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deep into science

A conversation with…Ása Brynjólfsdóttir the director of R&D

If anyone personifies the deep connection between nature and science, it is Asa Brynjólfsdóttir, the director of the Blue Lagoon Research & Development Center, a post she’s held for nearly 30 years. 

“I have always been fascinated by the possibility of using nature for improved quality of life,” explains Brynjólfsdóttir, who oversees a team of scientists and engineers on the cutting edge of skincare research. We asked her about this work, how she got here, and what comes next in the world of BL+.

Tell us about your background.

I’ve have always had a very close connection to nature. I grew up in the countryside, in a small town in East Iceland. My parents were devoted to forestry—planting trees—and were, in hindsight, environmentally conscious. Not only did I spend a lot of time outdoors, but our diet was based on seasonal and locally sourced products. We grew our own vegetables. My grandmother and I picked wild herbs, for making tea, and the Icelandic moss, which was pervasive where we lived, was often included in our meals. Early on I learned about consuming with less waste, the rational use of nature, and the importance of taking more responsibility for our own health and our environment in order to improve our quality of life. My interest in using natural resources to enhance our quality of life led me to study pharmaceutical science at the University of Iceland. What has always interested me is how we can use science to implement natural resources in a sustainable way.

What brought you to the Blue Lagoon?

My first visit to the Blue Lagoon was in 1993. I was hosted by the medical doctor Grímur Sæmundssen, the founder and CEO of the Blue Lagoon Ltd., who was at the time part of a team conducting clinical studies concerning the effects of bathing in Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater on psoriasis. At that time, there was only a small bathhouse and a temporary research center, but he had a vision for a medical clinic for psoriasis patients based on bathing in geothermal seawater. His vision also entailed buildingup health tourism in Iceland using this unique natural resource. I felt an immediate connection to the project as it fit perfectly with my interest in using natural resources for improving quality of life.

Three decades later, you have helped build the state-of-the-art Blue Lagoon research center.

The Blue Lagoon has developed as a whole concept: medical treatments, wellness, skincare, tourism. It is a unique example of the multiple uses of geothermal resources for enhanced quality of life, and our Research and Development Center is at the heart of all our endeavors. Our work has proven to be pioneering as we adhere to the highest sustainability best practices in all our processes and is hopefully an inspiration to other Icelandic companies.

What do you do there?

I lead a team of scientists and experts from different fields—immunologists, dermatologists, cosmetic scientists, chemists, pharmacists, engineers—who have come together, each with their own specialty, to research the unique ecosystem of the Blue Lagoon and its effects on the skin. Examples of this include the effects of bathing in the water and sustainable harvesting methods of the bioactive ingredients—microalgae, silica, and the mineral-rich geothermal seawater. This research also leads to and influences the development of products.  

When we began our research on the Blue Lagoon water 30 years ago, we asked the question: What is in this water that is giving it these healing properties? Once we understood that the water contains unique bioactive ingredients, the next step was to find a way to harvest this bioactivity and then put it into formulations that can deliver this bioactive effect of the water. 

These discoveries resulted in a revolutionary new skincare line. Tell us about BL+ Skincare.

The foundation of BL+ Skincare is BL+ COMPLEX, a combination of microalgae extracts and silica encapsulated in a delivery system for optimized results. We created BL+ COMPLEX based on the patents and the research done with Krutmann’s team. When we discovered that the bioactive ingredients, microalgae and silica, we were harvesting at the Blue Lagoon had anti-aging properties, we designed BL+ COMPLEX specially to target signs of skin aging and to optimize skin health. BL+ COMPLEX supports the collagen levels and the strength and function of the skin barrier.
These findings were so interesting and so powerful that we decided to develop a whole line based on the groundbreaking BL+ COMPLEX, an ingredient that can be found exclusively in BL+ products.

Another aspect that distinguishes BL+ from other brands is the sustainable cultivation and harvesting methods you use to source the bioactives, microalgae and silica, in BL+ COMPLEX.

Yes, our carbon-capture method for cultivating Blue Lagoon microalgae embodies the highest principles of sustainability. We are extremely fortunate to have access to this rare natural resource and to be essentially embedded within the ecocycle of a geothermal resource park. Clean energy is in our DNA. The ecocycle, of which we are only one aspect, is a confirmation of our umbilical connection to the earth. 

What differences have you noticed in your skin since you started using the products?

We wanted BL+ to support healthy skin appearance, and I feel that we have succeeded. It keeps the skin’s hydration balanced, and you feel that the skin is firmer. You feel that your skin is more smooth, hydrated, and glowing. After cleansing in the morning, I apply the serum and a moisturizer. I love the serum’s lightweight texture, and using the serum alone in the evening is amazing. It’s such a clean feeling and makes my skin feel that it’s in perfect balance. But that is, of course, my personal experience of these formulas. I hope that everyone who uses it feels that it gives comfort to their skin as well as the healthy glow we’re looking for.

Finally, what’s your favorite thing about Iceland? 

Our connection to nature and our caring community. We are fortunate to have this beautiful, clean nature. We live in a peaceful, egalitarian country and a healthy life-work balance is a fundamental part of our happiness as a nation. Family life and work life do not compete with each other. They exist in harmony. All of these factors are important to me, not only as a director of R&D, but also as a mother of five.