Both Susanne Kaufmann and the eponymous skincare brand she launched in 2003 are inextricably tied to the land they come from: the Bregenzer Forest in the heart of the Austrian Alps. The wooded valley remains to this day a beacon of everything beautiful about the region: trees soar lush and green in the warmer months and are dusted with snow each and every winter. The air is crisp and inviting in a way that seems synonymous with these unspoiled pockets of mountainous Europe. The alpine custodians are arranged into small villages imbued with a spirit of traditional artisanship – ways of living passed down from generation to generation, as old as the trees themselves and each flourishing in harmony.
What one has to remember is that Susanne Kaufmann launched her range of products in 2003, pioneering a commitment to natural ingredients long before much of the world began to take an interest in such qualities. “It was quite hard in the beginning,” says Susanne. “It took a long time to convince people that you can do, for example, anti-ageing with a natural cosmetic. People didn’t believe as much in natural ingredients as they did in chemicals.” Whilst stressing that natural cosmetics still only make up a small percentage of the global market (“around 10 or 12 per cent”) she acknowledges that things have come a long way over the past 13 years and is broadly optimistic that this will only improve. “It’s much more of a ‘lifestyle’ now – people care about what they eat, what they drink and how they use cosmetics. People are so much better informed about ingredients than they were in the beginning… I hope that people become more and more aware of everything!” This growth in understanding is reflected in the trajectory of the brand: starting as a purely in-house product at the family hotel and spa, Susanne’s products are now stocked globally, from boutiques and department stores in Asia to luxury retailers such as Net-A-Porter.
Whilst the wider world may still be in the ‘education’ phase for the most part, focusing on local Alpine ingredients for Kaufmann was (if you’ll excuse the unintentional pun) the most natural thing in the world. “I grew up with the fresh air and the cheese from the farmer nearby. People like this, they come to Bregenzer because they want the meat, they want to drink water out of a tap – it is not fancy, it’s natural and authentic. For me, it was clear that if I was going to grow my cosmetic range then everything had to be from the region and it has to be natural. You know, the Chinese have rice and we have cheese! It’s the same way of thinking – we should use the things surround-ing us the most.”
At the same time, Kaufmann has recognised the importance of taking the best elements from ‘modern-day’ practices and combining them with the traditional sources and methods she grew up with – for example using chamomile but in the form of a cream. “What has always been very important for us is mixing the plants to make them more effective, to really bring the active ingredient into the skin. It had to be very effective, because you don’t want to buy a cream at a high price that doesn’t actually help with anything! Being natural yes, but also being effective – this was very important to us.” The equal emphasis on both quality and provenance means that an incredible amount of work goes into each individual Susanne Kaufmann product. Launching with just a hand cream, soap and bath oil, the range has expanded considerably since but Kaufmann and her small team still spend up to two and a half years developing each new addition. “First there is the idea, and then we meet with our dermatologists and producers to say: this is the form we want it to take (a lotion, say) and this is what we want it to do. He then sends us active ingredients and we check that they fit with our natural philosophy.” What follows is an intensive period of testing and re-testing. Once Kaufmann is satisfied with the new product, it then has to go through the wider security systems and tests that all skincare brands are subject to.
One senses that this can be a difficult experience, in part down to the very qualities that make Susanne Kaufmann products so special. “Natural cosmetics are similar to wine – the ingredients can change from year to year, so you have to check every product. You will never find that all the products are the same colour every year. I like that but for example, the anti-ageing line we are launching in September – that will be two and a half years since we began! With this one I said, it’s now or never…”
As we mentioned, Kaufmann’s skincare line works in tandem with her other main responsibility: proprietor of the family hotel and spa, which she took over in 1994, at the young age of 23. Like the products that she creates, her approach to the hotel is also a balancing act that places the natural wonders of Bregenzer at the fore whilst also accommodating the best of the modern world. “In the Seventies we only had a medical spa with an in-house doctor,” says Kaufmann. The modern spa has manicures, pedicures, facials and so on.” Again she begins to eulogise about her beloved Bregenzer and how more and more people are responding to its special qualities. One can’t help but think the words she uses to describe the environment also describe perfectly the qualities that make her skincare products so appealing: “You know, there is the ‘shiny’ luxury but this is not shiny – it’s in the details, the beautiful land, the good ingredients available and so on. That’s what certain people really love, not the luxury you necessarily see, but the experiences behind.”
By James Darton for Semaine.
Ever wondered what’s on Susanne’s finger tips?
The Queen’s Gambit
“The plot is great and the mise en scene is wonderful.”
“This is a vivid and compelling film about humanity, respect, and open mindedness.”
“Pamela Reif’s workout videos help to keep me active – her 40 min body shaping workout is great for keeping your body in shape.”
