†It’s like we’re on another planet.”
Those were some of the first words that came out of my mouth when I arrived at The Retreat, a unique spa on Iceland’s Blue Lagoon. It was just before sunrise—which doesn’t happen until well past 8am during the winter months—and the lagoon was emitting an eerie otherworldly glow. Coupled with the otherworldly-looking lava fields that characterize Iceland’s topography, I might as well have been on Mars than on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic.
The Blue Lagoon is one of those places that seems to have been made for Instagram, but the thousands of photos of it you’ve probably seen on your feed (right now #bluelagoon has 1.3 million posts) don’t even come close to justice do with the landscape. The lagoon, which is technically man-made, was formed in 1976 when a geothermal power plant opened nearby and started depositing its superheated, mineral-infused water into the surrounding lava fields (oddly, not as scary as it sounds IRL ). Understandably, people have taken note of the very warm, very blue pools, and decided to test – literally – the waters.
The lagoon is packed with sulfur, silica and blue-green algae, among other minerals, which makes it such a skin savior (which is also why the water looks so bluish). Researchers in the 1990s found that the lagoon provided great relief for psoriasis — so much so that there is now a psoriatic treatment center on the property — and a 2008 study found that “the bioactive compounds in Blue Lagoon have the ability to enhance skin barrier function.” and to prevent premature skin aging”, and that bathing in the lagoon is associated with a significant reduction in transepidermal water loss.
While some of these elements have been used in the Blue Lagoon’s eponymous skincare line (which is readily available to those of us who do not happens to live within driving distance of Iceland), their full effect can really only be experienced by soaking in the steaming water. So when the team at The Retreat offered to host me at their new lagoon spa so I could see (and feel it) for myself, I packed my coziest sweaters into a carry-on bag and hopped on a flight to Iceland.
Testing the waters at The Retreat at The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon has been open to the public since 1987 — and you can now buy a day pass for between $58 and $82, depending on what kind of experience you want — but The Retreat’s launch last April marked the first-ever luxury resort. in the area. The property features 62 suites, some of which even have their own private lagoons (all of which have a private pool). to die for view), but the real draw is the spa. Guests get access to a private lagoon complete with a window for in-water drinks, plus a number of different treatments such as facials and massages that somehow integrate the mineral-rich water.
I spent three blissful days experiencing what the spa had to offer. On my first morning at The Retreat, my eyes blurry and jet lagged, I dove into the cerulean pool for an in-water massage. I floated on a foam bed while a woman oiled me, and I reached the kind of meditative state that I always assumed was never possible for someone with my anxiety levels. It was like having an out-of-body experience—like being in a sensory deprivation tank, but without the claustrophobia that ruined it for me the one time I tried.
Next came the Retreat’s signature facial, which featured several products from the Blue Lagoon skincare line, including the Silica Mud Mask ($115) for deeply clean skin; The Algae Mask ($115) to nourish my complexion; and the Rich Rejuvenating Cream ($160) to keep my face hydrated. After that, my complexion looked better than since I was well before I graduated and started #adulting. l did manage to put some of the products in my bag, and they really provide equally impressive results, even in NYC.
And finally there was ‘The Ritual’. Located in The Retreat Spa, the experience takes the active ingredients from the Blue Lagoon and transforms them into, well, a ritual. First, I scrubbed my entire face and body with stimulating minerals, which sloughed off the dead skin and left a smooth surface in place. Then I covered myself from head to toe with the Silica Mud Mask, which cleansed and firms the fresh skin that had come to the surface. Finally, I wrapped myself in an algae mask, which has anti-aging and skin-protective properties that help reduce collagen breakdown. At the end of the experience, I smeared myself with algae oil that can best be described as “liquid gold.”
After all the luxury, the skin on my body felt like expensive silk, and radiated a kind of divine glow (my hair, though… not so much, because silica and highlights definitely Do not to blend). But the most memorable part of my experience at the Blue Lagoon did not happen during a treatment or at the hands of a therapist. On my penultimate night at The Retreat, I decided to take a dip in the lagoon at midnight. It was pouring, it was freezing and it was windy, and I was the… nothing but person in the whole place – I felt like I was living in a Natasha Beddingfield video as I literally felt the rain on my skin, which was softer and more radiant than it had been in years. Evidence:
Iceland isn’t the only distant country worth visiting for a beautiful bath – here are 7 other places worth visiting for their bathing rituals. And if you can’t fly, you should still consider adding Icelandic beauty products to your arsenal.