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SA.AL&CO is a way of life.
Can you tell us a little bit how the brand was formed and principles behind SA.AL&CO?
The idea when forming the brand was to create a sophisticated men’s skincare brand, one that poses a modern alternative to the established brands by the means of design and product experience. By doing so, the brand principles focused on sustainability – by creating certified natural, even vegan skincare, using alpine spring water as a based ingredient as well as 99% recycled aluminum as packaging material.
Why is sustainability important to you and your brand?
I think sustainability must be at the forefront of any ongoing and especially emerging company – no matter what they create, do or sell. I’m going to be the first generation who will experience climate change in its brutality and will have to face my children, who will wonder what I have done to change things. Without exaggeration, I believe these conversations with our children will be very similar to those our parents had with their parents about what they did in the world wars – without exaggeration, the impact of climate change will have such catastrophic impacts and likely, if we don’t do enough, fast enough, worse. Having the privilege to be a creator and in a position to change things, there was no doubt in mind about sustainability and its role in my brand – truly, reflected sustainability including recycled packaging materials. Only if everyone thinks this way can true catastrophe be avoided.
How important is using natural ingredients to SA.AL&CO?
Using natural ingredients to me is the foundation of thinking about building a sustainable brand – one that creates a sustainable footprint, using the best of what we have at our disposal without wastefulness. The issue with synthetic materials oftentimes isn’t that they could be harmful, as many are absolutely not, even quite the opposite, but their production and environmental impact are not in sync with a world where we want to live in with nature and not off of nature.
How do you ensure your products are a quality?
Quite simply by working with a top notch manufacturer who is committed to only producing natural skincare – it’s the company philosophy. Consequently they are focused on ensuring the highest quality products leave the manufacturing line as they are on a mission to introduce quality natural skincare from Austria to people around the world.
Do you have a favorite SA.AL&CO product and why?
My favorite is the 011 Hair & Body Wash – using it in the morning, when I’m still a bit grouchy, sets my mind in the right mood. The scent calms my nerves and wakes me up whilst my skin feels nicely pampered – cleaned, yet not stripped of moisture and even recharged with oils, as the product is very rich in texture.
What products other than SA.AL&CO do you use?
I like Patrick’s hair care products – the products from shampoos to hair wax are not just a delight to look at and hold, but are very powerful in formulation with fantastic scents. I also use a serum from 320 MHz, which is made from cold pressed roses and is 100% natural. Its texture and skin feel are unsurpassed to me among all serums I have tried – and we try a lot of products to compare with the competition! And of course, I’m still also hooked on Aesop – they are the leaders in sophisticated lifestyle skincare in my opinion.
How do you maintain a sustainable lifestyle?
It’s a lot of little things whilst being conscious of the fact that my life does have a significantly higher carbon footprint as the job requires me to travel a lot – and flying is the best option in most cases, though within a 6 hour drive radius, I’ll take the car! I therefore focus on eating food, even if just lunch near the office, at restaurants that have a food mission and keen eye on their impact. And I don’t buy clothing wastefully – I have always been a big believer of buying organic cotton or otherwise highly qualitative materials, mostly avoid synthetic threads, and will always buy quality that I can then repair over and over – my classic dress shoes may cost several times what regular sneakers cost, but I wear them for up to 10 years, only having to exchange the heels. This long term thinking in my opinion makes a huge difference, as fashion is the second largest polluting industry in the world whilst, apparently, in the western world people have 4 times as much clothing in their closet compared to 1980.
What inspires SA.AL&CO in terms of ingredients?
I don’t believe that we are in the business of ingredient innovation. Quality to me is not just innovation – just like in clothing I don’t derive pleasure from aerospace materials, but high-quality organic fabrics – thus the ingredient focus lies on quality, efficiency, as well as concentration. Concentration is very important to me as for example we use Hyaluronic Acid in the 041 Intense Moisturizer at a high, which will have more effect than using a drop of something that NASA is using for its astronauts or that will only be found in products retailing at 100 EUR+.
What are your favorite natural or organic ingredients used in skincare at the moment?
I’m not an ingredient trends focused guy – the ingredients that are the best to use in natural skincare in a sustainable way are the same for decades. There is surely innovation, but we like to focus on the natural truths know for generations before us. Even more importantly, when using rare, new ingredients that are fashionable at the moment, one must wonder if using those is still sustainable when sourcing them from far flung places around the world.
What do you see for the future of SA.AL&CO?
I believe that we are hitting a nerve in a segment that is oftentimes overlooked and misunderstood – we hope to continue to fill that void that is growing and play our part in delighting men in using quality, natural products.
What inspired you to start the label?
There was certainly a healthy portion of vanity involved in creating my own brand, as is probably the case for most of those starting a label that they want to succeed and have an impact. The inspiration for the brand’s existence and DNA can however be most attributed to a single discovery, namely that of Aesop, having been a pretty regular Biotherm user. At the same time seeing how all new brands across the spectrum focus entirely on Millennials whilst premium men’s skincare is predominantly used by 40 to 65+ year old men, I wanted to create something that had an impact on the morning routine of an overlooked and underserved demographic. The brand was to combine the skincare experience of Aesop, design of Apple and product line of Biotherm. In effect this meant covering the essential product needs, delivering the expected premium quality through natural ingredients, offering a masculine yet sophisticated product design, and most crucially provide a user experience through refined, fresh scents as well as superior tactile skin sensations after use.
What was your (the Founder Istvan Laszloffy) background before founding SA.AL&CO?