“This series covers many topics, mainly the story of Pablo Escobar, that are good for my Spanish knowledge.”
“Glenn Close gives a phenomenal performance in this movie.”
Every product in the Susanne Kaufmann line adheres rigorously to not only the philosophy of the brand but also the strictest of quality controls. “Each new product takes a minimum of half a year to develop - our new anti-ageing line that we’re bringing out in September has taken two and a half years!”
Hotel Post Bezau
Spanisch: Für den schnellen Durchblick
RC3 Skate 20/21
Herbal and Herbal Salts Mixtures
Hotel Post Bezau
A Year of Good Eating
Qi Gong Virtual Class
Hotel Post Bezau
Living next to her Alpine hotel means that Susanne sometimes also looks for slightly different qualities in her travel leisure time: “I love the Mediterranean in the summer-time: Sardinia, Kos… Good fish and every-thing is just fiiiiine.” Explore Susanne’s Europe, from the city to the mountains and back.
Rue du Nil
“Spend time browsing all the great little shops and find yourself in the Chocolaterie to enjoy a nice hot chocolate. We love this so much, we also serve it in the Café my son owns here in Bezau, Austria.”
São Lourenço do Barrocal
São Lourenço do Barrocal
“I am very proud that this beautiful hotel is home to one of our Susanne Kaufmann™ spas. Here you can really get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, relax and enjoy a spa treatment.”
Potsdamer Straße 81
“Andreas Murkudis is one of the big players in Berlin’s fashion scene, he is the pioneer of the German lifestyle story. If you can, talk to him and you will be so inspired!”
“Relax and enjoy the beautiful warm climate and vast, unique natural landscape. Not to mention the food and the good wine.”
“Situated in an area that many see as the birthplace of Alpine skiing, enjoy the wonderful food on the slopes.”
7514 Sils im Engadin/Segl
“ This place is iconic when it comes to hospitality and family heritage. If you get the chance to speak to Felix Dietrich, he will give you all the inspiring insider tips.”
“ You have to try the traditional Käsknöpfle (cheese dumplings) and the locally-loved Enzian schnapps. Enjoy it all with the beautiful scenery that surrounds you.”
Step into Susanne’s personal library.
The Little Prince
“ This was the first book my father gave to me, and therefore one very close to my heart.”
“ Frida Kahlo is an artist I admire, I love her work. This book captures her story and heritage.”
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
“ This book is all about the power of scent. It encouraged me to be very careful and selective when it came to the scent of the Susanne Kaufmann™ products.”
The Kite Runner
“ This is a beautifully crafted novel. It is all about friendship; it’s an incredible story.”
Inés of My Soul
“This is a historical novel by Chilean author Isabel Allende. The novel consists of an elderly Inés Suárez writing a memoir of her life. She talks about the hard conquest of Chile. The history of Chile is very fascinating to me.”
“More and more people are thinking: should I be eating this much meat? Where does my fish come from? People come to our hotel because they want the meat, they want to drink the water out of the tap…” You may not get to wake up every morning in the glorious alps like Susanne does but you can at least sample her detox routine below for a well-rounded sense of wellbeing.
“I start the day with a bowl of warm oat porridge with chia seeds”
“I’ll try to do an hour of outdoors exercise to take advantage of that crisp, early morning alpine air.”
“Mid-morning I’ll likely sip on a freshly squeezed vegetable juice with linseed oil to keep energy levels up.”
“I take my detox lunch in the hotel restaurant, which will be something along the lines of a frothy spinach soup with pommery mustard or amaranth with green beans, stalk celery & fresh herbs. I’ll follow this up with peppermint tea to offer symptomatic relief from indigestion and the common feeling of fullness.”
“If detoxing I’ll then head to the spa for the afternoon. I’ll start things off with the liver wrap, which promotes the circulation and detoxification of the liver and supports its functions. It is also relaxing and promotes healthy sleep.”
“”The Detox treatment then starts in full with a detox peeling that opens the channels of the dermis from which toxins can escape. Special elimination points are stimulated in order to promote the circulation of the tissue and the elimination of toxins. Firming pomegranate oil is massaged in. The subsequent detox massage is a combination of lymph drainage and tui na techniques to support the body’s elimination of toxins. It manipulates the energy flow and has a positive effect on the metabolism.”
“A detox dinner in the hotel restaurant might be something along the lines of vegetables from the farmer’s market with native olive oil and fresh herbs, or frothy pumpkin soup with pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed oil. I’ll follow this with an acid-alkalizing tea. This helps the body to find the correct acid-alkaline balance – The harmoniously matched herbs have been chosen to also be relaxing whilst strengthening the immune system.”
“Before bed, I’ll take a de-acidifying alkaline foot-bath. Then all that’s left is to sip on a cup of evening tea before going to sleep – it restores a sense of balance and inner calm after a busy day.”