Since Susanne Kaufmann founded her skincare company in 2003, she’s built up the kind of cult following that other brands can only dream about. Of course, much of this is down to the kind of visible results that her products deliver (and, boy, do they deliver), but perhaps the most radical and intriguing part about her products is that they are not only designed to benefit the user’s well being on the outside, but also on the inside.
From the very start, Kaufmann envisaged her brand to be inherently holistic. Raised in the Bregenzerwald (an Alpine region at the easternmost tip of Austria where she still lives today) her brand is infused with a belief in the healing power of the great outdoors. I mean this quite literally: many of her products are created using botanical ingredients sourced from the local area. The result is a range that enhances both body and mind.
To celebrate the launch of her line here at Trunk Clothiers, we talk to Susanne Kaufmann about the thought behind her eponymous skincare brand, the mistakes to avoid for a truly great grooming routine, and what to do if you find yourself in her (Alpine) neck of the woods…
Interview by Nick Carvell | Images of Susanne by Torvioll Jashari
Where do you think your interest in skincare stemmed from?
I grew up in the idyllic Austrian Alpine region in the Bregenzerwald immersed in an understanding of the local traditions and the beauty and wellness benefits that could be found in the plants that grew in abundance in the area, which has served as my inspiration for the brand since launching in 2003. I first embraced the beauty and healing power of regional herbs and plants by my beloved grandmother — we made healing tonics, marigold cream and arnica schnapps. This is where I formed my passion and curiosity for skincare, natural healing ingredients and powerful formulations.
What motivated you to start your own skincare business?
I was brought up in a culture where taking care of your skin, hair and body was always of utmost importance. It has always been a part of my way of life to this day and carry these traditions, in my brand and in my own family to this day. This is where it all began.
What was the first product you launched - and is it still in your collection?
I first launched my brand with a curated range of 24 skin and body care products in 2003, including our much-loved Oil Bath for the Senses which is still one of our best sellers to this day.
What is the most popular product you make when it comes to men - and why do you think it’s gained such a following?
Our Regeneration Cream Line M is a firm favourite among our male customers. Men’s skin is around 20 per cent thicker than women’s and has a much higher oil content which means it calls for much deeper cleansing and care. With a particularly high concentration of natural, active ingredients and witch hazel our Regeneration Cream Line M cream provides an antioxidant effect whilst calming the skin, leaving it looking fresh and feels rejuvenated.
Being based in the Bregenzerwald, how does the local environment influence your products and your brand?
Since the brand’s conception, we have always championed local knowledge and production. The regional production, the sourcing of local partners and the longstanding cooperation with our suppliers gives us a big lead when it comes to sustainability and the implementation of our principles. Sustainability is a big part of your brand.
What aspect of the conversation around sustainability when it comes to grooming and skincare do you feel isn’t talked about enough?
For me, the term “clean” goes much further than the high-quality, natural, and effective ingredients. It should also encompass environmentally friendly production, sustainable packaging innovation, manufacturing processes and a deep respect for nature and people and as a brand these are principles we are deeply committed to. I can proudly say this has always been our philosophy. It’s always been about the entire picture.
Have you noticed any major changes in how men think about their skincare routines since you started your brand?
Rather than a limited ‘fuss free’ approach to skincare, men are now seeking out skincare to target their specific skin concerns to achieve the very best for their skin. From purchasing products that work to combat oily skin, experimenting with different ingredients such as Vitamin C to target hyperpigmentation or understanding how to prevent ingrown hairs post shave.
Have you found more men investigating skincare products as part of a more holistic approach to their wellbeing since the onset of the pandemic?
Skincare is moving more and more in a holistic direction. The perfect combination of exercise, nutrition, sleep and skincare contributes to long-term skin health. Now more than ever, in a post- pandemic world, men and women are taking the time to practise self-care with at-home treatments and rituals. We expect to see this trend continue and we’re excited to launch new products in 2022 that deliver holistic benefits for the skin.
Is there a common mistake men make in their skincare routines that could easily be fixed?
Looking particularly at men who shave, it is essential to prep the skin as part of your regime to prevent clogged pores, ingrown hairs, redness and irritation. Not only can shaving leave the skin hyper-sensitised, it also leaves it vulnerable to harmful environmental influences and bacteria. Men should be sure to properly prime the skin with our Cleansing Gel Line M with lukewarm water and follow with our gentle yet effective Enzyme Peel to gently exfoliate the skin to avoid ingrown hairs or bumps. Follow with the Shaving Cream Line M to your beard hair to help soften, making it easier to shave. A combination of witch hazel soothes the skin while camphor and menthol have an antibacterial effect. Lastly, lock in moisture with a hydrating cream from our Line M range.
Could you talk us through a straightforward morning skincare routine for men?
Every effective skincare routine begins with a thorough cleanse. Our Cleansing Gel Line M contains active ingredient compounds derived from soothing witch hazel and cockspur hawthorn for a nourishing cleanse, deep into the pores. For a deep double cleanse, use the Tonic Soothing to tone the skin to remove any leftover dirt particles and other impurities. Then apply your eye care, our best-selling Eye Cream Line A contains the powerful active ectoin and works to regenerate the sensitive under-eye area, while adding moisture for firm, bright eyes. As the last step, lock in moisture with the Moisturising Gel Line M, which contains hydrating ingredients derived from apples as well as the natural cell protection factor ectoin.
You also own the Hotel Post Bezau wellness retreat, one of the most desirable spas in the world. What motivated you to get into the hospitality game?
The family hotel has always been a huge part of my life and when I took over in the 1990s, one of my initial projects was to develop a spa where I decided to create my own in-house spa product line to support the service – transforming the hotel into a wellness retreat. Adopting the same natural, regional, and sustainable values as the hotel itself, that I so strongly believe in.
If we were to find ourselves in the Bregenzerwald for 48 hours, what are some of the things you’d suggest we should see and do? Obviously, we’ll be staying overnight at your hotel…
The Bregenzerwald is my main source of inspiration and home to where it all began. You can take in the panoramic views of the Bregenzerwald from the window of a Bezau Cable Car or taste the very best of local cuisine in Schönenbach, a beautiful village where you get to experience all the seasons. There is also the Werkraum Haus Bregenzerwald located in the Bregenz Forest. They hold themed exhibitions focusing on the culture of the craftsmen’s trades and architecture.
What is your life philosophy?
I have always had the utmost respect for nature, our people and our planet, which is reflected as part of our brand ethos. Kindness, sustainability and respect for all – these are the values I live by in my daily life.