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(photo credit: Meredith Price)
For three generations, the Schwartz family has been making cosmetics. The first one in the family to concoct his own blends was grandfather Zisso, who opened a small shop in Hungary in 1925. In 1949, Zisso's son Hanan made aliya to escape persecution in Hungary.
"After he came to Israel at the age of 16, my father Hanan worked as a bus driver in Beersheba by day to feed the family," says Uzi Schwartz, his second son, who now works as the marketing and sales director for the family-run cosmetics company. "But by night, he indulged in his true passion - mixing his own beauty products. Then he would package them and sell them in the neighborhood hair salons and cosmetics shops.
"Hanan mixed small amounts of shampoo and face cream in his small apartment with a food processor. Employing what he had learned from his father, who also used natural ingredients, he blended lemons and honey because of their fragrant, cleansing properties.
"He used to drive around Beersheba on his little Vespa making deliveries," says Uzi. "And Shlomo [his older brother] and I had to help him clean the recycled glass bottles with brushes and stick on the new labels. I hated doing that, but Shlomo always loved it. He's the chemist in the family."
In 1965, Hanan opened his own shop, named Schwartz Cosmetics, in the center of Beersheba. Hanan sold both his own concoctions and products made by others. When Shlomo finished his army service in 1976, he immediately started working with his father and added his own signature cosmetics to the family line.
"Shlomo always loved mixing and blending," says Uzi. "I remember him as a kid already starting to make new products and experiment. For him, it was like making a cake."
Uzi was less enthusiastic about creating new products, and it wasn't until 1986, after three years as an officer in the army, that Shlomo convinced him to join the growing business. "Shlomo was expanding, making lots of new products, and he asked me to help him with the marketing and sales, which I agreed to try."
To accommodate their growing number of products, the Schwartz brothers built a small factory in 1990 in Shim'a, a small village outside Beersheba. The Shlomo Schwartz family was the first to move to this remote area 16 years ago. Today, more than 75 families make their homes there, but the Schwartz factory has once again expanded and moved two kilometers down the road to Meitarim.
One of the first products Shlomo mixed was wax for hair removal, in which he combined honey, lemon and sugar. After it was successful on the market, he started using propolis, the resinous substance collected by bees to construct their hives. Usually taken from leaf buds and tree bark, propolis has antibiotic properties that protect the hive from viruses, bacteria and other foreign organisms. He mixes propolis powder into a face cream for teenagers with troubled skin because of its natural cleansing properties.
In recent years, Shlomo started combining olive, jojoba, peach pit, grape seed and avocado oils to make fragrant, moisturizing body oils.
"Olive oil was used in the past to protect skin from the sun and to moisturize," says Uzi. "It also has nourishing properties, as do all of the other oils. We use them for their natural qualities to soften and soothe without any added chemicals or substances."
Rather than testing on animals, the Schwartzes first ask family members to try new products. If everyone likes it and there are no allergic reactions, a larger circle of employees and friends tests it out. Then, after all the changes, additions and suggestions are taken into account, the product goes to organic specialty stores all over the country.
"We already export to Cyprus, the US, Germany, Holland and Spain," says Uzi. "People abroad like the products because we use only natural ingredients, and those ingredients come from the land of Israel, the land of milk and honey."
He adds that Shlomo's next line will include pomegranate extract and lactic acid from milk.
"My father loved mixing cosmetics. It was his dream, and Shlomo is continuing the family legacy by making all-natural cosmetics," says Uzi. "It makes us proud to see the knowledge of our grandfather and our father passed down through the cosmetics Shlomo makes today, and I hope that we can continue to grow and bring new, natural products to the market."
For more information, visit www.s-schwartz.com or call (08) 646-6777.