As someone who tests and reviews droves upon droves of beauty product for a living, it's rare for a launch to quite literally excite the words right out of me. I'm five minutes fresh off the phone with April Gargiulo, the founder of Vintner's Daughter, and it's as if someone—or, in this case, an industry-altering formula—has snuck up behind me with a "boo" so fantastic and electrifying, I'm almost at a loss as to where to start. Almost.
For those who don't know, the story of Vintner's Daughter began back in 2012 when Gargiulo, richly steeped in a family history of agriculture and winemaking, embarked on a passion project to create a skincare product as meticulously executed as the world-class standards her family's Napa Valley wines were known for. The story was officially realized in 2014, when the brand's cult-loved Active Botanical Serum ($185) was born full-body, and since then, with growing momentum, the serum has catapulted in reputation.
Hailed by celebrities, beauty editors, and leading estheticians as one-of-a-kind and life-changing, it's known as the "serum to end all serums," and boasts a luscious, results-driven formula comprised of 22 of the world's most vibrantly potent botanicals. So robust, it almost puts the phrase "high-quality," to shame. Consciously sourced from the best growers around the world, said ingredients emerge to their full potential through the brand's signature Phyto Radiance Infusion—a three-week extraction process from the whole plants themselves.
That's practically unheard of within the skincare industry, thus warranting the product's pandemonium and steep price tag.
For five years—and up until last week—the serum was Vintner's one and only SKU, but with the highly anticipated launch of the Active Treatment Essence ($225), it's found itself a practically holy sibling.
In order to make waves within the ever-expanding beauty industry, a new product has to be really, really special (and this one is). In a world of homogenized and monotonous digital timepieces, the newest member of the Vintner's family is the luxurious handcrafted, solid-wood Grandfather Clock. Gorgeous, covetable, and investment-worthy, yes, but reliable and steadfast, so you know you'll be able to count on it for years (and years) to come.
Although in the case of the new essence, (versus the fleeting seconds of a clock), the reward to be reaped is an illuminated, lit-from-within complexion, scientifically sealed with nutrition, and lightly lacquered with a velvety soft finish. The formula is gold, and in reaction, the industry is practically screaming in excitement. (FYI, until April, when it will be released to more retailers, you can get your hands on the black bottle of magic via Goop or the Vintner's Daughter website.)
Because the Active Treatment Essence ($225) is worth having a full conversation about—from its inception to the dewy delicious application ritual—we're sharing everything you need to know about the exciting launch below, including the scintillating tidbits we gleaned from Gargiulo (the mastermind) herself. Keep scrolling!
The Active Treatment Essence: A Dissection
"In agriculture, and within the world of winemaking, there's a lot you can't control, but with everything you can, you're always going after the highest quality. That's my idea of what true luxury is—an old-world concept of luxury," Gargiulo explains to me. "It's something that should be born of the very finest ingredients, made by the most skilled of artisans, and produced in very methodical, time-honored ways."
This is a description that also captures the essence of Vintner's Daughter to the T. "The genesis of Vintner's Daughter has really been a process of creating products that are uncompromisingly multi-correctional, performance-driven, 100% active, made from the finest ingredients in the world, and totally safe," she adds. The first product to bring the above to life was the Active Botanical Serum back in 2014, and the Active Treatment Essence is like a holy-grail prequel.
"We're not tricking the skin into doing anything else; we're giving your skin exactly what it needs to amplify what it's already doing," Gargiulo iterates. "As amazing as the serum is, its only limiting factor is that in nature, nutrients are either oil-soluble or water-soluble, and with the Active Botanical Serum, we're able to deliver the full-spectrum of oil-soluble nutrition, but we were missing the water-soluble nutrients."
Thus, to complete the circle and to give the skin everything it would need to be its most radiant and healthy, came the inspiration—and in Gargiulo's mind, necessity—behind the Active Treatment Essence.
"The essence is the water-soluble yin to the serum's oil-soluble yang," Gargiulo extends. "It's the hydration to the moisture, it's very much the cool to the warm. And just like with the serum, composition-wise we begin with 13 of the most nutrient dense whole plants, take them through the three-week-long infusion process, and extract their full spectrum of water-soluble nutrition. So, when paired together, the essence and the serum form the complete circle of nutrition for the skin."
But of course, in true-to-brand fashion, the formula of the essence was taken up a notch. In addition to all the above, Gargiulo shared with me that they added a fermentation step to improve and amplify the absorption of nutrition within the skin (similar to what a high-quality capsule of digestive enzymes does for your gut before a healthy meal), not to mention two different sizes of hyaluronic acid for plumpness, natural stabilized vitamin C for brightening, three different plant stem cell complexes for healthy collagen, and a trifecta punctuation of pre- and probiotics, micro-marine algae, and daily exfoliators in the form of lactic and phytic acids.
Proving that simplicity doesn't have to be stagnant, the Vintner's Daughter method of ritual and application is one of precision, ease, and again, luxury. Followed by cleansing, both the essence and the serum will be applied morning and night, with the only necessary addition being a high-quality SPF post-serum in the morning.
Just as with the serum, the essence follows the brand's pat/press method which is specifically enacted to facilitate effortless and effective application and optimal performance. After cleansing, you'll simply dispense one-third of the dropper into the palm of your hand, pat and press it into your face for roughly five to ten seconds, and then follow with five to six drops of the serum while skin is still damp with essence. (For the serum, you'll use the same press/pat MO, but just make sure to swiftly rub your palms together before applying in order to further activate the elixir's glow-gifting power.)
Slightly champagne-esque in scent, upon application you'll be able to smell the effect and benefit of the serum, which while not off-putting (especially compared to the staggering smell of other formulas on the market), is worth noting, and is actually a pride point.
"We would never hide it or cover it up," Gargiulo points out. "It is 100% informed by the performance of nature, and for us, that's something we choose to celebrate. It's doing so much incredible work upon application—you'll initially feel a slight cooling which is the fermentation aspect working, and as it's drying, you'll notice this kind of matrix form, a pearlescent forcefield that's taking away redness, evening out skin tone, sealing in nutrients, plumping, and attracting more hydration from the air. It works internally and externally."
Post-application, the skin is illuminated and it's ridiculously soft to the touch (trust me, I already tried it and am devoted to it), and you're not left in a situation of compromise or in which you're choosing a skincare routine for one or two benefits alone. With the essence and the complimentary addition of the serum, no longer must you choose between hydration, detoxification, or brightness, because Gargiulo has specifically designed the duo to tackle every skincare goal both intrinsically and extrinsically.
"This is a product that is so finely tuned, that is so finely formulated, and with everything in the exact perfect proportion and ratios," she explains. "All the guess work is done for you. It replaces your toner, it replaces anything that's designed to put your skin at a perfect pH, it replaces your exfoliator, your hyaluronic acid, your vitamin C, your probiotics and prebiotics. It replaces any kind of stem cells or amino acids. It's an incredible gift to know that in just two steps, your skin is getting everything it needs—and at the highest quality of everything it needs. That, to me, is the truest luxury."