Contrary to popular belief, the Blue Lagoon is not one of Iceland’s many natural wonders. Known for its spirit-lifting benefits, the famed landmark is actually man-made. Ever since 1974, water from a nearby geothermal power plant’s been feeding the milky, cerulean water. The prospect of swimming in a power plant’s runoff might seem terrifying, but geothermal energy accounts for about 25 percent of the power used in Iceland (you’re not wading in nuclear waste). The unique mix of lava rock, minerals, and algae create a skin-soothing combination that gives the water some luminescence.
Locals and tourists have been bathing in the lagoon for decades, noticing reprieve from conditions like psoriasis, and enjoying benefits like firmer, more hydrated skin. After some extensive studies confirmed this phenomenon, the Blue Lagoon became a public attraction in 1987, and admission was regulated. The lagoon has since been relocated and expanded to accommodate nearly 3,000 visitors per day in the summer, and 2,000 per day in the winter. (You need a reservation to visit; don’t show up without one!)
Besides being an Instagram supersite, the Blue Lagoon is also one of the top “skincare wonders” of the world, in large part thanks to the scientists at its research and development center who engineer the perfect balance of ingredients in the waters, as well as in each of the healing products the brand sends to market.
Blue Lagoon Ltd. launched its skincare line in 1995, opened the Silica Hotel wellness retreat in 2005, and the exclusive, jaw-dropping, 62-suite Retreat at the Blue Lagoon in 2018. (You can stay overnight or get a day pass.)
Here are some of the skincare secrets of the Blue Lagoon, thanks to insight from Ása Brynjolfsdottir, the Head of R&D at The Blue Lagoon.
The Lagoon’s Algae Has Anti-aging Properties
Clinical studies have proven the Blue Lagoon’s algae stimulates collagen renewal in the skin. Furthermore, it helps defend against sun damage by preventing the breakdown of said collagen. If you’re ever lucky enough to visit the Blue Lagoon Research & Development center (which isn’t open to the public), you’ll see they raise their own algae in evenly lit, gently circulating tubes of water.
“[Our] algae is cultivated through the geothermal seawater—a natural occurring resource originating from 2,000 meters within the volcanic earth,” says Brynjolfsdottir. “And it contains no external additives.”
That makes it an ideal ingredient to apply anywhere on the body—but especially on the face. The brand’s Algae Mask is nourishing and moisturizing. You can use it after a deep-cleaning mud mask, if you want to reinvigorate cleansed, dried skin with these pro-collagen, anti-aging benefits. However, it’s also a good standalone mask if you have overly dry or sensitive skin, since it’ll hydrate and smooth while preventing wrinkles and fine lines.
Its Silica Preserves Moisture
Silica is a mineral compound found in the Blue Lagoon, and is perhaps its most buzzed-about element. Silica strengthens the skin’s barrier function, meaning it helps lock in moisture and keep out toxins. This, in turn, ensures a youthful, firm complexion, and also slows signs of aging.
When you visit the lagoon, you’ll likely do a mud mask mid-soak—you’ve probably seen photos of guests soaking in the blue haze with white clay smeared all over their face. You can buy a made-for-home variation of this, which is also rich in silica.
“It deep cleans the skin and reduces the visibility of pores,” says Brynjolfsdottir, noting the silica is hand-harvested from the Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater. (There’s a terrific Silica Body Scrub, too.)
Lava rock can be used to exfoliate
The Blue Lagoon sits on a lava field, as does pretty much all of Iceland. If you look out over the horizon, you see moss growing from the lava rock, and you even feel the rock underfoot as you wade through the lagoon. (It’s not sharp.)
The product engineers at the lagoon’s R&D center extracted some lava rock near their facility. They ground it into a fine powder and made it the central ingredient in their Lava Scrub. It’s a gentle exfoliant, since it’s been ground up so small. In addition to lifting dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, it stimulates blood flow and nutrient delivery, bringing healthier cells to the surface of the skin, so you have fewer breakouts and dark spots.
All of The Blue Lagoon’s ingredients and products are made sustainably
Because Iceland sits on a volcano field, it runs entirely on geothermal energy. This gives the country a huge advantage in sustainable production. The Blue Lagoon leads the way not just in skincare innovation.
“Sustainability is echoed through every dimension of our company’s ongoing evolution,” says Brynjolfsdottir.
They rely on renewable electrical energy to fuel Blue Lagoon facilities, including LAVA Restaurant, Silica Hotel, the R&D Center, and the Retreat at Blue Lagoon. They even recycle the CO2 that pumps out of their production center. This means that green methods have been employed to create any of those products you apply to your body, all the way down to the algae, silica, and minerals within.