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