We speak to Daniel Collins, Founder of Forest Spa Finland and skincare expert, on how to look after your skin this Christmas

You’ve had a long-standing career in skincare. Tell us a little bit about your beauty background… 

I have been in the beauty industry for 30 years, working for some of the big well-known brands. I have been lucky that my job has taken me to a lot of global markets and I spent several years working across Asia, Europe and the Middle East/ India/ Africa. It really helped me to learn so much about different skins and what beauty clients expect from brands and products. All of this actually really guided me when I was creating our brand and products, because I recognised that apart from cultural and skin tone differences, on the whole everyone wants the same thing… just for their skin to be at its best.

How do you think the skincare industry has changed over the last decade?

I see the biggest shift being in the beauty consumer; they no longer want brands to be selling them dreams. There were a few years of us all being dazzled by percentages and technologies that ultimately were marketing jargon. One thing the global pandemic helped us all with was to think more about what we are buying and using, thus the lean towards nature and wellness taking centre stage; things we see as more reliable and trustworthy. I really believe our priorities have changed and that’s why you see brands being much more focused on product ingredients, sustainability and health – both ours and the planets’.

What would you say has the biggest impact on your skin health?

For me it’s stress.. and believe it or not it took me years to realise it. Being someone that has travelled a lot and worked in very busy jobs, I always found that when I was low it showed in my skin and redness, pores, dehydration and even discolourations were the result. It was only when I started working with a health brand that I recognised that this unbalanced internal rhythm was the root cause – mostly triggered by stress. 

How important is the role of nature on your skin?

There are two ways to look at it. The importance of doing the right thing internally, to begin with, as natural remedies can help skin so much if you can deal with what causes your body to react. Nature can provide us with amazing ingredients that are sources of skin wellness and have been used throughout time as homoeopathic remedies. Then topically for skin, natural ingredients will generally be more favourable to the skin, and you can source most of what your skin needs from nature, it’s just understanding what your needs are! It’s also important to note that some skins can react to ingredients that are natural, so again it’s good to recognise what your needs are and focus on those. Don’t overdo it!

What is your connection with Finland and why does it serve as the inspiration for your brand?

I have been travelling to Finland for over 25 years with my Finnish husband, and I really cherish our time there. Our family has a small summer cottage on a lake in the north of the country, and it’s right in the forest. So our trips up there are all about time in nature, to breathe, recenter and reflect on life, and of course plenty of time in the old wooden sauna and jumping in the cold lake! I have also discovered the potent natural foods in the region; we handpick the wild bilberries at the cottage and you see that Finns really use all of the natural ingredients in their daily diets, from pine bark to birch sap, there is a real focus on the health benefits of these powerful superfoods. So, of course, they all feature in our products.

It was this approach to how Finns combat stress and revitalize themselves at every opportunity that inspired the brand. I want to bring a little dose of the Nordic forest into people’s daily lives at home – even if you don’t have a wooden sauna!

Can you name some Finnish wellness or beauty rituals you can’t live without?

The best for me is the sauna. It is proven that hot/cold therapies are known to improve cardiovascular health so the concept of going from a steaming hot sauna straight into a chilly lake actually has significant benefits for stress reduction and improving circulation. Very simple things that will keep skin and bodies healthy and glowing. 

Another favourite is the use of the young birch leaves, bunched together to whip over the skin in the sauna. It may sound strange but the birch leaves are full of natural antioxidants and antibacterial properties so they really soothe and improve skin tone.

They say that Finns always have one foot in the forest, and I believe this is why they have been awarded ‘happiest country on the planet’ for the past three years running. This strong connection to spending time in nature has a very positive impact on their well-being.

What are adaptogens and why are they important?

Adaptogens are a group of natural plants that are known to be able to survive and often thrive in very harsh conditions. They have been used in the Nordic region for centuries as homoeopathic remedies, to help people living in extreme conditions; think endless daylit summers and long dark freezing winters. Because these species can adapt and cope with stress in order to survive it is believed (and studied) that they can also support our bodies to adapt to stress. We all know that stress can cause hormonal fluctuations in the body which can have a real impact on our well-being, and cause many skin concerns and reactions. Adaptogens actively restore homeostatic balance thus combating these reactions and their impact. 

