Friday, January 27, 2017

Omorovicza: Bathing Beauty

Omorovicza founders, Margaret and Stephen de Heinrich de Omorovicza, in Budapest's Rácz spa built by Stephen's aristocratic family in the 19th century on the site of an Ottoman hammam dating from the 1560s. The Rácz is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
by Delia von Neuschatz

On the shores of the beautiful blue Danube in Budapest sits the Rácz Thermal Bath, one of the most historic and picturesque spas in Europe. Built by a noble Hungarian family in the 19th century on the site of a Moorish-style Ottoman hammam that dates from the 1560s, the spa is designated as nothing less than a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Today, the recently renovated 86,000 square-foot complex houses a classic Turkish bath along with saunas, steam baths, a Roman bath, a modern spa and a hotel. The Rácz has played a vital role in the founding of Omorovicza (Om-more-oh-veet-za) a Budapest-based luxury skin care line which has harnessed the mineral-rich properties of the bath's healing waters into nourishing, lifting, anti-oxidant creams, cleansers and serums. Not familiar with the admittedly difficult-to-pronounce brand? The name will soon be tripping off your tongue for the line's rapid expansion is a testament to its growing number of in-the-know devotées.
After a recent renovation, the 86,000-square-foot Rácz complex houses a classic Turkish bath, saunas, steam baths, a Roman bath, a modern spa and a hotel.
It's all about the science, reveals Stephen de Heinrich de Omorovicza, a descendant of the Rácz's 19th century founders, who, with his American-born wife, Margaret, created the decade-old, award-winning range. What makes Omorovicza unique is the effective delivery, through a patented process, of the beneficial minerals which abound in Hungary's renowned thermal waters.
Stephen and Margaret on their wedding day. Florida native, Margaret Dickerson, was Chief of Staff for the US Ambassador to Hungary when her boss, Nancy Goodman Brinker, and fellow diplomat Georg von Habsburg, set her up with businessman Stephen de Heinrich de Omorovicza on a blind date. The two are now the proud parents of four young children.
Margaret and Stephen with their four children.
The country has been famous for its waters for some 2,000 years. It was Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121 CE – 180 CE), according to Stephen, who had noticed that the wounds of his battle-weary legionnaires healed considerably faster once the soldiers bathed in the area's bubbling springs. The word spa, in fact, is a Roman acronym which stands for Sanitas Per Aqua meaning "health through water." Over time, more than 1,000 baths were built in Hungary, a relatively small country. Budapest alone has 123 natural springs — more than any other city in the world — and some two-dozen thermal baths.
Budapest is known as the "City of Baths" on account of its 123 natural springs and two-dozen thermal baths. Going to the bathhouse is a way of life for Hungarians – so much so that baths are actually a part of the health-care system. Visits to the baths are subsidized for patients whose doctors have prescribed treatments that include massage, soaking in baths of various heat and mineral compositions, and swimming laps. With its 15 indoor baths and 3 grand outdoor pools, The Szechenyi Spa Baths in Budapest, pictured above, is one of the largest and most popular spas in Europe.
The reason Hungary enjoys an abundance of thermal springs, Stephen explains, is because the earth's crust is a bit thinner in Hungary than anywhere else. This means that the rocks which hold the water are that much closer to the sun, making them more brittle. The brittleness allows water to gather more minerals from the rocks as it travels to the earth's surface. Compounds such as zinc, copper, selenium, potassium, calcium and magnesium, found in the thermal waters, have long been believed to have curative properties, alleviating joint and back pain, building bone density and improving circulation, among other reputed benefits.

The minerals are also beneficial to the skin. The anti-oxidant combination of zinc and copper, for instance, helps trigger the synthesis of collagen and elastin. "The minerals all have individual properties," says Stephen, "which together, give you the perfect hit parade of anti-aging benefits." Indeed, Margaret had noticed a considerable improvement to her sensitive skin soon after she began visiting the baths.
"My skin, which had long suffered from both extreme sensitivity and acne, responded remarkably well and extremely quickly to the healing waters in Budapest," says Margaret. "I had never experienced a remedy that played such a decisive role in treating my difficult skin, not even Accutane."
Curious to learn more, Stephen and Margaret met with the head of Hungary's Nobel prize-winning Laboratory of Dermatology, famous for the discovery of Vitamin C in the 1930s. They learned that the thermal waters are in fact unusually rejuvenating for the skin, but that the minerals contained therein are not easily absorbed into the epidermis as the compounds are too large. A dip in a thermal bath does the trick because heat helps drive them into the skin, but as soon as you step out of the water, the minerals crystallize as the water evaporates. And once the minerals crystallize, their effectiveness comes to an end.

