Our "How I Shop" series documents how prominent figures buy clothes. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. The same goes for beauty — and there's a whole lot to unpack in the way we discover, test and purchase hair, skin, makeup, fragrance and wellness products. Now, we're delving into all of it with "How I Shop: Beauty Edition."
April Gargiulo didn't really consider herself a "beauty person." Then she just happened to create a skin-care brand "beauty people" all over would come to consider one of their most beloved. Vintner's Daughter, as its name suggests, is the brainchild of Gargiulo, who grew up in the Napa Valley in a winemaking family (does anyone else have visions of '90s-era Dennis Quaid and Lindsay Lohan dancing in their head?). Comprised of just two botanical-packed products — the Active Treatment Essence and Active Botanical Serum — the brand has become somewhat of a gold standard when it comes to minimalist, natural skin care.
While Gargiulo is a devoted user of her own products and describes her overall beauty routine as "pared down," what that really means is she has discerning taste, does the research before deciding to add something new to her regimen and has thoughtful criteria for determining if a brand aligns with her own values. In other words, we could all probably learn a few things from her about navigating the beauty industry's oh-so-crowded shelves. Ahead, Gargiulo shares her personal beauty philosophy, how she got into the business in the first place and two beauty marketing words she always avoids.
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How did you first get interested in skin care? Was it a subject you've always gravitated toward?
I come from the world of fine winemaking in Napa Valley. My family still makes wine there today. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have spent so much time in a community that places such a high value on craftsmanship and quality.
I struggled with my skin my entire life. I was someone who, like many, was dealing with cystic acne, discoloration and all the fun things that come along with getting older. I was using what I thought were the very best 'luxury' products. They were the most expensive and were written about often in glossy magazines. One day I started looking at the ingredients. I was shocked to realize that they were .01% active ingredients; the rest was low-quality filler. Coming from where I was coming from, none of that sat right with me.
Napa Valley is a community dedicated to making the finest wines in the world through meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship. Shortcuts are not allowed and practically every grain of dirt is considered for its quality. That, to me, is the true definition of luxury; beginning with the finest raw materials and honoring them through the most thoughtful formulation practices to achieve something even greater than the parts. The so-called 'luxury; products I had been using were anything but.
This was the genesis of Vintner's Daughter. I wanted to build a true luxury skin-care company that made products from the finest ingredients in the world, using time-honored techniques in order to bring about profound and lasting balance and health in the skin. I wanted to build a company on the same philosophical foundations as the winemaking world I'd come from.
Where do you typically shop for beauty products? How does your process differ when shopping for beauty items versus shopping for clothing?
I buy very few beauty products because my [skin-care] routine is pretty much complete with just our two products, Active Treatment Essence followed by Active Botanical Serum. When I do buy new products though, I go to trusted sources for advice, like friends or brands that share my high standards around efficacy, safety and quality. For clothes, I buy 90% pre-owned or vintage, which is very much driven by a similar ethos as my minimal product consumption. I want to always buy fewer and better in order to support sustainability efforts.
How do you go about discovering new brands and products? Do you have a testing process or any sort of criteria products should meet?
Products for me must meet quite high standards of quality, efficacy, social and environmental standards. Since I'm in the industry, I can see through to a company's core values pretty quickly. The two biggest words for me that signal non-value alignment are 'anti-aging' and 'lightening.' These words and so many others like them are used throughout the beauty world to create fear and insecurity in customers in order to sell more products. I believe it's a dangerous practice that needs to be changed. Instead of fear, struggle and insecurity I want to promote joy, gratitude and confidence in our skin.
How would you describe your personal beauty aesthetic? Has it changed or evolved at all in the past year?
I have always had a pared-down routine, but the last year has made that even more so. I'm far less interested in anything new or trendy and more interested in the tried and true products that actually work. Sorry, unicorn hologram mask.
Walk me through your skin-care routine. What specific products, ingredients and tools do you always come back to?
I cleanse with something generally creamy and gentle, [like formulas] from Nuori, Holifrog or Tata Harper. I then apply Active Treatment Essence followed by Active Botanical Serum and do a few minutes of face massage which I love. Joanna Czech has a great face roller that I use, too. It's very freeing not to be beholden to an elaborate multi-step routine, the results are better and I'm creating less waste.
In the morning, I follow with sunscreen from Supergoop and Beautycounter Dew Skin in the morning. I also like to do NuFace microcurrent, infrared sauna and Celluma red light a few times every week. The Lyma laser was gifted to me over the summer and I love it. And Goop Goopgenes Body Butter is a daily ritual.
How often do you try a new skin-care product, and how often do you actually end up adopting a new one into your routine permanently?
I try new cleansers and sunscreens often because I can never find one that I love. For a product to find a permanent place in my cabinet, it has to offer game-changing performance, be made from the finest ingredients in the world and be made in a socially and environmentally responsible way. In short, it has to live up to my own company standards.
Do you have a favorite product from Vintner's Daughter, if you had to pick just one?
They're like my children and I could never choose. Each offers so much multi-beneficial performance. Whenever I run out of one or the other, I'm in a state of panic.
What does your go-to makeup routine look like?
For makeup I'm really simple and skin-forward. I like Saie Mascara and Lip Gloss, and the new Kosas Brow Gel is great. The Westman Atelier Cream Blush and Highlighter are my go-tos as well, and I want to try their new lip products.
What about hair? Any favorite products or tools?
I wash my hair infrequently and with La Tierra Sagrada and can count the number of times that I've blow-dried my hair on one hand. Sometimes I run a flatiron through it, but more times than not, I put it up, braid it or tie it up somehow and go. Shaina Mote has some really cute hair ties I use sometimes.
What about fragrance — do you have a signature scent?
Growing up in the wine world made me unappreciative of synthetic scent because it hinders your appreciation of the natural world's gorgeous aromas around you. Neither of our products were formulated for scent at all. The signature scents for both come directly from the ingredients and their performance.
With that said, the world of natural perfumes is maturing fast and is very interesting to me. I love the scents from Ojai Wild which are all natural fragrances made from fresh, whole botanicals, many of which are grown by the proprietor or her friends. These scents connect me to the natural world and even a specific place in a way that synthetic scents have never done before.
Do you have a "self-care" or wellness routine? Any favorite rituals, products or tools you use?
Always a giant pot of tea. It's what gets me out of bed. I love having the connection to nature through the tea leaves. Jasmine spring tea or oolong are my go-tos, but when I'm feeling like I need a bit more of a lift, I turn to pu-erh.
What are some of your favorite smaller as or up-and-coming beauty brands? Any favorite specific products from them you love?
My friend Laney started a clean beauty company called Saie and everything is beautifully formulated, approachable and fun.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.