Question: can a beauty trend exist nowadays if it doesn’t have a single letter descriptor? Because in the last few years, we’ve seen K-beauty, J-beauty, C-beauty and now, by all accounts, G-beauty is on the up. And if you’re already confused, that’s Korean, Japanese, Chinese and German beauty.
So, what’s so new about German beauty? Well, in short, absolutely nothing – and that’s kinda the point – Germany and its German-speaking neighbours Austria and Switzerland have long championed the natural, sustainable, no-nasties and no-nonsense approach to personal care and, in today’s clean-obsessed, eco-friendly, transparency-driven world, that’s a good thing. Which is why the country’s homegrown brands are under the spotlight on the global stage.
Indeed, sales of cult Swiss-German brand Weleda were up 19 percent in the US last year, according to a report published in the New York Times, quoting Rob Keen, CEO of Weleda North America. And G-beauty brands as a whole saw 13 percent growth, tracking slightly above the US’ wider natural beauty category.
That’s impressive given beauty sales growth in Germany hovers regularly in the low single digits (rising 2.4 percent to €17 billion in 2018, according to Euromonitor). In the US, at least, the growing popularity of German beauty products is attributed to the more stringent regulatory framework in place in Germany. Clean beauty fans have tired of the FDA’s extremely lax approach to policing beauty products and have turned to Germany, where some 1,000 ingredients are banned versus the 11 outlawed in the US, as the answer.
But that framework isn’t unique to G-beauty – it’s EU-wide, so why is G-beauty stealing a march on Italy, France and the rest? The answer is in the (admittedly stereotypical) German reputation for efficiency and efficacy. The category as a whole screams ‘proven and effective’ thanks to the perception of German-made standing for quality – be it a car or a skin care product.
And that reputation for ‘proven’ has fuelled the rise of a slew of doctor brands in the last couple of decades. Bader, Dr Barbara Sturm and Dr Timm Golueke’s Royal Fern have all built huge fanbases on the back of their science-based approach.
“German beauty is known for science-backed, clean formulas that deliver highly effective results,” Marla Beck, Co-founder and CEO of Bluemercury told the New York Times.
And even in the wider context of the ‘science bit’ we’re regularly treated to in marketing spiels building cynicism among consumers, the fact that these are no Instagram-fuelled flashes in the pan helps build trust too – many of the biggest German brands have stood the test of time – Weleda and Dr Hauschka aren’t far off their centenaries. And although many of the big G-beauty brands were founded decades ago, their consistent focus on skin health, rather than a beauty ideal is so very 2019, chiming with the wider ‘F your beauty standards’ movement.
“People no longer expect a miracle in a bottle as they once did. People want to look like a healthier, happier version of themselves,” Dr Timm Golueke told Vogue.
In sum, while the clean beauty movement can certainly be credited with the increased interest in German-made, the category’s growing popularity is about more than its no-nasties approach; a distinct lack of hype and gimmickry is the real attraction here.