While it may not be as big as K-beauty or have the je ne sais quoi of French, German beauty has a long, rich history and deserves some attention, too. And everything you need to know about German beauty can be summed up with one phrase: government subsidized spa days. Yes, you read that correctly. The German healthcare system — free for all citizens — covers wellness treatments.
Of course there's more to it than that, but it's all about the spa — and German spa culture goes back thousands of years. Because of its natural hot springs, the town of Baden Baden has been a destination for bathing and self-care since the second century BC, and it continues to be a hotspot for "health tourism" today. As you can imagine, along with spa treatments comes a bounty of body and skin-care products.
The OG (Original German) Beauty Brands
My own German grandmother (who is often confused for my mother) swears by the iconic Nivea Creme ($15) — the one that looks like a blue hockey puck. It's been around for 100 years and is having a bit of a resurgence thanks to slugging on TikTok and a general love of all things retro.
Image Source: Nivea / Weleda / Dr. Haushka
Other classic German beauty brands include Dr. Hauschka, Weleda, and Kneipp. Don't they all have a similar vibe? That's because they have spa origin stories and have been around for many decades — even individual products, like the Weleda Skin Food ($17) and Dr. Hauschka Rose Day Cream ($45), have become iconic — and focus primarily on medicinal plants and sustainability. They've been doing the natural thing long before clean beauty was buzzy.
German Beauty Goes Luxe
Recently, German brands are kicking things up a notch. They're still focusing on the principles of sustainability and biodynamically farmed ingredients, but they're leaning into hard science with newer technologies and clinical studies. Packaging and positioning are more luxurious, and the spa experience is getting fancy instead of utilitarian.
Take Amala, for example. This German skin-care company has been in spas for over a decade but only recently became available to the rest of us. "Amala was once the best kept secret of the world's most exclusive spas and treatment centers," says Pav Völkert, the company's chief brand officer. "Upholding Germany's high standard for ingredients and sustainable practices, Amala formulas are crafted with a natural preservation system, cold-pressed raw ingredients, and first-pass oils." There's also a special pre-biotic complex that's unique to the brand.
When you use the Amala Advanced Firming Complex ($248), one of the signature products, it's easy to imagine you're at a high-end German spa getting the best facial of your life — not alone in your bathroom slapping on your face cream.
Image Source: Amala / Augustinus Bader / Dr. Barbara Sturm
German Doctor Brands
Meanwhile, other modern German brands are combining medical science with spa principles. Dr. Barbara Sturm is a German doctor who focuses on inflammation and orthopedics; she launched Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics in 2014 with a focus on healing the skin, in-office treatments, and sun protection (like with its Sun Drops ($145), shown here).
Similarly, Dr. Augustinus Bader is a German biomedical scientist and physician who developed his eponymous skin-care line based on patented wound-healing technology. Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream ($280) has a growing fanbase — and although it has a hefty price tag, it can replace many other steps in your routine.
What's Next for German Beauty Brands?
Watch this space because German beauty shows no signs of slowing down. Skin care is becoming more and more important to many of us, and highly effective yet responsibly sourced ingredients — something German brands do well — are where it's at.
Now, if we could just get some free spa days . . .