PARIS, Aug 28 — Focus on Finland: Between the country’s young prime minister who isn’t afraid to hit the dance floor and numerous innovations, Finland may not make a lot of international headlines every day but it has originated a lot of unique practices. Let’s take a look at the favourite beauty routines and secrets of the country’s inhabitants. From sauna to avanto, through plant sap and wild berries... you’re going to want to try all these rituals that Finns are known for.

The sauna tradition

More than just a beauty ritual, sauna culture constitutes a true art of living in Finland, added by Unesco to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020. Its importance is such that there are now more than three million saunas for some 5.5 million inhabitants, both public and private. The social aspect, authenticity, tradition, and well-being are the key words associated with this nearly sacred space intended to cleanse the body and the soul, as well as foster relaxation. There is even a Finnish adjective, “saunanjälkeinen,” to express the utter state of serenity and well-being felt after this traditional ritual. It’s enough to make you want to practise it as regularly as our Finnish friends.

Of course, sauna culture has long been exported beyond the borders of Finland, but with some variations. The ‘real’ Finnish sauna requires some very specific techniques, which increase the benefits tenfold. It is practised in a traditional way in a wooden hut — although the cabins are now more modern — where you immerse yourself in a bath of dry heat, naked or in a bathing suit, with a temperature generally between 70 and 100°C. Relaxation, physical well-being, restorative sleep, stimulation of blood circulation, deep cleansing of the skin, and stress relief, are among the many benefits observed after regular sauna sessions.


The icy ritual of avanto

Many times a sauna session is followed by an ice bath in Finland. It’s not systematic, but this ritual is common in many Nordic countries. Ice swimming, or winter swimming, which is known as avanto — meaning ‘hole in the ice’ in Finnish — is an activity that the Finns consider beneficial for the skin, as well as for general health. And the advantage is that it doesn’t require much, except a bathing suit and good physical condition — it’s important not to take any risks. Considering the number of lakes and rivers in Finland, the rest is child’s play (tourists should inform themselves about it before taking the plunge).

With the benefits of cold already established, and various cold practices increasingly popular throughout the world, there is no doubt that avanto can give bodies a boost. In addition to having positive effects in terms of stress relief and well-being, as a Finnish study has shown, ice water baths stimulate blood circulation, strengthen the immune system, help recovery, and promote skin firmness and elasticity and radiance. If the Finns alternate between the sauna and ice bathing, sometimes in the middle of nature, it is because the shock between the temperatures reinforces all these benefits. A ritual that is beneficial for both body and soul.


Tree sap, herbs and wild berries

While natural ingredients are popular around the world, Finland, and the Nordic countries in general, have always been ahead of the game when it comes to natural beauty. Minimalist design, local active ingredients, and little to no makeup are commonplace in Finnish bathrooms. Not surprising considering that Finland is one of the countries most active in sustainable development, especially in food. This is a good reason to take a closer look at the essential ingredients that make up the Finnish beauty routine; an emphasis on well-being and a link between skin and health mean that these aspects are all inseparably intertwined.

Among the natural resources that contribute to beautiful Finnish skin are the sap of many local trees, mushrooms, certain herbs, and wild berries. Ingredients that many of us are not used to finding in our cosmetics — for the moment anyway. Many Finnish brands use their properties in their products, such as Lumene, which offers cosmetics based on pure arctic spring water, arctic blackberries, cranberries, and Nordic seaweeds, and Repolar Pharmaceuticals, which focuses on spruce resin to treat certain infections and burns, as well as acne. — ETX Studio