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Skin Care’s Cold Snap

3 minute read

When Lev Glazman, CEO of Boston-based Fresh cosmetics, was growing up in Russia, sea buckthorn berry oil was a popular home remedy his mother applied to scrapes and burns. “It helped the healing process tremendously,” he says. Today it has become the star component of Fresh’s newest antiaging product, Elixir Ancien. Sea buckthorn, along with a host of other arctic berries, is the miracle medicine du jour in the fast-paced world of skin care.

Arctic berries, which grow in arctic regions, come in about 20 varieties, but only 10 or so—including arctic raspberry, cloudberry and blueberry—are commercially important. And while the arctic berries are related to their American counterparts, each one is a distinct species with an entirely unique composition. As Skyn Iceland founder Sarah Kugelman puts it, “Because they have to withstand extreme temperatures, they’ve developed properties that make them superhearty.”

There are two key characteristics of arctic berries that make them desirable for the skin: essential fatty acids (EFAs) and antioxidants. “Berry seeds contain both types of essential fatty acids that are needed by human beings,” explains Baoru Yang, of Aromtech Ltd. in Finland, referring to linoleic acid, or omega-6, and alpha-linolenic acid, or omega-3. “This is a very rare case. In most plant oils you have only one type of EFA, and then the other type is missing or too low.” More than just maintaining and moisturizing the lipid-rich epidermis, EFAs work to lighten the skin tone, diminish age spots and reduce inflammation. They are also rich in antioxidants that, says Kugelman, “are 20 to 40 times more effective than more commonly used antioxidants like vitamin E.”

Perhaps no brand uses a wider range of arctic berries and in more products than Lumene, a Finnish company more than 35 years old but launched in the U.S. only in 2004. Skyn Iceland is another brand that uses arctic berries throughout its entire range, specifically cloudberry and cranberry, which are part of the company’s signature Biospheric Complex. But aside from this being a niche market for Nordic-focused brands, more mainstream cosmetics companies have embraced the trend as well. Orlane uses arctic cranberry seed oil in Hypnotherapy, a product meant to fight the effects of stress-induced aging. And of course there’s Fresh’s Elixir Ancien, a face oil made by hand in a Czech monastery. Glazman says now that they have the technology down—the use of sea buckthorn oil in cosmetics requires its staining red color and noxious gasoline smell to be removed—Fresh plans to use the oil in more creams.

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