Denver businesswoman creates organic skin treatment inspired by the life and times of her nature-loving great grandmother
As Colorado natives, we put green chiles on everything, we have been caught wearing flip flops with a coat, we actually know how to drive (thanks in part to the pothole obstacle course formerly known as the street), we ski and snowboard, we love our beer almost as much as our dogs and our skin is perpetually dry. According to local dermatologist Dr. Richard Asarch, “Because of the dry Colorado climate we are constantly combatting skin dryness. Sun exposure here is extremely harsh as well because of the altitude. Intensity of UV light is 25 percent higher than it is at sea level and it increases every 1,000 feet in altitude ascended. Because it feels cooler, many people don’t realize that being out in the sun is more harmful.” Asarch reminds us that the skin is a living organ and we need to take care of it. In priority order, he recommends wearing sunscreen daily, maintaining a healthy diet and using topical agents to help the skin. As a last resort, procedures including full and partial facelifts are an option, but may not be necessary with proper preventative measures.
Modern skin care regimens are often product heavy and pricey, running the gamut of cleansers, morning creams, night creams, under eye creams, serums, balms, collagen lotions, primers, masks, emulsions, fillers, smoothers and “whipped creams.”
In the quest for skin hydration and simplification, Colorado native and eczema sufferer Karen Fox Wolfe tried everything. Her frustration led her to spend four years slathering her skin with a slew of grocery-store ingredients, mostly oils, in a variety of homemade combinations and DIY ratios until she eventually reached complexion Nirvana: skin rejuvenation and reduction of fine lines. Wolfe was able to achieve great looking and feeling skin with her simple one-step skincare hack known today as Zugel Oil. The concoction also protects against windburn and chapped cheeks in the winter.
Once it worked for her, she invited 50 women in the Denver and Boulder areas to try it for two weeks with no other moisturizers or serums. The response was an 85 percent “love it” or “like it” rate. She knew she was onto something and sold her first bottle in March of 2017. She has since expanded her clientele to men as an effective, fragrance-free no-frills skincare routine, primarily used as aftershave.
Wolfe is a firm believer in all organic ingredients as Zugel Oil contains only four cold-pressed essential oils. She refers to it as the “real foods version of skin care.” The skin absorbs everything so she avoids products containing toxins. “It’s not about simply preventing the wrinkle; it’s about helping you to feel and look your best,” she said. Her passion is to help people through her product and to steer consumers away from common fillers, preservatives and chemicals in general.
Wolfe approached her product development similarly to cooking—the ingredients need to be combined correctly and thoughtfully. Organic rosehip oil, a mix of vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids, reduces wrinkles and evens out the skin tone by lightening hyperpigmentation, moisturizing and brightening the skin, exfoliating and even treating acne. Organic sweet almond oil is used because it is rich in vitamin A and gently clears pores. Organic carrot seed oil is hydrating enough to repair damaged skin, offers sun protection and contains bioflavonoids that provides antibacterial as well as anticancer qualities. Vitamin E’s job is to fight off free radicals and reduce the effects of aging. The essential oils are antioxidants that reverse damage and revitalize the skin.
Disclaimer for retinoid veterans: you can use this product morning and night to hydrate the skin in combination with evening Retin-A products. Washing off Retin-A prior to next-day sun exposure and adding high SPF sunscreen is recommended.
The product’s name pays homage to Wolfe’s great grandmother Anna Zugel, an Austrian woman who sailed to America solo in 1908 with a history of good skin and a love of nature whose inspirational spirit is embodied in the bottle. In Wolfe’s words, “Nature is powerful and sometimes the best solutions are the simplest and most natural.” The concept is contiguous because in the era of Anna Zugel, life was simpler, food was less processed, air was less polluted and sun bathing wasn’t a pastime. The lifestyle combination produced vibrant skin that we are still capable of achieving today.
Wolfe was born and raised in Morrison, Colorado and attended Bear Creek High School. She did her undergrad studies at Stanford University and earned an MBA from Harvard Business School, which in part lends the acumen to scale her business. Prior to creating Zugel Oil, she worked as a marketing executive, a commercial real estate investor and jewelry artisan. She and her husband Ian are also the parents of two boys, Jackson and Levi. ”I wanted to create a product that did it all and that I felt good about using,” she says on her website of her latest venture. “What I put on my face should be as good for me as what I feed my body.”