Before a sold out Vintner’s Daughter event at the Santa Monica Detox Market, I sat down in a cozy corner booth with founder April Gargiulo at Beaming Cafe to chat over fresh acai bowls. I was dying to know how she went from making fine wine to making cult-status skincare.
For anyone who hasn’t tried your serum, how would you describe it?
Active Botanical Serum was developed to be a product that offered dramatic change to your skin. It wasn’t developed to address one single skin issue, it was really developed to address inflammation and imbalance. At the end of the day, it’s skin nutrition, which is something that we all deal with. For me, when that’s out of whack, it looks like acne. Somebody else, it looks like rosacea. Somebody else, it looks like dry skin. So really, it was about creating a product that fed your skin. Anyway, it was developed to feed skin and have a dramatic effect on skin, by addressing inflammation and imbalance.
What was your inspiration to create it?
Number one inspiration? Well, it was a series of inspirations, and none of them, I think, are less important than the other. I was somebody that struggled with my skin all my life and you name it, I tried it—from accutane to coconut oil, I had tried it, and none of it worked for me.
What was the first skincare product that you remember trying?
Oh! I won’t say the brand, but it was a three-step process from a classic department store line.
And I remember going back to the lady… and I don’t want to say anything about them.
No, of course not.
Right, and you know, that was probably when I was like 14, right?
I did the same exact thing.
Yeah, we all did! Right? I can remember being the girl, you know, back in the early aughts when everyone was buying fancy handbags. I was buying luxury face cream thinking I was doing something very good for my skin. Anyway, I struggled with my skin and I had tried anything and everything. And nothing lasted. Things would provide a little bit of change, but then as soon as I adjusted or what have you, I don’t know what happened, but it would all come back. So I was constantly looking and on a search. I also grew up in a family of agriculture, in fine winemaking, so I was very aware of where things came from and how things were made—how the very finest things are made, because in my family what we were trying to do was to make one of the very finest wines in Napa.
And then I became pregnant. All the food I ate and what I cleaned my house with, everything around me was very clean. I was very conscious about it, having grown up in an agricultural environment that honored that. I started looking at my skincare ingredients—and I think that this is a very familiar refrain for many pregnant women who start really digging in. The truth is, I’m sure I knew that they wouldn’t be the cleanest sorts of products. I wasn’t under any sort of delusion like that. But because I had such bad skin, I wasn’t in a place where I was willing to compromise. I thought that I would have to compromise. But then when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wasn’t willing to make that compromise anymore.
I wanted it all, right? I wanted multi-correctional, super high-performance, the best ingredients, I wanted totally safe. So you know, I started looking at what I had been using, and I found out that it was all filled with chemicals. But truly the biggest eye-opening part of the process was how cheap they were—how inexpensive the ingredients were. How it was like 0.001 percent active ingredients, and really the only expensive and luxurious part of it was the expensive packaging. And the rest was just filler—toxic filler!! And so, I went in search of something that met my performance demand, which was very high, and that met my quality demand, and that was totally safe. I couldn’t find that product. And, I should say, I wanted it all in one product. I traveled a lot. I was a new mom. I did not want a 10 step regimen—that was just not going to work.
I think that’s true for a lot of modern women.
Yeah, well I mean, I just couldn’t do it. That was what I was looking for, and that’s what I couldn’t find. And that is how Active Botanical Serum came to be. That is how I created an uncompromising product that was everything in one. All of the activity, all of the performance, really nice quality, and completely safe.
How else did your wine making background influence the way you approached skincare?
I always say that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants of Napa Valley. Napa Valley was built on incredible women and men who were so passionate about the very finest quality. In winemaking that’s about expression and enjoyment—those are things that I hold very dear. In Napa Valley you don’t compromise on things; in fine winemaking you can’t. If you want to make the very best wine you have to do what it takes, there’s no speeding up the process. So with Vintner’s Daughter, with Active Botanical Serum, our first and only product, we take the time to make the best product. We do not take shortcuts. There are no extracts, dehydrated things, there are no powders. We start with whole plants. We take the time to infuse the plants into our formulas. We’re effectively getting, instead of isolated components of these plants, we’re getting the full spectrum of activity. We’re doing that because we’re taking the time, we’re not taking the shortcuts. It takes three weeks to formulate one batch.
Yeah, it takes a long time. For traditional skincare, it takes, you know, a couple of hours. This is a very old—like fine wine making—it’s a very old technology.
Aside from using your beautiful serum, what is the best skincare advice you’ve ever received?
Well skincare is, you know, simple, but not always easy, right? Don’t pick your face, always clean your face before you go to bed, drink lots of water. You know my actual skincare routine is very simple. I cleanse—I don’t wear a ton of make-up so I don’t even double cleanse. I single cleanse. I apply toner. I put Vintner’s Daughter on, and a moisturizer. And sometimes I don’t even need the moisturizer—it all depends on where I’m at. For me, I think consistency is the most important part of skincare. I think a lot of people jump around to lots of different things. And that’s fun—I totally understand—it’s kind of an entertaining component to skincare these days. But I believe that the Active Botanical Serum is the rock to your skincare. The foundational component that you kind of build everything else around, knowing that your skin is getting all of the nutrition that it needs. And then you can have a pretty simple regimen around it.
Speaking of skincare regimens, and the different things that you use, do you think you’re ever going to build on the Vintner’s Daughter line?
Yes. I mean, I want to. With the Active Botanical Serum, it has every nutrient, every vitamin, every mineral, every phytonutrient, every antioxidant—everything that is oil soluble. So, you know, it would be nice to have the other end of the spectrum as well.
Right! Well, we’ll look forward to that for sure. What is your favorite indulgence?
Time! Spending time with my family, and I don’t mean to say that that’s an indulgence but really…if I have extra time, that’s where I want to spend it. You know growing a small business and growing a family—I also want to spend time with my husband, with my friends and with myself. Time and time with my family—that is my indulgence. And I don’t want to call it an indulgence, but it’s the first thing that popped into my mind. And dark chocolate!
That’s the other one!
Yes [Laughing] My kids and dark chocolate!!
[Laughing] What do you think is the future of green beauty?
I love that question! I think that the future of green beauty is about really understanding what is best for your skin. Meaning, there are some things that are not natural per se, but are also not harmful—to the environment or to your skin. I’m thinking about some algae or stem cells that originate in nature, but that are now made in a lab. I think those are all very interesting places for us to go. I don’t have all of the answers, but that’s the future I see, you know, having more technology.
Absolutely. Well, thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
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