The adaptogens we choose for our products are also notable as some of the highest recorded natural sources of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which is a further boost and support for skin wellness.

How important is sustainability to your brand?

Sustainability is at the heart of our brand mission, and it drives our decision-making. We are working with some amazing suppliers who are making a real impact through their practices.

Our biggest goal at Forest Spa Finland is to minimize waste and make good choices in what we do, our shipping boxes are made in a zero-carbon emission factory, and our supplement jars are fully biodegradable; so these are some examples of how we try and bring sustainability into different aspects of the business. It’s honestly one of the most challenging things we do, but we learn so much and we meet amazing people who are really doing great things, so we take great pride in it.

Christmas is a lovely time, but also can be stressful, how can we protect our skin?

Don’t get stressed! I think Christmas can be a really challenging time for many of us, so it’s important to give your skin a little extra boost. Supplements are a great help and can give you the extra dose of what you might be lacking, as well as keeping stress at bay. Our Nordic Adaptogen Supplements boost your mood and energy levels as well as brighten and support skin from the inside, so are a great choice for the festive season!

What is a daily health habit you can’t live without?

I have a few, but my top two are; fasting – I follow the 16-8 method which really helps my gut health and makes me more energised, and secondly hot yoga- which just completely keeps me feeling grounded and also revitalised… I am totally hooked!

What’s on your wishlist this Christmas?

I would be very happy with a holiday, is it too early to be yearning for some sunshine? 

Do you limit how much alcohol you drink because of the negative impacts on your skin? 

I do think the extra alcohol at this time of year can impact skin health; for me, it shows up in redness and dehydration! I have recently discovered CBD drinks as an alternative to alcohol, and I am really loving TRIP drinks. The flavours are delicious and they feel like a relaxing drink.

Is there anything we can be adding to our diets this Christmas to help bolster our skin?

I really advocate trying to boost your salad and vegetable intake as much as possible to keep your skin healthy, it’s a simple approach but does really help. The other one I have been drinking a lot is kefir; when our eating and drinking are a little more indulgent a good quality kefir will help to keep the gut in check and this really helps overall wellness – so a great skin booster. I order mine from a farm (Hill Farm Real Food)- it’s very effective

Birch water can also be a fantastic natural hydrator for our skin and bodies; it’s very well known in Scandinavia; I like TAPPED organic birch water from Finland!

Do you think it is important to get out in nature this Christmas? Do you prioritise it?

I think it’s important to keep us feeling active in general. I have two schnauzers so walking is not optional,  we head to the park or the woods for hours at this time of year. When there is so much pressure around Christmas and so much indulgence we need it more than ever. Just the fresh air and a bit of time to re-energise will have a lasting effect and keep you feeling centred. You can always take a leaf out of the Finns book and take a dip in cold water if you are feeling brave and in need of a real boost – it’s the best hangover cure!!

What is your skin routine?

Honestly, my skin routine is quite minimal. I try to really listen to how my skin feels and just what I need. I keep some products for occasional use rather than being too routine-focused.  This was actually my priority when developing our products, I wanted to create products that work for all skins and are multi-functional, just focusing on skin wellness as a way to brighten, support and protect the skin. It’s why the inside-out approach is so effective. I always start the day with our Nordic Adaptogen Supplements (3 caps) then I have a couple of cleansers I like (cream-based and gel), which I choose based on how my skin feels each day. I love using a treatment lotion, Aesop Parsley Seed is my current favourite, then it’s about half a dropper full of our Nordic Adaptogen Serum and deeply inhaling the forest scent for a little rebalancing moment, I also add an extra drop on targeted areas like blackheads to really smooth and brighten. Then Moisturise if I feel like I need it; our serum has birch saps a base and sea buckthorn oil so it’s quite hydrating already – I have a few moisturisers I rotate between based on the season and how my skin feels. I can’t live without an eye cream so that’s daily, I always forget to use masks so I like a good Glycolic pad (Malin and Goetz) once a week that is quick and super effective.

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