The barren beauty of the Icelandic landscape caught me by surprise on my first visit a few weeks ago: lava fields covered in moss, volcanoes capped with glaciers, crystal-clear streams and wide patches of brilliant-blue lupins. Tiny wild birch trees stud the countryside, as do clumps of wild herbs, all bursting with the power they need to survive in this harsh environment. Such is the intense healing ability of the herbs and birch that it has been harnessed in a range of beauty products by Sóley Elíasdottír, a former actress who has embraced the tradition of her family – herbalists for 16 generations.
So impressed was I by Birkir, a hair-and-body cleanser with wild Icelandic birch (€25), and Lind Líkamskrem, a body lotion with wild Icelandic herbs (€30) – the Sóley Organics amenities in the bathroom at Ion, a new hotel and a showcase for all that is best about this northern island – that I asked the manager for information about the company. Iceland having such a small population meant that a few hours later I was meeting the woman behind the brand at her shop in a suburb of Reykjavik.
And how glad I was that I had gone there, because I found a whole range of items that were equally delicious, including three types of scented candle (example in second picture, €38), packaged in glass with a poem printed on the side. I fell for the one with the aroma of “rhubarb and longing”, whose poem, Residence, talks of yearning for a home on a bed of moss with a mountain sky above. It has a wonderfully sharp, fresh smell. I marvelled also at the Lind Sturtusápa shower gel (third picture, €23) and theEygló moisturiser with evening-primrose oil (first picture, €46).
For my hands, I took an organic cream with wild Icelandic herbs called Grædir (€24), meaning “healer”, which I found to be particularly effective. It was one of two products that launched the Sóley brand in 2007. The other was a balm called Kisstu Mig (€25) – “kiss me” – which prevents chapped lips and cold sores. Grædir’s instant success with adults with skin problems or burn scars, or babies with nappy rash, led Sóley to add to her line. Now it’s pretty extensive, ranging from an exfoliator with peppermint and wild Icelandic herbs (€33) to a facemask (€33) made with mineral-rich clay from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano (the one that stopped all our flights in their tracks in 2010).
Thanks especially to Hrein (€33), a lotion cleanser with evening primrose, and Nærð (€33), a soothing tonic splash with orange blossom, my morning and evening ablutions have been delightfully improved by the “wild, powerful and pure” (as Sóley calls her products) spirit of Iceland.