Nordic Beauty: What’s Their Secret?

Nordic Beauty: What’s Their Secret?

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Pernille Sporon-Boving, a Danish artist based in State College, Penn., has never done anything special to take care of her skin. She doesn’t use expensive creams, she doesn’t get facials and she doesn’t wear any makeup.And yet in her mid-40s, she needs no enhancing. The skin on her face is tight and glowing, with enviable smoothness and sheen. She is fit and healthy and a living example of the no-frills approach to beauty that’s common to almost all Scandinavian and Nordic women, from Copenhagen to Reykjavik, and from Stockhlom to Helsinki.

Theirs is a seemingly effortless and natural look that’s admired and coveted by women the world over. But ask an expert like Annica Joensuu, head of the Swedish Organization of Skin Therapy (Sveriges Hudterapeuters Riksorganisation), a trade association for beauty schools and skin therapists in Sweden, what the secret is, and she’ll laughingly chalk it up to just a thick moisturizer and “good genes.”Those good genes, though, are bolstered and perpetuated by two key ingredients: a healthy diet and an active, on-the-go-lifestyle, both of which contribute greatly to natural beauty and are just a part of life in the Nordic region.

MORE: The Best Foods For Your Skin

It’s true: Although many women in the Nordic region arguably make a conscious choice not to be bogged down by the trappings of beauty—makeup, hair products and skin care regimes that require time and effort—their day-to-day lives in a part of the world where winters are long and hard just don’t afford them the time and the space for excessive pampering, Joensuu says.“We’re lucky not to get sun most of the year here, so our skins are not exposed as much to its harshness,” she says, but in a region where the winters are tough and long, where the balance between comfort and discomfort is tenuous at best, the primary focus is on “getting out and getting on with things by embracing nature and integrating it into our lives.”

And that means applying a thick moisturizer on the face, bundling up in layers of warm clothing and grabbing a pair of skis, a sled or a bike (yes, even when it’s snowing) and heading out the door, no matter the cold and the dark. “Sitting here now, I can’t imagine just how much I did outside,” says Sporon-Boving, who has lived in Denmark, Norway and Greenland. “I had two small kids and I dragged them everywhere with me in the coldest of weather. That just wouldn’t happen here in the U.S., and if I think back it seems crazy, but that’s just the way of life over there and you get used to it. You even start to enjoy it.”

There’s little doubt that living an active, outdoorsy life—particularly in the winter—does wonders for the metabolism by quickly burning unwanted fat. But taking a Nordic winter by the horns and reaping its benefits is not for the faint of heart, and it requires, above all else, a strong body. That’s why healthy eating is all-important in that part of the world, and it’s so much a part of the culture that it requires no special effort at all. The typical Nordic diet is rich in fiber and bursting with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants found in a range of leafy and root vegetables like carrots, beets, rutabagas and artichokes, all of which are everyday fare, Joensuu says. All those nutrients do wonders for the skin and body. For instance, vitamin A in carrots helps skin cells renew themselves and the surprisingly high vitamin C content in rutabagas (also known as Swedish turnips) is shown to prevent wrinkles.

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