The Beauty of Every Face:In December 2013, Esthetician, Formulator and Co-Founder of Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Elisabeth Sigmund passed away at the age of 99. This month, we focus on interviews she’s given over the years, which we find all the more poignant in light of her recent death. The insights Elisabeth Sigmund offers into skin care, beauty and her life are at once fascinating, inspiring and profound. We hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did.
Elisabeth Sigmund in Her Own Words
A Resolution to Take Skin Care Seriously.
“In 1929, a very important thing happened in my life. My father died at the age of 41. I was 14, so for me it felt like the end of the world. I believed my father had died due to a wrong diagnosis. This influenced my decision to go to medical school in Vienna, where I was one of only two female students. We were not treated badly but just considered to be nonexistent. I also observed a disregard for skin care by traditional medicine, as if skin care did not merit serious study. I saw that cosmetics were a kind of 'stepchild' that wasn’t taken very seriously, but were delegated to vanity and unrelated to health. However, I saw the importance that the skin, the largest organ of the body, plays maintaining and reflecting health.
“I eventually became ill and left medical school and never returned. I traveled to the Alps to recover and there I imagined developing my own skin care preparations. I went on many walks and on one of these walks I discovered an old monastery where I was allowed to use the library. There I found interesting connections between medicine and skin care. In one of the books, I found an old formulation for a face tonic. From this, I formulated my first facial toner and began my career as a developer of skin care preparations.
“Also during this time, I studied the works of Rudolf Steiner where I came across the word SCHONHEIT, the German word for beauty. Inherent in the meaning of the word is the idea that something of an inner soul quality shines through the human being. This confirmed my perception that skin care should not be treated superficially.”
When Skin Care Was the Work of “Beauty Queens.”
“Skin care or estheticians were called "Oh, the beauty queens" by blue-collar workers as well as society ladies. Even my own mother hesitated to tell her friends that her daughter was in the skin care business because she thought it was very inappropriate. Basically there was very little choice of products and only people of a higher social class could afford to buy skin care at that time. My mother used a formulation of almond paste to cleanse her delicate face and this was the basis for our cleansing cream as we have it today in the Dr. Hauschka range.”
"My goal was to address the changing conditions of my client's skin."
“Years later, after World War II, I had a clinic in Sweden. I tested every product on the market and was dissatisfied with what I found. I continued making my own preparations for individual clients and achieved great results and devoted clients. However after two years of preparing products for different clients with different skin conditions, as well as for different seasons, I felt that the results, although effective, were too pampering. My goal was to address the changing condition of my client’s skin by changing her formulas for all the variables involved. Just about this time a wealthy client offered me the use of a cottage on a beautiful island in Sweden.”
Anthyllis, “the central plant of my facial preparations.”
“Surrounded by nature and silence, I took long walks. One day I came upon a meadow of clover which made me think of anthyllis, a plant that I had read about in an old text while researching medicinal plants at a monastery in Germany. I started adding an extract of anthyllis to the products and discovered that it benefited many different skin conditions. After many successful experiments on my clients, I chose anthyllis as the central plant for my facial preparations. I then added complementary ingredients to form compositions that would stimulate and support the skins own functions and thus regulate the skin rather than pamper it.”
Her Grandmother's Recipe for Rose Day Cream
“The Rose Day Cream is based on a cream that my grandmother used to use, a kind of Crème Céleste or celestial cream. She had a recipe for it, which her pharmacist made up newly for her every time she ran out. This face cream contained olive oil, beeswax, ethereal rose oil and rose water. When I first took a real interest in cosmetics, my grandmother gave me a copy of the recipe, which she had brought from her home region of Moravia. Despite the turmoil of the Second World War, during which I had to move house several times, I saved it as my little gem. Once in Stockholm, I took it back out and modified it.”
The Beauty of Every Face
“I observed that there is an architectural beauty to every human face. That one can care for the face with the finest products and decorative, but that there is something that transcends those factors. Something shines through that can also have a negative expression and that regardless of the external situation, the negative remains apparent.
“As an esthetician, I was able to establish an intimate and trusting relationship with my clients. When I noticed anger, jealousy or any conflict expressed on a client's face that prevented one's own beauty from shining forth, I consciously worked to help resolve the conflict. My Classic Treatment offers the chance to touch clients in a therapeutic manner that often is enough to resolve their unease with themselves. At times, it took more of a kind and patient conversation with clients to help them remember their inner beauty. I see it as the task of an esthetician to help the client express their inner beauty and not work simply on the surface.”
Her Most Important Discoveries.
“For me personally, in addition to the discovery of so many medicinal plants that affected the skin, there were two major things. Firstly, I discovered that a cosmetic made purely from natural ingredients can do a great deal more for the skin than a conventional cosmetic made from chemical/synthetic substances.
“The second key discovery for my treatment concept was that the skin regenerates more effectively at night if you do not use a night cream. It is far better to treat your skin with an aqueous solution containing medicinal plants that stimulate your skin’s natural activity. I am delighted to see that these discoveries still form the basis of Dr. Hauschka cosmetics.”
Below is a letter from Elisabeth Sigmund reflecting on the decision to make anthyllis the central ingredient in the Face Care line.