Dr. Bronner’s comes to Singapore: The Californian skincare and soap brand is going to be the next cult-favourite

Dr. Bronner’s comes to Singapore: The Californian skincare and soap brand is going to be the next cult-favourite

Good clean fun

Text: Emily Heng

Multitasking beauty products back in the day might have been the three-in-one variety with bare-bone formulations. However, offerings in 2019 prove to be more sophisticated than that. Take skincare-makeup hybrids such as Laura Mercier's fan-favourite tinted moisturiser, for one, or Glossier's latest oil serum highlighter. Ideally, these multifunctional powerhouses should be designed to save on time without scrimping on quality or results. Realistically, it is a high bar that most are unable to reach — that is, unless you are vegan, cruelty-free, and organic label, Dr. Bronner's.

Established in the late 1940s by immigrant soap-maker, Emmanuel Bronner, Dr. Bronner's quickly rose to eminence in the U.S. for its no-fuss, gentle, and high-performance formulations. The stars? Let's see: there's the Pure-Castille Liquid Soaps which can be used 18 different ways; Organic Hand Sanitiser serve as both disinfectant and air freshener; and Organic Hair Rinse that doubles as shampoo and conditioner.

"As far as the selling point of our products go, it is that they cleanse really gently but effectively," president and fifth generation soap-maker, Michael Bronner, shares. "It has all the features you want in facial and body care, but without any of the ingredients you don't understand." A label to save your skin, time, as well as the environment? It sure sounds like it. We sit down with the main man to get the lowdown on this revolutionary beauty brand, delving deep into its unique philosophy as well as their ideal lineup for hot and humid climates such as Singapore. Sud up, folks.

I hear Dr. Bronner's is a family business. What was it like growing up in the beauty industry?
It's interesting, because in America, we're not necessarily a beauty brand. We're becoming more of a beauty brand, but growing up, we were more of a natural products brand. And the natural products industry was pretty much a bunch of ex-hippies who were selling products that haven't hit the mainstream yet. [Laughs]. It really wasn't until the late '90s that more and more brands were bought by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Quaker... when you really see natural products moving to the mainstream and then into beauty. For me growing up, it was really fun; I used to stand on stools at trade shows and talk about our soap and why it was magic.

Have you ever considered another career path?
I was an English teacher for a while. From 1997 to 2000, I taught junior high school English in Japan. I really don't know if I would go back to that though. [Laughs]

What made you return to Dr. Bronner's?
The reason why I didn't go straight into the family business in the first place was because I wanted to be able to find out what I really wanted to do, not what my family wanted me to do. I was in Japan when I discovered my passion for growing a brand like ours — I wanted to make it not just about the products, but also the spirit and the mission of the brand relevant in different countries.

How does Dr. Bronner's mission distinguishes itself from that of other clean, organic, vegan brands in the market?
Well, it has to do with the quality of the product; it's more of a holistic approach to beauty than just marketing claims. With our products, you can actually read the ingredients list and understand it. There's coconut oil, olive oil... we have all this data to back them up, too, how these ingredients help lift your skin, reduce the appearance of pores, and all kinds of other stuff. Plus, we're doing it in a way that doesn't rely on chemicals or things that you don't want building up on your skin and in your body.

It does help, of course, that the clean beauty movement is quite so prevalent right now.
Of course. With clean beauty, the more you learn about it, the greener you want to be, the more sustainable you want to be. Years from now, the beauty community is going to look back and see that chemicals were a fad, and natural and clean ingredients are here to stay.

Are there different benefits for your skin, health, and body when one uses natural and clean formulations?
Just because it is natural, doesn't mean it's better. It depends if you do it right. If you make something natural correctly, it's extremely elegant, with no bad side effects from preservatives and artificial fragrances that lead to allergic reactions or skin conditions.

Do you think the clean and green skincare movement is not as prevalent in Asia as compared to the U.S.?
Well, I don't know Singapore as well as I know home. We built a strong foundation of this movement in 1960s America. You see, before the '60s, people didn't really care that much about the environment. There was even this popular tagline and it was from DuPont, a chemical company, and it was 'better living through chemistry.' People thought nature was bad and backwards, while technology, chemistry, and putting stuff in laboratories was really good. But then in the 1960s, people really started caring about the environment. It wasn't just about wanting my face to look good, but wanting my body and planet to be good with whatever I use. I don't think Singapore has had that movement. Still, I'd say the movement is slowly gaining in Asia.

Was this a concern when you guys decided to expand into Asia?
I think our biggest concern was that we'd grow too fast. [Laughs] I guess there were some concerns when we started selling in China, because you have to test your products on animals if you want to sell in a physical location in China. We said no, that's why we can only sell online in the Chinese market. No such concerns when it comes to Singapore, though.

Does Dr. Bronner's plan to have any Asia-exclusive products?
We have two, actually! We made a Facial Toner and Facial Cream for our Asian market. Without generalising too much, I'd say Asian customers tend to be more beauty-focused, more concerned about efficacy regimen, so we created those with the intention of meeting the market where it is at.

Any Dr. Bronner's products you would recommend specifically for the Singaporean consumer?
Everything from the Peppermint range, because it's so nice and cooling on skin. There's the hand sanitiser, too, which is actually sold out in all Watsons because they didn't realise how big it was going to be. [Laughs]. That's one of my favourite products because it's made with Listerine alcohol and organic lavender, and it's so soft on my hands. You can spray it just about everywhere. I use it as an aftershave and deodorant, too.

Has there been a Dr. Bronner's product you're dying to create but haven't got around to, yet?
There's a couple! We want to do deodorants, but there are so many problematic chemicals in those, so we haven't nailed it yet. Hopefully soon.

What would you like to see in the future of beauty?
I would like to see a lot more people getting certified to fairtrade or organic standards. I'd like to see more people have awareness of not just function, but everything about a product that affects your body. Also, brands must be more ethical, and more people should reinforce attainable measures of beauty.