For Susanne Kaufmann, Clean Beauty Goes Beyond Ingredients

It's about being intentional, authentic, and true.

BEAUTY BOSS: Susanne Kaufmann
Photo: Courtesy Susanne Kaufmann

Founded in 2003, the Susanne Kaufmann brand started in the small town of Bezau, Austria and has since grown to become a global phenomenon. Of course, the name is representative of the powerhouse behind it — but what's surprising about her success is that she never meant to launch a skincare brand.

Kaufmann is a fifth-generation hotelier. Her great-great-grandfather founded a post office in Bezau where he eventually added a restaurant and rooms. Back then, people traveled by horse carriage, so this was a spot where travelers and horses could rest before carrying along. That same locale was then transformed into a hotel when her parents took over, and at 23, Kaufmann joined the family business. Then at 25, she became the owner of her family hotel, and transformed it into the renown Hotel Post by Susanne Kaufmann — then launched a global skincare brand while doing so.

Wellness and beauty have always appealed to Kaufmann — they're deeply personal to her. Growing up, she tells InStyle that her mother and grandmother had weekly rituals where they'd do things such as mix eggs and chamomile to rinse her long hair. Then, as an adult with children of her own, Kaufmann has continued to carry on those traditions with her family.

"During COVID-19, we would do spa afternoons since the spa was empty. I gave them some facials — I'm not a therapist, but we did it and it was very nice," she tells us of their time in lockdown. "The family regularly goes to the spa."

Kaufmann uses regional ingredients which speaks to the brand's commitment to sustainability and naturals, but it also makes it feel authentic in an industry that's overly-saturated.

In conversation with InStyle, Kaufmann shares how the brand was born, how she forged a path for clean beauty brands, and her tips for small business owners. Below, read our interview.

Why did you open a spa at your hotel?

I wanted to attract people to Bezau since it's not a famous location. I had to offer something attractive that wasn't seasonal or dependent on the weather. So, from my early days here, I started a little retreat. I laugh now because it was a facial, manicure, pedicure, body scrub, and then you got a tea — that was the retreat. Then, I found our doctor in Traditional Chinese Medicine and started to learn about food, facials, and this idea of holistic wellbeing. I wanted to do something more profound, so we started to introduce these concepts.It went very well and we saw huge success.

What inspired you to start formulating your own skincare products?

We started it in 2003, but the ideas was to find a brand for the spa. Back then, the natural beauty space wasn't so crowded but I couldn't find something luxurious for the spa. I got lucky and met our producer, and I talked to him about wanting to do something of our own. So, we started with 24 products for our spa — that's where our journey began.

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What were some of the challenges you faced while growing your brand?

It was convincing everybody that natural skincare can be efficient. When I started, retailers were like "your bath and body oil are nice, but I'm aging and natural ingredients don't work." It was challenging because now people know they work and are just as efficient as 'norma' ingredients. Back then, natural wasn't normal. We had to convince people. We did tests and got results from laboratories so that we could prove the efficacy.

Every brand defines 'clean' differently, so how does your brand define clean beauty?

It's definitely not just about ingredients. We always wanted to make the best for our customer — but also for the planet. This is in our DNA. It was always clear to me that we wanted to be clean in a lot of ways. From the beginning, we had clean ingredients, they were safe for humans, safe for the environment. This is all 100% solar powered. Then, of course, clean packaging. We were one of the first to put everything in glass. And then for me, clean goes beyond [that]. It's also about marketing, traveling — do you take the train if possible? Of course, probably the most important thing is if you're clean in how you treat people. Do you treat your staff to paid holidays? Your customers, are you honest with them? Your retailers, are you good partners? For me, a company is clean if this all comes together. it's just about being responsible.

When did it hit you that your brand had made it?

It was eight years ago when I went to Hong Kong to visit a retail partner. We arrived and they brought us to the first shop and I saw this wall of Susanne Kaufmann products. I was like, "Is that really our product here in Hong Kong?" I was really overwhelmed. It was so massive because she had all these products displayed — it wasn't just on a shelf. That was the moment where I thought this could become global.

What's the best piece of advice you can give to aspiring Beauty Bosses?

It's very important that you follow your path, your DNA. Trust in yourself and then keep going. And don't follow trends — you have to set the trends, not follow them.

Shop Susanne Kaufmann products:

01 of 04

Boosting Liquid Mask

susanne kaufmann interview
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Powered by local botanicals and Swiss apple stem cells — which are known not to wrinkle — just 15 minutes of wearing this mask will replenish your skin's radiance. Paired with red algae extract and hyaluronic acid, it also targets visible signs of aging by plumping the skin and improving its elasticity.

02 of 04

Toning Body Serum

susanne kaufmann interview
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Developed to tighten and firm the skin, the cocktail of caffeine, tiger grass, and boldo break down fat cells and stimulates the body's lymphatic system. The silky texture quickly absorbs into the skin, and a little goes a long way, too.

03 of 04

Enzyme Exfoliator

susanne kaufmann interview
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Remove dead skin cells and calm the skin with this gentle exfoliator. Using fruit extracts such as apple, papaya, and kiwi, just 15 minutes of this face mask once a week will reveal a smoother complexion. And yes, it's gentle enough that even the most sensitive of skin types can use it.

04 of 04

Eye Rescue Serum

susanne kaufmann interview
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Tired eyes, be gone! This formula is packed with plumping caffeine to reduce the appearance of dark circles and puffiness. It also uses antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, and hawthorn flower extract to hydrate and smooth the area. Plus, we love that the rollerball applicator allows for on-the-go application.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.

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