STORY BY SARA SCHWARTZ ✷ PHOTOGRAPHS BY JONAS JUNGBLUT
Nestled in the Austrian Alps, the Hotel Post Bezau by Susanne Kaufmann exudes a calming serenity. The postcard-perfect views definitely help, seen through tall windows that are framed with aged wood to blend with the natural backdrop.
For decades, guests have flocked to this elegant hotel, escaping their daily lives and blissfully decompressing. After all, it’s difficult to stay stressed in the historical village of Bezau in Vorarlberg, Austria. Deep in the Bregenzerwald valley, the rolling hills are lush in the warm months and snow-ready for skiers in the winter.
Susanne Kaufmann grew up immersed in this beauty. In 1994, she took over the family hotel at the age of 23, making her the fifth generation to hold the reins. A world of possibilities swirled before her as she asked herself: “What am I going to focus on for the next 20 years?”
At the time, the Hotel Post Bezau and its adjacent spa had no doubt helped to heal many. Since the 1970s, spa treatments were offered, but those leaned more “medical,” Kaufmann notes. “I wanted to focus on spa treatments that would attract people to come to Bezau. It wasn’t like today, where every hotel has a spa.”
Upgrading to a more holistic spa inspired by the region’s natural gifts worked. “People were really attracted to having a little four-day retreat with a facial and a massage,” she says.
While she found that guests adored the spa, the space itself needed a facelift—it was outdated and small. Kaufmann worked with her brother, architect Oskar Kaufmann, to completely renovate the area in 2003, designing it to be a modern wellness destination, one that incorporates a sunlight-filled atrium enveloped by nature.
The next step was an obvious one to Kaufmann—offer a natural cosmetic line, one that honored Bregenzerwald. Her requirements laser-focused; she wanted it to be effective, functional, sensitive, luxurious, and based in Austria. When she couldn’t find a suitable one, someone mentioned Ingo Metzler.
A former farmer and cheese-maker, Metzler had found success in 1992 working with a chemist friend to create a rich range of skin and body care products that incorporated whey, a byproduct from cheese-making that he happened to have a lot of. It’s also full of minerals and vitamins. Over three decades, Metzler had become somewhat of a pioneer in producing natural products. He and Kaufmann hit it off immediately. “Instead of getting another brand, I was lucky enough to find a producer,” Kaufmann says.
Metzler, Kaufmann, and developer Josef Waldner got to work, starting by sourcing ingredients from the region. Kaufmann wanted clean products, produced using Metzler’s knowledge of technology and research. They focused on simple combinations that worked well together. “I was very lucky to meet those guys,” she says. “I didn’t want to do a cosmetic line that was just natural. For me, it was very important that it was also very effective.”
One way that Kaufmann’s line stands out is in how it’s made. By using cold-press extraction—an environmentally friendly method that requires only low temperatures and no solvents—the plant extracts retain their properties, keeping active ingredients, well, active. As a result, her products are high-quality, apply evenly, and absorb easily. Her cosmetic line doesn’t use parabens, mineral oils, phthalates, synthetic dyes or fragrances, gluten, fillers, binders, sulfates, or silicones. Often up to 5 percent of an active ingredient is present—the most allowed, notes Kaufmann.
“The combination of high-quality ingredients and scientific research makes the effect and compatibility one of a kind,” Kaufmann says. “Sometimes we compare this with haute cuisine—even the best chef will not win a Michelin star with low-quality ingredients.”
In 2003, Kaufmann launched the Susanne Kaufmann product line—24 plant-based cosmetic products. Available initially only at the hotel, it quickly gained a devoted following. Guests loved her products and clamored for more. The demand went beyond the spa—shops began inquiring about distribution. She realized she needed to expand the line and got to work, again.
“Now we have over a hundred products,” she says, including masks, eye care, lip care, anti-aging creams and serums, exfoliators, cleansers, and moisturizers. Customers can choose areas of concerns to be guided toward products. Certain products—for instance the popular T Line—is geared toward sensitive skin.
The drive to create her own line came, well, naturally to Kaufmann. Her grandmothers—like many others in the region—collected herbs, plants, and berries to make their own tonics, tinctures, and salves. That healing wisdom is part of her heritage. “This is a very old tradition in the Bregenzerwald, that women make their own products,” Kaufmann says. “Nowadays, you will still go into anyone’s house and you will find a homemade marigold cream or St. John’s Wort.”
