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Seeds of a good idea: Resilient grandmother inspires Israeli creator of skin care line

Tzeira Sofer’s story of success begins with her grandmother, a refugee who fled Europe, suffered in a Cyprus internment camp and escaped to Israel.

Before Sofer became a nutritionist and women’s health practitioner, she was a granddaughter who spent her childhood in Israel watching in awe as the matriarch of her family ran a café and small grocery store.

Sofer’s grandmother rose at 5 a.m. to cook for the family before going to work, brought lunch to young Tzeira three days a week and walked home after work to save money.

“My grandmother is the story of my life,” said Sofer by phone from her San Anselmo office. “She was always optimistic, caring and giving. We had a contract that we were the two strong women of the family.”

Today, Sofer is the creative force and founder of Pomega5, which officially launched this past August.

Tzeira Sofer

The line, which is assembled in France, boasts formulas with biodynamic and organic ingredients, such as omega 5 oil extracted from pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate is one of the oldest fruits and has long been revered for its restorative qualities. Mediterranean-grown pomegr­anates are used for the Pomega5 products, which are made in small batches, and are paraben-free and vegan.

“I really believe we are entering an era where we will need a lot of things to replace what’s synthetic,” Sofer said. “Natural alternatives are fantastic innovations that could have replaced and should replace what we’re using. Pomegranate oil is one of them.”

The Pomega5 line features an array of skin care products, including cleaning bars, hydrating creams, serums and purifying face mists. They start at $22 for a cleansing bar up to $145 for a moisturizer.

“The biggest issue [with women’s skin] is dryness,” Sofer said. “A lot of the products are harsh with no nutritional value. The ingredients are not feeding the skin — it doesn’t matter what they’re made of, as long as they cover you up. If your skin looks beautiful, you don’t need to cover it up.”

Sofer’s daughter, Mikhal, is in charge of Pomega5’s branding, product development, marketing and online media. Sofer developed the company’s Boie de Rose velvet hydrating cream especially for Mikhal.

“It was important that our message be as genuine as can be,” Sofer said of the collaboration. “There were years of discussion between me and my daughter. We took longs walks together to discuss things. It took a long time from the concept to now.”

Inspired by her family of entrepreneurs, Sofer remembers channeling her creativity at a young age into designing clothes and cooking. While watching her grandmother experiment with fruits, herbs and flowers in healing remedies, Sofer became fascinated with ancient medicine and botanicals.

Outside of the kitchen, though, her grandmother was “shrewd, creative and business-like,” Sofer said.

Following in that path, years later Sofer, who studied under omega 3 pioneer Dr. Barry Sears and immersed herself in the teachings of Rambam, began investigating the use of natural, plant-based treatments as solutions for her own health issues and skin sensitivities.

Having avoided store-bought beauty products for most of her life, Sofer applied her training as a nutritionist and love of natural ingredients to formulate creams imbued with pomegranate seed oil. Like a chef creating a tasting menu, Sofer hand-selected botanicals and adjusted combinations over time to create the right consistency, scent and efficacy.

“It was an evolutionary process,” Sofer said. “I did not wake up one morning and get the idea. My expertise is in understanding how food can be derived into medicine. Depending on needs, you can eat medicinally. The source for healing can be on your plate.”

Sofer, whose family once belonged to Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, casually shared the products by hosting parties for friends. She prepared colorful salads drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette and quenched their skin with raspberry moisturizer. Her goal was to demonstrate the value of using pure ingredients on one’s skin, as well as in food.

Encouraged by friends, Sofer realized that concocting fruit-infused skin care products was turning into more than a hobby. She sought out doctors, chemists and fatty acid experts to explore the benefits of using pomegranate seed oil.

The process took Sofer out of the kitchen and into the lab, where she partnered with chemists to develop the Pomega5 line using natural, active ingredients. The products are available in several locations, among them medical clinics and spas.

Bliss Spa, whose San Francisco location is nestled in the downtown W Hotel, began carrying the Pomega5 line in March. The launch marked the first all-natural beauty brand sold at Bliss.

Karine Tiano, Bliss director of merchandising, said in a statement on WellandGoodNYC.com that the decision to add the pomegranate oil-infused products partially stemmed from customer demand for a natural option.

Pomega 5 offers a “unique concept based on pomegranateand 110 active ingredients,” Tiano continued. “The research behind it is amazing and the products really work.”

Sofer begins her day at 2 a.m. to ensure that sentiment remains true. Her small team works to put orders in and grow the business every day. At first the schedule was tough on Sofer’s three kids, but they know this is what she was meant to do.

For Sofer, it’s about carrying on the family tradition.

“Every step [Pomega5] is going through, I must be very grateful to my grandmother,” she said. “This perseverance to continue what I know is my past is very much part of my constitution. I trust that little voice in my life more than anything else.”