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Local skincare company CA Botana shifts gears to offset the sanitizer shortage

Little did they know, their greatest gift would be hand sanitizer — tens of thousands of bottles to date — often donated to hospitals and nonprofits.


Rancho Santa Fe’s Ursula Wagstaff-Kuster and her late husband Dieter are well known for their generous contributions of natural skincare products to burn victims, cancer patients, and the military through their Sorrento Valley-based company, CA Botana, and its subsidiary, Doctor D. Schwab. Little did they know, their greatest gift would be hand sanitizer — tens of thousands of bottles to date — often donated to hospitals, homeless centers, and such nonprofits as The Salvation Army.

“I could never have guessed that hand sanitizer has become his legacy,” says Wagstaff-Kuster, whose husband died two years ago.

Ursula Wagstaff-Kutser
Ursula Wagstaff-Kutser

How the sanitizer came to be is a fascinating story. Dieter was a chemist who developed 3,000 products over his lifetime, including cleansers, moisturizers, acne treatments, and more. In 2006 he developed a hand sanitizer especially for Wagstaff-Kuster, who was traveling to several African countries on a humanitarian mission. The company sold the product for a time but then shelved it because there was little demand.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world.

In March, Wagstaff-Kuster found her husband’s formula and immediately began production after receiving emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration. CA Botana had enough supplies on hand to make the first 3,000 bottles. “When word got out, I got phone calls from hospitals, desperate for hand sanitizers,” she recalls. The company ramped up production and has since shipped not only to hospitals, but dental offices, surgery centers, and schools, too.

In late March, Wagstaff-Kuster emailed The Salvation Army’s Pamela Lennen to ask if the nonprofit could use two boxes of hand sanitizers, which were in short supply around the country. “I was ecstatic!” Lennen recalls. “I knew that people were desperately in need and there was not much known about the virus at that point.” The two boxes turned out to be two cases — 500 bottles of hand sanitizers — with 300 still to come. Since then, The Salvation Army has distributed the sanitizers to those in need at the nonprofit’s Kroc Center in La Mesa and its facilities in San Diego, El Cajon, and Oceanside, as well as hundreds of seniors who receive delivered meals.

Wagstaff-Kuster is among the dozen dynamic women who will be honored as Women of Dedication by The Salvation Army’s Women’s Auxiliary at its annual luncheon and presentation, tentatively re-scheduled for April 23, 2021. She is dedicating the prestigious award to Dieter. 800.872.2332, 858.450.1717, ca-botana.com 


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