Indeed, those plants are found in some of her products today. The marigold extract in the Foot Cream Warming nourishes, and along with menthol, camphor, rosemary, thyme, and sage, has a relaxing effect—perfect to apply right before going to sleep. In the St. John’s Wort Bath, delicate bath crystals deliver the zen, creating a smooth sensation on the skin. “St. John’s Wort is also one of my favorites,” says Kaufmann. “This is also something that we grew up with. Whenever you had an injury, you always got this oil. And so I thought it would be nice as well to have one for clients outside of Bregenzerwald.”
Each product is carefully derived to deliver on expectations. The Oil Bath for the Senses contains ylang-ylang, patchouli, and lavender essential oils–all working together to rejuvenate. A rosemary sprig floats artfully inside the bottle, adding its own energizing properties.
“Sometimes we compare this with haute cuisine even the best chef will not win a Michelin star with low-quality ingredients.”
Sometimes what you see in the product was taken quite literally from outside the hotel. “It was always something I was really impressed with, because if you now look at medicine or cosmetics—the ideas designed to heal something—most of the time they come from nature,” she says. “When we need pine for the pine [sprig] in the Winter Oil Bath for the Senses, [Metzler] goes to his forest and cuts the pine.”
With all these plant-based ingredients, it’s only fitting that each product’s fragrance is subtle, nuanced. “For me it’s important that it has a nice smell, but it shouldn’t stay too long,” Kaufmann says. “You put it on, you smell it, but then it goes away.”
This dedication to nature doesn’t end with the ingredients. Hotel guests can tour the solar-powered production facility 15 minutes away from the hotel, where Metlzer or Kaufmann pull back the curtain. It’s this authentic transparency that Kaufmann relishes. “At least once a week we bring people to the place and show them where it’s produced,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘Oh, this is the show production,’ and I’ll say, no, no, this is the real production.”
Another distinction of the Susanne Kaufman line is that every product is housed in glass—a bold move in a world of plastic and a very intentional one. “I didn’t want to put it in plastic,” Kaufmann says. “People at the beginning said to me, ‘No one will use the cosmetics because it’s in glass. It’s not nice in the bathroom.’ But I said, ‘OK, for me, it’s glass.’ The point of respecting nature was very strong in our philosophy from the beginning.”
Glass is 100 percent recyclable and can be recycled over and over, never losing its integrity. She says that other companies have tried to mimic her success but stop short when they dive deeper into her processes. “When they see the expensive ingredients we use, they give up. Same with our packaging,” she notes. “We believe in glass as a clean and recyclable material, but of course shipping is more complicated and expensive.”
This dedication to preserve and honor the earth was never a question for this team. “For me and for Ingo, it’s a very idealistic approach. We really want to make the best product without harming the planet,” Kaufmann says. “It’s been this way for 15 years and it’s never changed. We learned from our parents and our grandparents, to really respect the nature, because the nature gives us so much.”
And just like the glass panes at Hotel Post Bezau allow the beauty of nature in, Kaufmann wanted her brand to be housed in bottles that showed off the purity of what’s inside while also looking good on a shelf. “The most important thing in the philosophy I would say, besides being natural and not using chemicals, is also the idea of having a very chic brand,” she says. “I wanted that it be natural but that it really looks good in your bathroom.”
A simple white label surrounds each bottle. Every detail of her line, down to the bird logo, is delicate and purposeful. The bird is a tribute to her husband, jazz musician Alfred Vogel. “My husband’s name is Vogel, which means bird in German,” she says. “We already had a child when we started the line, so we thought that the name should not only reference Susanne, but also birds.”
That thoughtfulness radiates. Each product has to look good, smell good, but most of all, it needs to work. “If you take a day cream and it doesn’t help the skin, you won’t buy it anymore,” she says. “The effectiveness of the product is very important.”
Kaufmann points to a favorite product, the super-charged Eye Cream Line A. It contains ectoine, a natural amino acid that delays skin aging. Bioflavonoids fight free radicals. White lupine stimulates collagen and elderberry reduces inflammation around the eyes.
“Every product has a very special intention,” she says. “This was always my philosophy.”
Where To Buy
Find retailers and online sellers at susannekaufmann.com