Iceland: Anti-Ageing through Fire and Ice

Iceland: Anti-Ageing through Fire and Ice

While the cosmetic industry loves to bombard men and women with the supposed secrets to eternal youth through chemical by-products, many cultures around the world have time-honored traditions that are far more effective than an expensive face-scrub or cream. From hot-spring baths, to steady tea-drinking habits, and more, there are hundreds of all-natural ways to combat signs of age.

Scandinavia, in particular, seems to be something out of a fairy tale with its beautiful landscapes and beautiful, healthy people. As a fan of fantasy novels, I know that many authors draw their inspiration from Scandinavia’s mythology and lore, as well as its jagged peaks and glaciers–and of course, from the diverse people and cultures that call Scandinavia their home.

With such history, it’s no mystery why many authors turn to Scandinavia for ideas on how people may have lived centuries ago. In fact, many of Scandinavia’s oldest traditions–the sort of practices that then inspire some of our favorite fantasy-story elements–are actually still lovingly practiced to this day, and are key to an all-natural anti-ageing routine.

When looking at Iceland’s fantastic natural scenery, it is easy to see how people have drawn inspiration from the beautiful surroundings.

Scandinavia has vitality embedded in its culture. For instance, the sauna is a favorite of many Scandinavian cultures (And features in many “bathing” scenes depicted in fantasy novels). These “sweat-baths” are well loved for their healing and cleansing properties.

Iceland

The Finns especially love the sauna and attribute their endurance and longevity to the tradition. The soothing, dry heat of the sauna cleanses the skin, flushes out toxins, relaxes muscles and ultimately induces a soothing, calm feeling thanks to the warmth.

A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE

Similarly, hot-spring bathing in Iceland is enjoyed for very similar reasons. Despite the name, Iceland not only sports numerous glaciers, but it is a center for geothermic activity. This dynamic mix of elements creates a number of interesting water sources, such as geysers and hot-springs. It’s not difficult to imagine an Icelandic fantasy landscape with these interrupting spouts of mist.

These hot springs, which range from boiling hot to comfortable, have been a fixture in Icelandic culture for centuries; they were once used for cleaning clothes, and cooking with hot spring water is a fixture in Iceland’s culinary history.

With the land being a constant throughout the development of the Icelandic culture, it’s easy to become jealous of the Icelandic people. For although the people and society may grow and change, they are based in what an outsider could easily call a fantastical surrounding atmosphere. Today, Iceland’s hot springs still prove to be popular with locals and tourists alike for bathing.

The water from hot springs is loaded with minerals that have positive, therapeutic effects. For example, these springs are usually loaded with sulfur—a mineral that naturally occurs near hot springs and volcanic craters—which helps cleanse the skin! A soak in these mineral-rich waters will leave you feeling clean and rejuvenated—and without the guilt of an expensive price tag or other, harmful chemicals.

Plus, hot spring bathing can be another fun social activity. Many of Iceland’s hot springs can only be reached by hiking, so adventurous travelers can enjoy a beautiful trek through Iceland, or even a tour of local villages, before taking a much-deserved dip in these natural, geothermal pools.

Iceland’s unique geothermal hot springs are very rich in minerals. Bathing in them has become part of the Icelandic culture, as well as being a large attraction for international visitors.

In sharp contrast to the soothing warmth of a hot spring is another Icelandic anti-ageing tradition: ice bathing.

ice bath

The ice bath is fairly simple—a plunge into cold water that takes your breath away for just a moment, before that is hopefully followed up by a nice, warm retreat into a sauna (for more details, see our previous article here). This dive into frozen waters really puts into perspective how tough the Vikings of Scandinavia must have been.

Although you won’t see many ironclad civilians walking around the Scandinavian streets, the fact that they still observe this cultural tradition tells you one of two things the Scandinavians strictly observe cultural rituals for tradition’s sake, or there actually are health benefits tied to ice bathing.

Ideally this contrast of ice and fire should revitalize and energize as you rush back and forth (if possible) from hot to cold, again and again, with the extremes in temperature testing your endurance. The ice bath benefits the mind as much as it helps cleanse the body; by the way, your pores will thank you for the rush of hot to cold—the heat opens up your pores while the sheer cold will tighten them.

Scandinavians young and old alike continue to enjoy these rich cultural traditions, which have evolved from a necessity, into a favorite social activity—with the added benefit of natural anti-ageing properties.

Skeptics of these “all-natural” Scandinavian anti-ageing techniques may find a more palatable regimen in Thorbjorg’s 10 Years Younger in 10 Weeks, which stresses that alternative and natural lifestyles are the ultimate keys to revitalizing youth. However, for those with an adventurous side who want to try a natural anti-ageing solution—why not consider visiting Iceland to take a rejuvenating plunge in ice and fire?