Iceland's Blue Lagoon Heals Skin?
THE LAGOON HAS HEALING POWERS?
The story goes that a gentleman by the name of Valur Margeirsson, had severe psoriasis (think eczema but more severe). However, during his time working with the mineral-rich water at the Iceland Power Station, his skin greatly improved. After noticing this, he bathed in the waters multiple times a day and he reaped great skin results.
It doesn’t quite say what those results were, but I was intrigued enough to still fly over to Iceland to take a dip…
With my recent trip to the blue lagoon, a few people asked me, ‘is the Blue Lagoon worth traveling to Iceland for? How does it improve skin?’
I honestly couldn’t quite explain what the waters did and whether or not it would work for their skin concerns.
I think it’s important to be honest, even when hyping an experience would be much easier.
Luckily, I found a paper from a group of researchers who did an experiment to explain how the waters improve skin and what skin ailments would benefit most.
A GROUP OF RESEARCHERS TEST THE WATERS OF THE BLUE LAGOON FOR BIOACTIVES
Here’s what they tested.
The sun (specifically, UVA rays) activates the production of enzymes that break down collagen structures. It is believed that the blue lagoon waters help reduce sun damage by inhibiting the production of those enzymes that break down of collagen structures. It is also believed that the blue lagoon waters helps improve the skin’s barrier thus preventing transepidermal water loss from the skin (think water loss from the skin due to evaporation).
The goal was to test to see if the waters could help reduce skin sun damage and/or moisture loss. If the waters could do this you could say the waters help treat dry skin, eczema and even have anti-aging benefits!
OKAY, HOW DID THEY PREPARE THE TEST?
The researchers prepared extracts from silica mud and two micro-algae species sourced from the Blue Lagoon waters and treated human skin cells in vitro (‘in glass’ - think petri dish) and in vivo (‘in living’) with 20 healthy human volunteers.
IN VITRO TESTING
For in vitro testing, the researchers topically treated samples of human skin cells with the prepared extracts or vitamin E and then exposed the skin cells (treated and untreated) to a dose of UVA radiation. They then monitored the concentration of enzymes that breakdown collagen. This was done to determine if the blue lagoon extracts prevented/reduced sun damage through inhibiting the production of enzymes that break down skin structures, like collagen. They also monitored the concentration of natural moisturizing factors - components of your natural skin barrier that help enable the skin to retain moisture.
IN VITRO TESTING RESULTS
In vitro testing showed an increase in skin cell differentiation which led to the release of more skin moisturizing factors. In addition, when treated skin cells were exposed to UVA rays, the amount of enzymes that break down collagen in the skin was significantly reduced in comparison to untreated skin cells. The reduction in enzymes that break down collagen was also greater for skin cells treated with blue lagoon microalgae extracts extracts than skin cells treated with vitamin E.
Surprisingly, genes that involve collagen production were also expressed more in skin cells treated with the blue lagoon microalgae extracts.
(These are all good signs but remember in vitro means these skin cells are tested separately in a petri dish so these results do not necessarily mean skin cells in the body will behave like this. This is why it is important to look at packaging and check to see if the clinical trials were tested in vivo (‘in living’). In vitro results are not necessarily realized in the human body.)
IN VIVO TESTING
For in vivo testing the researchers exposed UVA rays to the skin located on the forearm and buttocks of volunteers, to control sun exposure to the area. I chuckle a little at this because they literally tested where the sun don’t shine, LOL!
The volunteers were composed of eight females and twelve males with ages ranging from 18 to 71 years old. Their skin types ranged from Fitzpatrick type I - IV. No dietary supplements were used during the study. Small sample size but they were trying; again the only article I could find.
All volunteers were treated once daily with UVA rays for one month on the buttock areas. One area of the buttock was treated topically with the prepared blue lagoon extracts each day, while the other site was left untreated for comparison. An area on the forearm was also treated with blue lagoon extracts daily for one month and daily water loss measurements were collected. For comparison, another untreated area on the forearm was measured for water loss as well.
IN VIVO TESTING RESULTS
In comparison to the untreated forearm area, the forearm area treated with blue lagoon extracts showed a significant reduction in transepidermal water loss. In addition, it was confirmed that the results found in vitro were also observed during in vivo testing (increased concentration of moisturizing factors and collagen gene expression).
WHAT DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
The waters of the blue lagoon, more specifically the algae and silica mud, does help prevent transepidermal water loss. Products containing extracts from the blue lagoon may improve the skin’s barrier and help the skin retain more moisture. This could prevent premature fine lines and wrinkles. In addition the products could help aid in anti-aging due to its collagen upregulation abilities.
great for dry skin, anti-aging, psoriasis and eczema.
All though the sample size is small it’s good to know there was some variety, you can at least say their findings should apply to 18 to 71 year olds.
No darker skin types were tested, so the data does not confirm whether or not there’s significant sun damage protection for darker skin type. I’d assume so since UVA rays penetrate deeper layers of the skin and are known to contribute more to aging than burning.
Lastly, the research was partially funded by the Blue Lagoon research department so do what you will with that information.
SHOULD I GO TO THE BLUE LAGOON?
I would’ve said yes regardless because it was a beautiful place. The Blue Lagoon Silica Mud Mask is one of my favorite deep cleansing masks now since it doesn’t dry my skin out. I purchased one for myself & my mom while in Iceland.
The Girl Behind The Skinny
Hadgraft, Jonathan, and Majella E. Lane. “Transepidermal Water Loss and Skin Site: A Hypothesis.” International Journal of Pharmaceutics, vol. 373, no. 1-2, 2009, pp. 1–3., doi:10.1016/j.ijpharm.2009.02.007.
Grether-Beck, Susanne, et al. “Bioactive Molecules from the Blue Lagoon:in Vitroandin Vivoassessment of Silica Mud and Microalgae Extracts for Their Effects on Skin Barrier Function and Prevention of Skin Ageing.” Experimental Dermatology, vol. 17, no. 9, 2008, pp. 771–779., doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2007.00693.x.