If there's one thing I have learned in my job as a London-based beauty editor, it's that our approach to skincare here in the UK is wildly different to elsewhere in Europe. Take, for example, in France, where dermatologists are in abundance and skincare is science-led, affordable, and easily accessible. In fact, the French approach to skincare is renowned for being the gold standard, and this is something that, up until very recently, I have always agreed with.
But at the end of last year, I found myself visiting Stockholm for the first time, and I genuinely couldn't believe what I saw. It's no exaggeration when I say that everyone I saw had some of the healthiest and glowiest skin I had ever seen. Women and men alike were radiating their ways down streets, like pure visions of health and wealth. I was, frankly, blown away by the local glow. And it's not that I didn't have an idea that this might have been the case; it's just that I assumed the idea all Scandi women had great skin was a stereotype—but it's not.
And this confused me. In terms of weather, England and Sweden are not worlds apart. Much like the UK, Scandinavian countries have few hours of daylight, their winters last most of the year, and locals have to spend most of their time outside battling beating winds. So what's going so wrong with my skin? During the 24 hours I was in Stockholm, I made it my mission to unearth their skin secrets. Here are the three very simple things they do that we don't (and the best products for the job).
1. Know What Works
This is perhaps one of the most important things that I think we UK women get wrong when shopping for skincare in general—we always buy into marketing claims. "Expectations are more reasonable amongst the Scandinavian shopper," says Lars Fredriksson, founder of Swedish skincare brand Verso. "For instance, a good moisturiser will likely sell well here, but a cellulite cream wouldn't. Why? Because it doesn't work."
A crucial thing that Scandi women consider when buying skincare (and something Scandi brands champion too) is genuine honesty. "It's about understanding that most people might see results from their skincare, but not everyone. It's similar to how drugs don't work for everyone. If someone takes paracetamol, it might not work, and skincare is the same. The mentality is about knowing what ingredients work rather than jumping on the wagon of the latest hype," he adds.
2. Less Is More
A key component to the success of French skincare routines too, Scandi skincare regimens embrace a less-is-more attitude, and it's key to success. "Think of Scandinavian skincare as the total opposite of 10-step Korean routines. We are limited, and less is always more," says Fredriksson.
However, in a different way to French skincare, the reason for Scandinavia's less-is-more approach is down to time rather than a low-effort mentality. "Everyone loves to be pampered, but very few can do it every day or every week. Our lifestyles are hectic, so we like easy-to-use products that keep our skin in good health. There is a less-is-more approach to everything, including ingredients, application, and even how many products we use—that's the Scandi way," he adds.
3. Invest in What Works
Above everything I learned about Scandi life while I was visiting Stockholm, this tip is most prominent. Buying less and buying better appears to be a way of life. Walk down just one street in Stockholm and you will see that everyone is immaculately dressed in long-lasting, high-end staples. "If you look at Scandi fashion, people aren't wearing the latest thing. We just know what works, and then we fine tune it. It's the same with skincare," reveals Fredriksson.
While in the UK, we lap up affordable buys as much as our purse strings allow for and have overflowing skincare shelves, in Scandinavia, things are more refined. "Unlike in other areas of Europe, like France, we don't have access to a huge amount of dermatologists. If you want to see a dermatologist for something besides severe eczema or psoriasis, they're very expensive," he adds. And this is something I think we in the UK can relate to—getting any sort of medical help for skin concerns can be tricky. The point of difference? "This is the reason that the Scandi consumer invests in products that actually work. We're far more prepared to spend money on good-quality products because we don't have easy access to dermatologists."
Shop The Best Scandi Skincare Brands:
Born in Stockholm, Verso is probably one of the most iconic Scandi skin brands out there. The products champion the most effective and proven skincare ingredients, including retinol, niacinamide, and vitamin C. The packaging is understated, chic and self-explanatory, and there's no need for complex routines. This product is a game changer. Using ground-breaking science, the brand created an entirely new molecule made up of both vitamin A (retinol) and vitamin B3 (niacinamide) to deliver the skin-smoothing, glow-boosting results of retinol with just a fraction of the irritation risk.
This was the first product I ever used from Verso, and it has remained one of my favourite cleansers in existence. Formulated with salicylic acid, it provides one of the deepest cleanses I've ever experienced without any of the typical dryness, tackling blackheads, breakouts, and oiliness while it works.
Another one of my favourite skincare products of all time, this serum is more than just a basic hydrator. Sure, it delivers essential hydration to keep dry skin happy, but it also contains niacinamide to help rebuild the skin barrier and shrink the appearance of pores. I'd feel lost if I didn't have a bottle on the shelf.
Straight out of Finland, Lumene is up there with one of the most-loved niche skincare brands around. Drawing on the power of nature in some of the world's most untouched corners, Lumene products are nothing short of perfection. This vitamin C serum, for instance, has been a hit in the Who What Wear office for years. It leaves skin looking fresh, glowing, and full of life.
If you're after a quenching moisturiser that doesn't leave skin feeling or looking greasy, this is it. Like dipping your face into clear arctic waters, it is one of the most refreshing and naturally glow-boosting products I've ever used.
Ideal for winter use, this serum might feel light to the touch, but it is packed with moisture and nourishment. When skin is feeling irritated, red, dry and angry, this stuff will sort it out.
Always ahead when it comes to skincare tech, Swedish brand Foreo delivers clinically proven and genuinely effective devices. This cleansing brush uses T-sonic pulses to massage skin and offer a truly deep clean without causing any major disruption to the skin barrier. Link it up with a high-tech app and you can use it as a cleansing brush or a facial massager with settings that cater specifically to your skin.
Microcurrent devices like this one are adored by beauty editors and skin experts far and wide. Using T-sonic pulsations, it massages muscles around the face for a lifted, sculpted finish.
Again using the brand's iconic T-sonic pulsations, this facial massager also utilises LED technology to help rejuvenate skin and aid repair. Used in conjunction with one of the brand's masks, the UFO is a real treat.
Did you know the eye area is 3-5 times thinner than the rest of your skin? This travel-sized massager vibrates and pulsates over the eye area to help with drainage, circulation and the elimination of toxins. A firmer, less puffy eye area incoming.
4. Björk & Berries
Björk & Berries was perhaps one of the first Scandi skin brands I ever used. Again, created in Sweden, it champions some of nature's most impressive (and calming) skincare ingredients. This clay-based, gel cleanser delivers a deep, unclogging cleanse that leaves skin feeling very well loved.
Another winner of a vitamin C serum, from the first moment you apply this skin looks plump, hydrated, and beaming with health.
The perfect example of how Scandi women like to streamline their skincare with products that just work, this daily moisturiser is jam-packed with proven, skin-loving vitamins. Think hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump, vitamin B3 to aid barrier function, vitamin C for antioxidant protection and boosted radiance, vitamin E for souped-up nourishment, and vitamin B6 to help regulate oil production—it's an absolute winner.
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Promo image: @ANNEJOHANNSEN
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.
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