I like to joke that I know nothing about skincare and neither do my customers. Me and my customers however can equally tell apart superior quality from phony product descriptions and promises without knowing anything about ingredients. One has to add that this shortcoming is compensated by my outstanding development partners who focus on effective, premium products formulations whilst I focus on often underappreciated aspects such as skin absorption speed, skin feel, day long effect and feel etc. The reason I know nothing about ingredients meanwhile steams from my previous experience, which similarly to most of your readers, was in Finance, namely Derivatives and Family Office coverage in Zurich and London. Before launching the brand, I moved home and got involved in my father’s shoe and glove factories, which I continue to do to this day.
Does being based in Tyrol have anything to do with your sustainable mission? In what ways does it influence you?
Absolutely, Tyrol isn’t just where the products are “put together” but where we source the crisp Alpine spring water that is the base ingredient for all products. The region being a beautiful, mostly alpine region with many outdoor opportunities that are sought out by millions coming to visit every year, there is a particular sense and closeness to nature that educates one’s sense of how important sustainability is – particularly when due to global warming the glaciers are retreating and the ski resorts over the past years had to seriously battle with lack of snow. In that way, producing in Tyrol and creating a brand in Austria provides a different kind of alertness and sense of responsibility towards doing things more sustainably, which is also the reason why all our packaging, from the boxes to the pumps, is sourced in Europe and a most of the ingredients are sourced are from the region around where we produce.
What sort of ingredients are in your products and where do you source them from? Can you tell me a bit about them?
The base ingredient all of our products is crisp alpine spring water, which our manufacturing partner has direct access to being situated in the side of a mountain in Ötztal. As to the ingredients our credo is that the best natural ingredients at a high concentration are most of the time superior to synthetic or innovative ingredients, which sound great and are mostly great, but are oftentimes dosed at very low concentrations and therefore do more to fulfil a marketing than a skin need. The products serve different purposes and thus use different ingredients, but there are recurring ingredients that have proved their worth in rehydrating and nurturing the skin such as macadamia nut oil, birch sap, aloe vera, shea butter, and cocoa butter. Our deodorant for instance makes good use of witch hazel, sage, lavender, and natural citrus fruit alcohol to be arguably one of the most effective natural deodorants on the market currently.
Who makes the products and by whom?
We have a fantastic development and manufacturing partner in Tyrol called Pure Green who are specialized on producing only high-quality natural skincare. It is thanks to their development efforts and dedication that the products are as good as they are and continue to be!
Why is sustainability important in skincare?
Sustainability is important in everything we do as humans, seeing how climate change is impacting our lives today and even more so in decades to come. When launching a brand, one has to think about the contribution one can make in changing this dire trend by offering products that are superior to synthetic alternatives, therefore offering a simple choice for consumers without requiring a change in behavior or compromise in performance. This is particularly important in segments where such an easy change is possible just like in abandoning plastic bags vs. where the technology or convenience factor aren’t there just yet such as limited mileage of purely electric cars. Last but not least, I have seldom seen an old-fashioned brand producing synthetic skincare products switch its product line to natural, thus this role of leadership is up to young brands to take upon themselves.
Is sustainability as widely addressed in grooming as it could be?
Absolutely not – most likely as grooming is not a Top of Mind product for men as beauty is for women. The sustainability aspect of brands is namely still mostly constrained to discussions over highly visible or Top of Mind products, hence brands don’t push themselves to incorporate sustainability into their brands where it seems that consumes don’t care about that aspect of the brand. The quote “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” is therefore very applicable in this case. On the bright side, unisex and skincare brands for women are really changing the industry conversation and are spearheading a change in mentality for beauty to become more sustainable and cleaner.
Lots of sustainable brands are marketed as for both men and women - why was it important for you to create a men's only label?
I always joke that only women think that unisex means for women and for men whilst most men think it’s a shrewd marketing trick but that the products are truly made for women. In the mass market with basic products this is somewhat different, but in those cases, men tend to think of shower gels or shampoos just like towels as being unisex products anyhow. In the premium segment however, men think of skincare differently than women and brands focusing on unisex products will always appeal will more to women, simply as it’s a much larger segment. I thus wanted to create a men’s brand and focus on men in all aspects of the brand, not just in product line but also scent and packaging. I believe that when men upgrade to a premium skincare brand, they want to have something that appeals to and caters to them in its entirety, which seldom offered!
Can you tell me about the packaging, it's very masculine. Was this deliberate?
A refined, masculine look and touch was on our mind when deciding to use brushed aluminum tubes and bottles – especially since as a men’s brand, we could and should do that. We furthermore use a typeface inspired by Italian car license plates from the 50s / 60s and each product highlights its batch and bottle number as seen on small bath whiskeys. These are all symbols of a masculine aesthetic whilst at the same time living up to our focus on sustainability by using aluminum for the tubes and bottles that is 99% recycled. This makes us one of the most consequentially sustainable brands and at the same time one of the most enjoyable to hold and use for a men seeking something masculine!
Will the 021 Shaving Crème contain shaving oil? If so, what %. If not, will you consider adding shaving oil?
We are using macadamia nut seed oil as natural lubricating shaving oil in our 021 Shaving Crème. The percentage is in the single digits. Apart from alpine spring water it is one of the most prominent ingredients in the product. We are really happy with how macadamia nut oil works as natural shaving lubricant. Do you have any other specific natural shaving oils in mind we could try out? We are always grateful for recommendations!
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