As Iceland Emerges on the Skincare Horizon, One Brand Grows


Dotted with steaming geysers, Iceland is now erupting as the hottest destination for skincare. And one brand seems to lead the boom.

Cut off from the rest of the world and shrouded in Nordic chill, Iceland boasts natural purity that translates into skincare. Local brands tap a platitude of marine and volcanic enzymes, seaweeds and minerals that spawn from the island’s unique climate.

Bioeffect, however, is taking an ingenious route amid Iceland’s innovative landscape of skincare solutions. It is a brand that counts Karl Lagerfeld as a fealty customer. The designer recently opened up his beauty cabinet for Paris Vogue to reveal his penchant for Bioeffect.

It is no surprise that style and beauty umpire like Lagerfeld would trust Bioeffect. Launched in 2010, the science-based company blends human and plant biology to create some potent formulas. The premise is quite simple – nurture human growth factors in barley, grown in volcanic rock.

"You can accumulate the proteins in the grains, harvest them, and purify them with no contaminants and no negative effect on the proteins in a pristine environment," said Einar Mäntylä, Bioeffect cofounder, for Shape. "By applying them to the skin in a carefully developed formulation, they help the skin renew itself again, so it becomes more youthful."

Tiny proteins that populate the skin, growth factors serve as conduits for shooting signals to cells and spurring their development. Through its barley-based replicas of human growth factors, Bioeffect taps into their ability to transmit cell-to-cell communication, creating a skincare line like no other.

The label serums – like the inaugural Bioeffect Serum – do not absorb in the skin but rather stick on its surface. This rather odd – and perhaps discomforting – intricacy stems from the size of the growth factors. They are up to 15 times too large to penetrate the pores of the skin.

Rather than a bane, this peculiarity bears the way growth factors  work. Instead of doing the heavy lifting, growth factors order cells what to do. Thus, it is not about the messenger, but the message.

As the brand is reaping attention and cultivating a loyal clientele, its products – from its serums to a volcanic exfoliator to a day cream – remain hitched to high sticker prices, despite Bioeffect’s efforts to keep its line affordable. It is the cost of growth factors – a single gram can range between $90,000 and $225,000 – that keeps the bar high.