True blue beauty: Aussie brands talk business

What does it mean to be Australian? Certainly our nationalists carry a notoriety around the rest of the globe - dinky dis have a reputation for being laid-back, hard-working, and (perhaps the label hardest to shake) always ready for a good time.

But it seems we’re even more popular when it comes to business, with Aussie made and owned beauty products taking pride of place in bathroom cupboards from Singapore to Seattle. But what exactly is it that defines an Australian beauty brand? BD chats to a handful of leading brands about how their Down Under origin has influenced them, from practise to purpose, and how they are perceived at market.

Oz + the marketplace
Australia’s beauty scene has now emerged as an innovative, unique marketplace. And the land’s beauty brands are gaining traction both within the national market, as well as outside in the global sphere. A De Lorenzo brand representative says the beauty industry in Oz is only going from strength to strength thanks to a glowing global reputation: “I think the Australian beauty market is perceived as booming. Many of its forerunners are still privately owned brands, and subsequently carving a niche for themselves in the beauty world. Australian [brands] have been hailed as the ones to watch when it comes to innovation in the beauty market. Overseas consumers are looking to Australian shores for our beauty products, coupled with a desire to buy the safe, reliable and regulated products.”

Synergie Skin founder Terri Vinson agrees: “International markets have a high regard for Australian products. We are seen as clean, safe and ethically produced. Many international consumers, particularly the Asian market, strongly believe that Australian made is synonymous with quality and purity.” The brand claims the reputation of the nation is so strong that the ‘Australian Made’ logo is a key selling point of the brand, particularly for international clients. It's a notion echoed by Lucy Robinson - brand manager for and A'kin - who says: "Being an Australian brand gives a lot of credibility, particularly with overseas customers who are looking for Australian products they see as being superior."

Why are we so successfully dominating a marketplace that is physically so far away from our isolated island home? Well CEO Shelley Barrett believes “Australia’s reputation for being innovative and successful” is the result of “a hard work ethic, and a desire to succeed and conquer [it].” Napoleon Perdis Cosmetics founder and creative director Napoleon Perdis deliberates that this ambition is most likely the result of an underdog mentality amongst Australians, explaining: “As opposed to many other global brands, [the] most successful Australian beauty brands began as small start-ups, rather than cosmetic empires passed down through the generations.”

Distinct identity
Australia has a distinct national identity -  a notoriety for being laid-back, and rather tough. It’s the result of our convict past, extreme weather patterns, and remarkable flora and fauna - the latter of which is often utilised in ingredients lists that create products that really stand out in market. It’s inspired the products of Aussie beauty brands with De Lorenzo's Bridget Bajada explaining that ‘outback spirit’ is at the forefront of their creations. Senior brand manager Christina Diamond of INIKA Organic comments: “Australia in itself is known to have some of the most beautiful flora and fauna worldwide” which is a selling point both locally and internationally. Alpha-H is one of many other brands that embrace the unique native ingredients available, saying: “Australia’s unique biodiversity also provide a plethora of locally sourced ingredients.”

Kosmea founder Marie Kapetanakis attributes Australian flora use as one of the key reasons why Aussie beauty brands are proving so popular, commenting: “Australia has earned a deserved reputation as a quality supplier to the beauty and health sectors worldwide and is recognised as a good source for cosmetics, skincare and health products, particularly in the natural and organic skincare categories. Australia’s botanical ingredients and extracts containing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from native fruits and plants such as kakadu plum, grass lily, quandong and tea tree are becoming increasingly well known.”

Nature lovers
The Aussie embrace of health and wellbeing extends far beyond the food pantry - Australians, over other nations, place particular value on natural ingredients in beauty. Bajada comments: “The Aussie beauty market is definitely focusing on organic, natural and vegan products compared to what we are seeing overseas. Offshore, there is more of a focus on more high-tech focused formulas.” Nutrimetics agrees, with marketing manager Fion So saying: “The Australian beauty market is simultaneously heavily-influenced and yet independent. As a nation, Australians prize a look that is fit, healthy and natural, with Elle Macpherson, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman and Megan Gale named as some of Australia’s most beautiful women.”

