“Sometimes beautiful things are born from struggle,” says beauty maven Sarah Kugelman. Her own pursuit of health and wellness led her to the pristine shores of one of the world’s most beautiful and untouched landscapes. It was here that skyn ICELAND was born.

How did you get started in the beauty industry? I think I was born a beauty junkie, so when I was getting out of business school with a concentration in marketing (and background in retailing), I went aggressively after every program/job at a beauty company I could find. I ended up landing at L’Oreal, which is a tough environment but an exceptional training ground for establishing yourself in the beauty industry. I was there for a couple of years and learned the ropes. I then moved onto a marketing position at Bath and Body Works, from there I went to Banana Republic to run their fragrance and body care business and then started my first company which I ultimately sold to The Estee Lauder Companies. I then spent a few years in management before starting skyn ICELAND. Although I think I was always an entrepreneur at heart, I needed to get an education in beauty and feel like I had built a solid foundation before going out on my own.   

Why Iceland? During the time that I was researching the connection between stress and skin, I traveled to Iceland as part of my lifelong quest to find and explore healthy, “green” places. I completely fell in love with the country, the culture and the pure, unspoiled nature. I was amazed at how beautiful everyone’s skin was and started thinking, ‘What are they using that makes their skin look so flawless?’ I realized it was the incredible, natural, mineral-rich glacial waters that Icelanders bathe in everyday. Now we incorporate those waters into each and every one of our products. Now that I’ve traveled there quite extensively and spent a great deal of time experiencing the wonders of Icelandic nature, I learned, that there is a short growing season in Iceland (because it is dark for half the year). That combined with mineral-rich, volcanic soil, produces some of the world’s most potent botanicals and herbs. Not to mention the amazing algae and kelp from the Arctic waters. I incorporate many of those natural ingredients into skyn ICELAND’s products, and I am always searching for new ones! I find it amazing and inspiring that the people there are all so environmentally conscious—they are the first country to use thermal and hydrogen power—and have a long history of living off the land and using botanicals/herbs for all types of health issues and imbalances.   

What ingredients does skyn ICELAND use that differentiates itself from other products on the market? I focus on specific symptoms and attributes of stressed skin, and then I develop products with specific ingredients/technologies that address those problems. We have special antioxidants that address free radicals created when we’re stressed. I use adaptogens that are certain herbs proven to bolster the immune system of skin that’s attacked by stress. I use potent/natural anti-inflammatories that reduce irritation associated with stress, special peptides that make skin ‘happy’ by releasing endorphins on the skin, and more. Lately, I’m into extremophiles; these are ingredients that grow in very cold climates but thrive. They develop certain enzymes to help them acclimate, and these enzymes can work miracles on the skin. I seek out unique potent naturals and new technologies that specifically address the type of damage stress inflicts on the skin.

Why are these ingredients important? These ingredients are important because they work. And at the end of the day, it’s all about performance for me. Do the products really work? Do they do what they say they are going to do? I’ve been unyielding in my standards to create high-performance formulas, and I am proud to say that we have thousands of customer testimonials that support how well our products work.   

What has been the most exciting part of your journey with the skyn ICELAND? The most exciting has been to see the brand thrive and become successful despite the long journey and rabid competitive landscape. It’s very hard to rise above the fray in this industry, and there are very few independent brands that do. We only hear the success stories, we don’t hear about all of the brands that struggle and fail. To be living my dream and succeeding at it, is no better reward. The icing on the cake is that I get to help women look better, feel better and live healthier lives, that gives me a tremendous amount of gratification and makes me feel like I am doing something worthwhile every day.   

What exciting developments do you have planned for 2015? We are going to be launching an arctic face oil in the fall that I am extremely excited about. It’s a completely new and innovative technology. We are also launching a new eye treatment into our assortment, as we are known for our eye products, I think this is going to be highly anticipated and the product is great so I look forward to the reception! Plus, we are going to be expanding our distribution all over the country this summer. Finally, our loyal clients who have been dedicated users for years will be able to find us in their home towns. I am over the moon about that.