,” says Eriksen-Stanley. “The regenerating effects of sea buckthorn oil help to boost cell turnover so that the epidermis becomes vibrant, plump, and smooth. The antioxidant content also makes an excellent preventative ingredient to protect the skin from the causes of premature aging.”

Norwegian kelp extract, which hails from the cold northern Arctic Ocean, is also helpful in turning back the clock. “This plant contains high amounts of a substance called 4-hydroxyproline, the very same molecule that our skin uses to signal the collagen repair process,” says DeHaven. “The signaling molecule tells skin cells to make new collagen with the correct structural configuration, as required for our skin’s architectural support.”


Chilly Challenges

While Arctic ingredients offer a host of skincare benefits, they’re not always easily accessible or easy to use. “Because these plants may come from fragile environments, there may be restrictions on harvesting, processing, and more,” says DeHaven. “An advantage of using these plants is that their use encourages preservation as unique planetary species worth caring for and helping to survive—this helps maintain biological diversity.” Formulating with them, however, can pose certain problems, as the enzymes they contain are actually proteins, which have specific characteristics. “Proteins will sometimes denature or break apart in cosmetic formulas and may be challenging to combine with other active ingredients,” says DeHaven. As a consequence, it took Innovative Skincare years to perfect the formulas used in its Extremozyme line. “Although it was back to the drawing board several times, the final result was certainly worth the effort and yielded some truly outstanding products,” says DeHaven. That’s why many skincare companies go the distance to incorporate Arctic plants and berries into their formulations. “We have spent years looking for the best farmers and local sources for each ingredient,” says Alkalay. “The search felt a bit like looking for the Holy Grail. Of course, because the ingredients are 100 percent natural and often wildcrafted and sourced directly from small farmers and producers, challenges can arise from changes in weather.” Fortunately, the skin-saving benefits these Arctic plants provide far outweigh the challenges associated with attaining them.

Help nourish and protect clients’ skin with products containing potent ingredients from the Arctic.—Jessica Morrobel

1. CBI Laboratories Shio Doro Detoxifying Treatment: Formulated with Arctic cloudberry seed oil, Arctic peat, and Japanese mushroom extracts, this body mask and scrub hydrates and softens skin. www.cbiskincare.com

2. Cuccio Naturalé Extended Massage Lotion with Seabuckthorn & White Tea: This hydrating lotion blends sea buckthorn and vitamins C and E to moisturize and nourish skin. www.cuccio.com

3. Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing Overnight Treatment: Containing meadowsweet and tea tree leaf oil, this treatment fights breakouts by unclogging pores. www.dermalogica.com

4. Dr. Hauschka Daily Hydrating Eye Cream: This cream reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles around eyes with a blend of mango seed butter and sea buckthorn. www.drhauschka.com

5. Elemis Musclease Active Body Oil: Made with maritime pine, rosemary, sea buckthorn, and sea fennel, this body oil helps relieve muscle tension and stressed joints. www.timetospa.com

6. Éminence Organic Skin Care Arctic Berry Illuminating System: Packed with hibiscus seed extract and lingonberry seed oil, this three-step system—Enzyme Exfoliant, Advanced Peel Activator MA, and Peptide Radiance Cream—exfoliates and evens skintone. www.eminenceorganics.com

7. Nature Pure Labs Hippophae Pepto-Ceramide Complex: This cream combines chamomile, olive oil, and sea buckthorn to promote tissue regeneration and improve skin elasticity and moisture retention. www.naturepure.com

8. Naturopathica Argan & Peptide Wrinkle Repair Cream: Featuring argan stem cells, lingonberry, and sea buckthorn, this daily moisturizer reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. www.naturopathica.com

9. Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Tropical Mango Barrier Recovery Mask: Containing bladderwrack and sea buckthorn, this nourishing mask restores the skin’s lipid barrier while soothing and replenishing the complexion. www.osmosisskincare.com

10. Phytomer HydraContinue Radiance Energizing Cream: Relying on algae and sea buckthorn pulp, this non-comedogenic cream hydrates and increases cellular vitality to rejuvenate the skin. www.lespausa.com

11. Red Flower Arctic Berry Cloud Milk Cream: This lightweight aloe, amino acid, and Arctic cloudberry cream helps minimize broken capillaries, stretch marks, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. www.redflower.com

12. Rhonda Allison Exotica Rhodiola Cream: Infused with hyaluronic acid and rhodiola rosea root extract, this hydrating treatment strengthens the skin’s protective barrier to reduce moisture loss and improve epidermal regeneration. www.rhondaallison.com