Diamond confirms that this influences the buying habits of the nation who favour organic and natural: “Australians tend to be a lot more health conscious and inquisitive. Customers want to know what goes into the products that they purchase as well as having the opportunity to try a plethora of products.” ’s Chloe Simpson explains the trend as: “Consumers are becoming more aware of what is in products with a preference for more natural solutions.”

Robinson believes that Australia in particular is leading the way when it comes to natural beauty, commenting: "The natural market in particular is now dominating the Australian beauty space and has one of the highest rates globally. [We are] definitely up thereas one of the leading markets globally, specifically with natural skincare - I would align Australia with the UK and the US in terms of best in class practice."

Slip, slop, slap
Our renowned sunny skies coupled with an embrace of an outdoors lifestyle has awarded Australian companies with a reputation for being the best in the world when it comes to both sun protection and eliminating sun damage. “80 per cent of facial ageing is caused by the sun. And Australians experience the worst sun damage in the world. So it’s natural that Australian skincare scientists and dermatologists know more about skin ageing than anywhere else in the world,” says founder Richard Parker.

Alpha-H's Michelle Doherty explains that our experience under the sun, coupled with high standards makes Oz an expert: "Australia is also the best place in the world to formulate an SPF sunscreen because of the strict guidelines we have to adhere to and TGA approval. Alpha-H’s award-winning Protection Plus Daily SPF 50+ is one of our bestselling products globally."

ModelCo is one of many brands that have been inspired by summer weather when it comes to product creation, with Barrett explaining: “Our Aussie sunny climate has also been an influence on my product creations. I was inspired to launch the ModelCo self-tanning products specifically for women who wanted the glowing, bronzed look of a tan but without the damaging Australian sun exposure to their skin.”

Great expectations
What else are Australian companies renowned for? Vinson explains: “Australian made products and the standards used to produce cosmetics and skincare are of the highest level. We also tend to be more focused on visible results rather than seasonal gimmicks.” Perdis agrees, commenting: “Anyone with a top and bottom lip can bring out a lipstick, and anyone with eyelashes can release a line of false eyelashes, but beauty industry regulations in Australia are much stricter than overseas, protecting the consumer. We’re also very conscious and cautious about the claims we make about our products to avoid becoming misleading.”

Australian regulatory bodies are stringent in their expectations for brands, with Diamond commenting: “Australian brands appeal to consumers because they are synonymous with high quality and strict regulatory requirements. Australian products go through rigorous checks and certifications so that consumers can be sure they are always investing in quality products.” It’s a notion Kapetanakis agrees with: “Our governing bodies on the regulation of our skincare and organic market are quite strict so this makes the quality of products much higher than overseas products.”

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie
A patriotic support network has also helped boost the Aussie beauty market. Bajada explains: “Australians are very patriotic. People love using or recommending a good quality Aussie brand, as everyone wants to support homegrown talent and have success.” Vinson attributes local support for homegrown heroes as key to the Synergie Skin’s success: “Being Australian made and owned is absolutely imperative and is part of our brand identity. Consumers love supporting homegrown businesses. It is one of our strongest unique selling points and that is why we proudly display the kangaroo logo on all of our products.” Perdis agrees: “Although we’re up against many, many other brands, Aussies love to support their fellow Aussie. Many of my customers have told me they will choose the brand, time and time again, purely because we’re Australian.”

Even amongst brands there is a support network, with muk haircare director Mark Gariglio explaining: “We have good relationships with all of the Australian brands and it’s a common thread amongst us all. There’s also a shared desire for Aussie brands to succeed - it’s not a massive market out there but the more market share we can take off the multinationals the better!”

Image: @alphahskincare

Carousel image: The Beauty Collection 

Click here to discover the A-Z of Australian beauty brands.