So, how to get these compounds absorbed into the skin without a trip to the baths? The lab set about developing a complex delivery system which relies on a long fermentation process (Hydro Mineral Transference™), and Omorovicza was launched in due course with a capsule collection of eight products. "When you think about skin care, however fantastic, it's made up of a minimum of 60% water — de-mineralized, inert water — which serves no function other than to blend the ingredients," explains Stephen. "So what we did is go away from the idea of using de-mineralized water to using nothing but thermal water thereby bringing minerals deeper into your skin. I think it makes a very big difference to the effectiveness of the product because the minerals themselves make a big difference to the health of the skin."
The Queen of Hungary Mist is an alcohol-free toner that aims to restore the skin's Ph balance. Made with distillates of rose, orange blossom, sage and lavender, the mist is based on the oldest perfume ever recorded — a 14th century scent made for a Hungarian queen.
In addition to the successful epidermal delivery of these mineral compounds, the products also boast the inclusion of a host of anti-aging ingredients like retinol and oligopeptides. The exclusion of many synthetic ingredients like parabens, sodium laurel sulfates, petrochemicals and synthetic colors and fragrances is another bonus. All the scents are natural, developed by the same perfume house in the South of France used by Chanel and Hermès. Among their most popular products are the Queen of Hungary Mist, the Thermal Cleansing Balm and the Blue Diamond Concentrate Serum.
The best-selling Thermal Cleansing Balm is an oil-based cleanser made with medical-grade mud from Lake Hévíz in Hungary, the largest thermal lake in the world. "It's chock full of calcium, magnesium and carbonates in particular which are very purifying and de-toxifying. And it removes absolutely all make up, eye make-up, everything, even Dior Show mascara!" says Stephen.
The Blue Diamond Concentrate serum contains "next generation hyaluronic acid" and copper, among other ingredients, to provide moisture and elasticity.
Intrigued? In the US, Omorovicza is sold at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bergdorf Goodman, as well as through the company's website. You'll also find the products in several European countries and in London where they are available at Harrod's, Selfridge's, Space NK, Liberty and Harvey Nichols. In addition, the line can be found in Asia, the Middle East and in the Four Seasons spas in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Johannesburg and New York. Etihad Airways now includes Omorovicza in its first class amenity kits.
Margaret and Stephen in front of the Omorovicza shop and treatment rooms in Budapest, located on fashionable Andrássy út.
Inside the Omorovicza shop in Budapest. Symbolizing beauty and nobility, the peacock features in the Omorovicza family crest and in the company's logo.
If you find yourself in Budapest, a pampering break in Omorovicza's shop and treatment rooms is not to be missed. I recently enjoyed a firming facial massage there followed by a heavenly mask all while lying atop a heated water pad — pure bliss for the travel-weary. But, you need not trek to Budapest to enjoy the proffered treatments, for in the US, Omorovicza'a unique facials are offered at select Neiman Marcus stores and at Bergdorf Goodman as well as at various spa partners including several St Regis and Four Seasons hotels and at independent locales such as Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. And later this year, a shop with treatment rooms will open in London too. This is a concept which Stephen and Margaret aim to roll out in the US and Asia — the Omorovicza Institute — "a combination of dreamy, gorgeous retail and fabulous treatments," enthuses Stephen. Sign me up please!
I loved the rose-scented Gold Hydralifting Mask used after my firming facial massage at the Omorovicza shop and treatment center in Budapest. "I think it beats any machine any time if you have a proper Hungarian facial massage. It lifts your face so well," says Stephen.
I also liked the Blue Diamond Eye Cream, finding it moisturizing and helpful in reducing the appearance of dark circles.
Beauty tips: "I have so many beauty tips that I love and live by but if I had to choose just two which make the quickest difference it would be to exfoliate at least once a week," advises Margaret. "One of the biggest reasons people have dull or lackluster complexions is that they either do not cleanse or exfoliate properly (a monthly facial also works wonders). The other is to find an amazingly talented person to shape your eyebrows — it can lift and sculpt the face beautifully like few other things."

For more beauty tips and information, follow Delia on Instagram: @chasingbeautywithdvn