It’s been five years since April Gargiulo launched Vintner’s Daughter with the infinitely covetable Active Botanical Serum. Promising to take the place of several steps in your skin care routine, Active Botanical Serum—some call it “liquid gold”—is sourced from whole plants around the globe and treats pretty much every skin concern you can think of. It’s iconic for a reason: It lives up to its hype. At $185 for just over an ounce, it’s also quite an investment. But as someone who has been using the product for a year, I’ve seen its transformative powers firsthand.
Gargiulo recently launched the brand’s second product, Active Treatment Essence, and the beauty world was on the edge of its seat. How could anything live up to Active Botanical Serum?
When I spoke with Gargiulo, Essence, which retails for $225, was completely sold out and had a wait list 5,000 people deep. Promising to be the water-soluble, hydrating yin to Active Botanical Serum’s oil-soluble, moisturizing yang, the two products are designed to work together to deliver the only one-two punch your skin will ever need.
I’ve been using both products for almost three weeks now, which means that for the first time in about a decade, I have taken a break from my 10-, 12-, sometimes 15-step skin care routine. I may never go back—in that time, my skin has taken on a radiant clarity that I have never seen before. Some days it even looks like I’m wearing makeup.
I got a chance to ask Gargiulo about her life-changing products, and naturally, I took it.
Something that you have said several times is that you’ve always relied on girlfriend-to-girlfriend marketing, and it’s so true that this product tends to invite discussion. I’ve had people message me on Instagram, as well as strangers stop me in person, to ask me what I’m wearing on my face.
I say that we’ve grown girlfriend to girlfriend and I mean it when I say that; it is literally girlfriend to girlfriend or daughter to mother or coworker to coworker, as you said, literally people getting stopped on the street. It’s been incredible. Did you know that Active Botanical Serum was GQ’s Product of the Year?
How funny is that! So and it’s boyfriend to boyfriend, too. … When we were in formulation for Active Botanical Serum we knew were doing something very special. We knew we were making it in such a way that no one makes product. … Most skin care is made in hours, so to take 21 days—which is the length of time it takes to make Active Botanical Serum and the length of time it takes to capture the full spectrum of energy and nutrition from these incredible plants we begin with—is unheard of.
As I’ve become more and more of a skin care monster over the last decade or so, it’s been really hard for me to break away from that more-is-more idea of, I’m going to layer these 9 products on and then…
And I’m gonna see Jesus.
…And then I’m gonna massage it and then I’m going to seal it all in with something and then I’m going to sleep on this silk pillowcase. What I’m getting at is that it’s hard to go from that to only putting two products on my face. It makes me a little anxious.
It’s almost like we’ve been told that that is wellness, but it’s not. Maybe it is for some people, but it’s not skin care. There’s a kind of healing modality of ritual that I think has a place in all of our lives, [but] we’d probably be better off having a ritual around a walk or meditation or a cup of tea or a talk with friends than the 15 layers of product that we’re putting on our skin. But no one’s going to make money off of you going for a walk or having a cup of tea.
I’m sure that you were not immune from these temptations. What is your skin care guilty pleasure?
I truly don’t have that anymore. I’ve learned my lesson so many different times. Every once in a while I’ll do a sheet mask or something, but listen, I’m not doing, like, the glitter unicorn mask.
A lot of skin care brands seem to say that all skin is not created equal. Something that you say, which is so interesting, is the opposite. Your whole thing is, No, all skin is actually the same.
It’s so they can sell you more stuff. Your skin and my skin require the same nutrients to be its most healthy, its most balanced. That is fact, okay? And if you can address skin at its foundation, all of the other outputs of an imbalance in the foundation will be rectified. … All skin requires the same nutrients to be its most healthy.
It’s such a freeing concept.
It’s the truth. Nature is kind, you know? It’s us who makes it more complicated.
Theater critic for TheaterMania & WBUR’s TheArtery | Theater Editor for DigBoston | film and music critic for EDGE Media | Boston Theater Critics Association.