Gone are the days when green beauty was crunchy, modest and homespun. A discerning consumer is now spoiled for choice with luxurious and effective green skincare that easily rivals and even exceeds its conventional counterparts. From elegant packaging to impeccable formulae, green brands are raising the bar on luxury and quality. Still, even the most profligate of green beauty consumers like myself have a certain threshold of acceptability when it comes to the price of skincare. Which is why the arrival of the Vintner’s Daughter serum on the green beauty scene caused me to raise an incredulous eyebrow. It’s not that its price ($185) is particularly excessive when compared to traditional luxury skincare from the likes of La Prairie or Cle de Peau, where prices routinely pass the $500 mark, but it did seem higher that anything I had ever paid for even the most advanced of green beauty serums and oils. So when I was given the opportunity to give Vintners Daughter a try, I set out with a rigorous testing process to determine whether it is, in fact, worth it. After nearly two months of testing and with my sincerest apologies to your wallet, the answer is a resounding “yes”.
The first thing I learned as a green beauty consumer and blogger is that ingredients matter. The right combination of oils and herbs creates a synergy that can decrease inflammation, amp hydration, plump up fine lines and even diminish the signs of aging. The second was that the quality of the ingredients matters as much. Quality is the reason why many brands stake their reputations on exquisite single ingredient products, like Kahina’s argan oil, La Bella Figura’s Barbary Fig seed oil or Cocovit’s coconut oil. Quality ingredients are what separates high-end brands like Yuli, In Fiore and Josh Rosebrook from the many lovely green brands sold on Etsy that do a perfectly fine job, yet may lack that extra oomph. My conversation with Mary Ahern of Bottega Organica also made it clear that the treatment of ingredients might be especially important when it comes to herbs: with some that need to be infused in the sunshine and others that are happiest in the dark, it takes a deft hand and a deep knowledge to create the most potent and effective infusions.
Thankfully, Vintner’s Daughter has a heavyweight in its corner: In Fiore’s brilliant magician, Julie Elliott, whose ingredient brilliance truly shines in this formula. The carrier oils comprising the serum, are lovely and though not especially exotic, they are all skin-improving superstars. These oils combine with the highest quality (and thus costly) EOs like rose absolute and jasmine CO2, as well as herbals such as calendula, dandelion and nettle. It’s a thoughtfully crafted and tightly edited roster of high-quality ingredients and with its gorgeous, deep golden color and beautiful, but in no way overpowering jasmine scent, the serum both looks and feels expensive.
Here’s the thing though: all the expensive ingredients in the world mean absolutely squat if they don’t improve your skin. One of the things I learned after my switch to green beauty is that oftentimes, luxury skincare brands jack up prices simply because that is what their consumers expect. A cream that costs as much as a Botox injection will never work as well as a Botox injection, but it will probably come in a very pretty jar and, much like a Chanel purse, serve as a status signifier for its user. I used to buy into the “more expensive means better” rhetoric with unbridled enthusiasm (though I never came anywhere close to paying as much for a cream as for a designer handbag), but these days I want the price tag to reflect results.
Because of the serum’s cost and because the entire brand consists of a single product, I decided to subject Vintner’s Daughter to my own version of a “clinical trial”.* I used it as my nighttime oil non-stop for a month and used no other oils, serums or creams. I chose to use the serum only in the nighttime because some of its ingredients could be photosensitive and I was in an especially sunny environment and spending most of my time outside, though you should be fine using it in the daytime (I have done so since coming back to New York). I also stuck to a consistent and well-worn routine for my daytime skincare, so as to ensure that any positive (or negative) results were not influenced by another new product.
I also strictly followed Vintner’s Daughter’s application instructions and here I must digress. If I had to find one bone to pick with Julie Elliott, it’s that her usage instructions are often so involved and, frankly, cumbersome, as to make it seem that she makes skincare exclusively for ladies of leisure with nothing but time on their hands. This serum is no exception: rather than haphazardly slapping on a few drops of the oil on my cleansed and misted face, I had to spend a full minute coaxing 8 drops of the serum (more than what I would usually use) into my skin, using the special Push/Press Technique. Now look: I know this seems ridiculous and unnecessary, but there is a method to Ms. Elliott’s madness. As I wrote in my review of the In Fiore 4-2-4 cleansing method, the complicated routine actually makes an appreciable difference to my skin. Same too with Vintner’s Daughter: the extra time spent helping the serum absorb means that more of it ends up in your skin and not on your pillow and the pushing technique acts as a lifting mini-massage. Ultimately, we should all be able to take one minute out of our harried lives for a little self-care.
Now. Back to the clinical trial. I and my wallet wish it were otherwise, but here is the truth: Vintner’s Daughter made me look radiant. One morning, about two weeks into my new routine, I walked into the kitchen of my mother’s Spanish house after a night spent having Facebook arguments about Cecil the Lion. No, really. My life is often absurd. Anyway, I felt like an argumentative zombie and when my mother stared at me for an uncomfortable length of time, I figured she would tell me I looked like one as well. What I got instead was “You look so beautiful this morning! Your skin – it’s glowing!” The compliments continued, but I didn’t really need them: I could see it in the mirror.
The crazy thing is that this radiant glow isn’t even the most impressive result of my trial. I was in Spain for 5 weeks and after about two weeks of my sun-drenched vacation I (gasp!) kind of gave up on sunblock. Now, don’t get me wrong: I still looked like Casper every time we went to the beach and I used my beloved Josh Rosebrook Day Cream on a daily basis, but I couldn’t quite bear having to reapply sunscreen after every jump in the pool or during a day spent at a water park. As a result, for the first time in years my face got tan. It was responsible tanning, which meant that instead of a peeling nose and ruddy cheekbones I got a lovely, golden color, but I was freaked: my skin is prone to hyper-pigmentation and I knew that when the flattering tan vanished, it would leave in its wake far less attractive dark spots. Here’s the thing though: my tan is long gone and it disappeared without a single trace! I couldn’t quite believe it, until I remembered that Vintner’s Daughter contained a number of ingredients purported to inhibit melanin production and diminish sun damage. I have seen these ingredients before, but I never had results as striking as these: this powerhouse serum actually made a lasting, positive change to the condition of my skin under extreme conditions.
When all is said and done, a fact remains: Vintner’s Daughter is expensive. I will not tell you that you cannot take proper care of your skin without this product or that it will change your life for the better. I can’t even promise that it will be the right fit for your skin – as always with green beauty, the sheer number of ingredients means that the serum might not work for every skin type and, if possible, you should try a sample before committing to a purchase. But this is a powerful, beautiful serum that changed my skin for the better and it made me into a convert. Proof? I just bought my second bottle.
*The science nerd in me demands I make clear that what I did in no way qualifies as an actual clinical trial, since I had the sample size of one and since, you know… I am not a trained lab scientist. That said, I remain unconvinced that it was all that much more unscientific than many of the clinical trials being touted by major skincare brands.
Disclaimer: the serum was sent to me for review by Vintner’s Daughter. I am not yet finished with my first bottle, but, as stated above, I already bought a second one. Am properly hooked. Ah well.