A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how I had run out of my current facial oil and wanted to try Vintner’s Daughter, a 100% organic serum that many women I know, including those who own standout beauty boutiques, swear by. I have been using it every day since (morning and night) and I don’t think I will ever stop. My skin feels more even-toned, less volatile or inflamed, and dewy. Vintner’s Daughter is the only product its founder April Gargiulo currently makes and it’s proof sticking to one thing and doing it really well can pay off. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other life-changing Vintner’s Daughter wellness products in the works.
Here April shares what wine-making and her beauty product have in common, the rejection she overcame to get her uncompromising vision into production, and how Vintner’s Daughter has allowed her to help women around the world.
Tell me about your career and how you ended up in beauty: I grew up in a fine wine making family where we have the intention, commitment and passion to make one of the finest wines in the world. For us, and for anyone pursuing that, that means that not only do we want our wine to be enjoyed in five years but hopefully in 10, 20, 50 and 100. That’s a really high bar and the commitment to quality that you have to maintain is an intense one, one that is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. So I’m very comfortable in that world, the world where you do not take shortcuts, where you know slowness is beauty. Slowness is quality.
I was also somebody who always struggled with my skin. Acne, discoloration, and then you know all the fun stuff we all deal with as we’re getting older. I had used or tried everything in terms of skin care. When I became pregnant, and this is a familiar refrain, I started looking at the ingredients in the products I was using on my face. I realized they were toxic; there was nothing clean about them. And almost as bad was the reality that the $300 face cream I was using was made out of really inexpensive cheap filler. It had a luxury price tag but what it was was not luxury at all. And for me, coming from where I come from, I understand luxury to be something that is made from the very finest materials, the very finest ingredients, made by the most skilled artisans, using very methodical and sometimes ancient craftsmanship.
And so I started looking for something that kind of scratched all my itches, and when I couldn’t find it, I said okay I need to develop this, I need my desert island can’t-leave-home-without product, and that is how the active botanicals brand was born. I wanted something that was uncompromisingly effective and multi-correctionally effective. I didn’t want to get involved in a 10 or 12 step program. I wanted one product that did it all.
That’s a lot to ask of one product.
It took us two and a half years to develop, and then another year before I could get any lab to sign on to the way that I wanted it made. We begin with whole plants–the most nutrient dense plants in the world. Plants that in ancient times were called the foods of life. I was told over and over again by every lab that turned me down, ‘just use this powder, just use this freeze dried, just use this extract. Why do you need to start with the whole plant?’
It’s far more time consuming and far more expensive. It’s not a product that can be made in an hour, it takes weeks to formulate. But what happens when you start with ingredients like we do, you end up with a product that has the full spectrum of activity of those plants–all the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fatty acids, micro nutrients, and phyto nutrients. Also they’re being infused into our formula in the exact right ratios. In essence, they’re bio mimicked to your skin, so your skin is getting exactly what it needs in the exact right ratios.
It’s a complex product an it doesn’t fit into the norm of beauty which is ‘Let’s dumb it down. Let’s dumb the actual product down to where it’s point. 001 active ingredient and the rest is just filler and many times that filler is toxic. Let’s dumb it down to a one-sound bite story that our consumer can understand–we have Vitamin C or we have Marula oil, or whatever it is. Let’s make her believe she needs 20 different products for 20 different issues, half of which she doesn’t even know she has.’ These are the things that we’re standing up against. This is a single product that delivers results to women of all different ages, all different skin issues and all different skin colors.
And that’s because we’re looking at the underlying issues of skin. We’re looking at inflammation and imbalance—these are the issues that are really driving most skincare problems. Inflammation is what drives acne, rosacea, dull lifeless skin, and just imbalance in general. And yes, diet has a big part to do with it. Stress has a big part to do with it. If 80% of your skin is lifestyle and 20% is product, then that 20% should be the very best it can be and that’s really what Active Botanical Serum is.
Your product seems like an oil, but you call it a serum. I have used oils and they sit on your skin. This doesn’t. It was very intentional to make Active Botanical Serum a product that had a very small particle size. We knew that it was a product that was so nutritionally dense that it really needed a delivery system. You can have the most incredible product in the world but if your delivery system doesn’t work then there’s no point.
Is made of oils, or oils plus other things? It’s oils, plants, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, anti-oxidants. There are 22 ingredients, but over 60 constituents. And by constituents I mean all the minerals, vitamins antioxidants, fatty acids and all that. Again they are all in these very ideal ratios so they are able to support each other and have a synergistic effect on your skin.
How and when should someone use it? AM and PM, because again, it feeds your skin so much you can really keep a pretty simple routine around it. You cleanse, tone, apply active botanicals serum and then in AM apply sunscreen and then PM if you need it, additional moisture. The other thing is that it works really well with Retin A. We have a beautiful carrot seed oil from France that has just really high levels of vitamin A and it supports that cellular regeneration on it’s own, but it also supports cellular regeneration with those people who are using Retin A. Plus it mitigates the redness and flakiness that some people get from Retin A. The other thing that it works well with is Vitamin C. It’s hard to find a Vitamin C that’s stable, but it compliments Vitamin C very well.
Talking about your business—what was the hardest thing about starting Vintner’s Daughter? Finding the lab that would work with us. For me it was really important to be the very highest quality for everything. Everything we do is tested. For me it was about being able to work with a lab that could offer that. There was no way I was going to be making this in my garage. Quality is efficacy and working with the finest ingredients, but quality’s also delivering consistent consistency, and that is something that the more traditional skincare world has in spades that the natural world has had to work at.
What’s been the easiest thing about starting out? The easiest thing has been, or maybe the most fun and surprising thing I can say about it, is I got in the business because this is a product that I desperately needed, but what has come out of this is meeting so many incredible, passionate women–from clients, to business owners, to women who were writing about it. It’s these connections that I’ve been able to make, and the women I’ve been able to meet that has been incredible. Really just affirming and fun. Especially given everything that’s gone on, it came at a time where I was really needed some women connection, so it was just really nice.
You only have one product. Will there be more? Here’s the thing, and I don’t mean to be too dramatic about it, but I really want to make products that change women’s lives. I don’t want to make products that fill up a shelf. And to that end it’s going to take longer to develop product. We are working on new products, hopefully they’re going to be released sometime next year, but again we’re not going to release them until they’re game-changing, category-defining.
Three words that describe you: Grateful, balanced, curious.
Three words that describe Vintner’s Daughter: Results-driven, highest quality, safe.
One of your attributes that you think helps you succeed: I have a really clear vision of my brand, my product and the people who are using it. We have been offered huge growth opportunities that would bring huge financial windfalls. But I would have had to compromise what I believe is the integrity of my product to make it faster and cheaper. We’re happy being a single sku company. And I’m grateful for every woman who brings us into her bathroom vanity. And grateful for all the skin and the lives we’ve been able to change. It’s beyond my wildest dreams.
You give 2% of every purchase to organizations that help women and children. Can you talk a little bit about that? This has been something from day one that’s been a big part of what we wanted to do. We want to change women’s lives with skin care but we also feel like we owe it to ourselves to give back. So 2% of every purchase is given to charities that support women and children. We have worked with charities near us such as Tipping Point, that works with homeless mothers, women and children. We’re building a well with Charity Water in Ethiopia right now; building a well effects the entire community but it effects women and children most, because they’re the ones that are responsible for getting the water every day. That means that they miss out on maybe starting a small business, or for the daughters going to school. This year we got to work with Every Mother Counts for Mother’s Day and gave them 10% of every purchase. As we grow, those contributions grow. That is incredibly exciting and rewarding.
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