WA­TER WORKS

How a fairy-tale meet cute trans­formed a high-fly­ing diplo­mat into beauty roy­alty.

S/ - - CONTENTS - BY WING SZE TANG

Hun­gar­ian beauty brand Omorovicza was built on love

Lux­ury skin­care brand Omorovicza is rooted in

love. In fact, it was a whirl­wind ro­mance be­tween the cult-favourite line’s founders that truly started it all. Nearly two-decades ago, Mar­garet (then Dick­er­son) from Jacksonville, Florida, crossed paths with a dash­ing young banker named Stephen de Hein­rich de Omorovicza, a de­scen­dant of Hun­gar­ian no­bil­ity. Now, as a hus­band-and-wife duo, the two have brought the beau­ti­fy­ing power of min­eral-rich ther­mal wa­ter to the world—but it all be­gan with one fate­ful soirée en­gi­neered by Mar­garet’s then-boss. At the time, Mar­garet was a 27-year-old diplo­mat posted in Bu­dapest, work­ing for U.S. am­bas­sador Nancy Brinker. Once an as­pir­ing jour­nal­ist, Mar­garet had been re­cruited for the role while work­ing at Time Inc. in New York City, de­spite be­ing “prob­a­bly the least qual­i­fied per­son to do it,” she says, in her self-ef­fac­ing way. “It was ran­dom and luck­ier than I de­serve. I hap­pened to be in the right place at the right time, know­ing the right peo­ple,” Mar­garet ex­plains. “When I re­ceived the call say­ing, ‘We have a po­ten­tial op­por­tu­nity we think you might be per­fect for [in] Bu­dapest,’ I had to type, ‘Where is Bu­dapest?’”

Ge­o­graphic un­fa­mil­iar­ity aside, it was an of­fer Mar­garet could not refuse. Re­call­ing her work as chief of staff at the U.S. em­bassy, she says, “You try to man­age re­ally tal­ented peo­ple—and get them talk­ing to other re­ally tal­ented peo­ple.” As serendip­ity would have it, her boss would do much the same thing for her, pulling strings to make Mar­garet and Stephen’s blind date hap­pen. When they met for din­ner at a sweet lit­tle restau­rant called Robin­son, “We ended up talk­ing un­til six in the morn­ing about ev­ery­thing,” says Mar­garet. “There’s no one I love talk­ing to more than Stephen, and that was true the first night.” Another sign they were des­tined to meet: when he walked her home, they re­al­ized they lived just 100 me­tres apart.

On an early out­ing, Stephen in­vited Mar­garet to the fam­ily spa—the grand Rácz Spa, one of Bu­dapest’s big­gest ther­mal baths, built in the 1800s by one of his Omorovicza an­ces­tors on the site of a me­dieval spring. Mar­garet, who had long strug­gled with rosacea and acne (even turn­ing to the last-re­sort drug Ac­cu­tane to treat the lat­ter), had never taken a dip in ther­mal wa­ter be­fore. But af­ter just one spa visit, she no­ticed a dif­fer­ence.

Of course, the lo­cals knew all about bal­neother­apy, or the ther­a­peu­tic perks of bathing in min­eral wa­ter. Hun­gary is such a (lit­eral) fount of it be­cause it’s lo­cated in a low basin, where the earth’s crust is thin­ner than else­where. There, the sun is able to pen­e­trate more deeply, and as a re­sult, the ther­mal wa­ter heats up more and can gather more min­er­als as it bub­bles up to the sur­face. The coun­try is home to more than 1,000 hot springs, ex­ceed­ing 100 in Bu­dapest alone—the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of any city in the world.

Shortly af­ter Mar­garet’s spa rev­e­la­tion, she hap­pened to meet the head of the Hun­gar­ian der­ma­tol­ogy lab renowned for dis­cov­er­ing vi­ta­min C—a con­nec­tion she made through her diplo­matic day job. “They opened our eyes to the unique­ness of the [lo­cal ther­mal] wa­ter,” she re­calls, adding that the spe­cific combo of min­er­als was un­usu­ally po­tent and skin re­ju­ve­nat­ing. (The com­po­si­tion of any given ther­mal wa­ter—for ex­am­ple, its lev­els of cal­cium and mag­ne­sium—varies from source to source, hence the ben­e­fits dif­fer as well.)

Fas­ci­nated by the sci­ence, Mar­garet and Stephen teamed up with the lab to patent a new way of de­liv­er­ing all that min­eral good­ness deep into skin—no easy feat since the min­er­als are rather large. The so­lu­tion was a bio-fer­men­ta­tion process, which changes the struc­ture of the min­er­als and makes them ab­sorbable. The tech­nol­ogy, dubbed Healing Con­cen­trate, is at the heart of the Omorovicza range, which launched in 2006 with the goal of repli­cat­ing the ef­fects of a ther­mal bath. The cou­ple also made a point of keep­ing it clean—nix­ing petro­chem­i­cals, sil­i­cones, parabens, syn­thetic dyes, and syn­thetic fra­grances from all for­mu­las.

Since then, the fam­ily-owned com­pany’s vi­sion of mod­ern lux­ury skin­care has racked up heaps of awards, ed­i­tor ac­claim, and celebrity devo­tees (its star prod­uct, Ther­mal Cleans­ing Balm, counts Adri­ana Lima as a fan). Ar­riv­ing in stores this spring, the new­est launches prom­ise to max­i­mize our glowi­ness: Acid Fix sat­is­fies our cur­rent yen for ex­fo­li­at­ing acids with a gly­colic/sal­i­cylic/lac­tic treat­ment combo, while Magic Mois­ture Mist el­e­vates the usual min­eral wa­ter spray to liq­uid mois­tur­izer sta­tus, with plenty of nour­ish­ing oils, in­clud­ing rose­hip, sweet almond, and av­o­cado.

When asked how her charmed life whisked her so far away from the mag­a­zine pub­lish­ing ca­reer she once planned to pur­sue, Mar­garet cred­its hap­pen­stance: “The idea for start­ing Omorovicza hap­pened, like the call to be­come a diplo­mat, be­cause of so many fac­tors—in­clud­ing huge amounts of luck,” she says. We bet skin­care en­thu­si­asts ev­ery­where are thank­ful for their good for­tune, too.

Top to bot­tom: Omorovicza Acid Fix, $140; Magic Mois­ture Mist, $115; Ther­mal Cleans­ing Balm, $135.

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