vintner’s daughter | active botanical serum

vintner's daughter active botanical serum

The blogosphere blew up with review after review of this facial oil.

Early adopters boasted its 22 plant-based ingredients and unicorn ancestry.

And of course, the now-infamous ITG headline got beauty junkies everywhere reaching for their credit cards.

Clearly, I can only be talking about Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum.

vintner's daughter active botanical serum

{Vintner’s Daughter sent me a sample of its Active Botanical Serum. It costs $185 for a 30 ml Miron glass dropper bottle.}

When a single product is that talked up — and seems to come out of nowhere — I can’t help but be skeptical.

A quick glance at the ingredients list shows a beautiful collection of both familiar and more exotic botanicals. But as spoiled as we are in the green beauty world, this is now the standard, not the exception.

What I couldn’t see in the reviews and social media chatter, though, were two things that set this facial oil apart from the rest: texture and formulation process. These two things eased the skeptic in me.

vintner's daughter active botanical serum

Let’s start with my immediate first impression: Texture. At first application — a full 8 drops of this sunny yellow oil — I let out an audible “oh wow” as I pushed and pressed it into my skin.

I am well aware that in the beauty writing world, we overuse texture descriptors such as silky, velvety, dewy and other -y words. But truly, Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum feels like no other oil I have felt before.

It’s not heavy, which is surprising given the number of carrier oils used in the blend (grapeseed, hazelnut, avocado, evening primrose, rosehip, sea buckthorn and tamanu!). Instead, it feels the way a dimethicone-based product would feel, but without that plastic-y primer texture; it slides on, sinks in and protects the skin.

(I’m going to chalk this texture up to hazelnut oil, which is a naturally astringent oil ideal for combo/oily skin.)

Speaking of protection: Vintner’s Daughter says the oil can be used both night and day, with proper sun protection (as always!) during daytime use.

In my humble opinion, you should reserve this oil for nighttime use only unless you are absolutely religious about SPF and have a special set of goggles that show you exactly every inch of your skin that has been covered with this oil so that you may protect it.

That’s because Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum contains whole-plant, photo-sensitizing ingredients including bergamot and lemon, with bergamot being extremely high on the ingredients list (No. 3 on the list See new ingredients list below).

If you don’t know what bergamot smells like, you will once you sniff this oil! (Hint: It’s like a deeply layered lemon / lime / orange).

These two ingredients are incredible for brightening the skin, but should not be used during the day. Just don’t risk it. Plus, you’ll make your $185 bottle last longer with once daily use.

In case you’re wondering, yes, you can source non-photo-sensitizing bergamot (furocoumarin-free “FC-free” bergamot). Vintner’s Daughter follows a whole-plant philosophy, meaning nothing is removed from a plant during the oil-making process.

Here’s the full ingredients list:

Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Corylus Avellana (Hazelnut) Oil, Citrus Aurantium var Bergamia (Bergamot) Peel Oil, Calendula officinalis (Marigold), Persea Americana (Avocado) Oil, Rose Damascena (Rose) Absolute, Daucus Carota (Carrot) Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Rosa Rubignosa (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel, Lavandula x Intermedia (Lavender) Flower, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Leaf, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf, Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion) Leaf, Boswellia Carteri (Frankincense) Oil, Citrus Aurantium var Amara (Neroli) Flower Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit, Curcuma Longa (Tumeric) Root Oil, Cupressus Sempervirens (Cypress) Leaf Oil, Jasminum Grandiflorum (Jasmine) Flower, Calophyllum Tacamahaca (Tamanu) Oil

UPDATED: Vintner’s Daughter commented on my Instagram post to say that the current packaging’s listing of ingredients is NOT in the order of high to low percentages. I’m disappointed in this, as it’s an improper label per the FDA and contradicts what we’ve learned in the green beauty community: Read your labels and know that ingredients should be listed in order of prominence. Vintner’s Daughter plans to release updated packaging and an update to its website soon.

The correct order is listed below:

Grape Seed Oil, Hazelnut Oil, Alfalfa leaf, Dandelion leaf, Nettle leaf, Calendula flower, Avocado Oil, Rose Damascena Absolute, Rosehip Seed Oil, Carrot Seed Oil Extra Virgin, Lavender flower, Evening Primrose Oil, Neroli Flower Oil, Bergamot Peel Oil, Frankincense Oil, Jasmine Absolute, Cypress Leaf Oil, Lemon Peel, Rosemary Leaf, Sea Buckthorn Fruit, Tumeric Root, Tamanu Oil

It’s good to note that the ingredients are not certified organic, but are instead “of the very highest quality and sourced form conscious growers around the world. All are organic or wildcrafted, but not all are certified. To that end, we work with the grower not the certificate.”

That’s according to April Gargiulo, founder of Vintner’s Daughter. When it comes to formulating these high-quality ingredients, she answered my very direct question about why this oil is so expensive. The exact exchange below:

What is the driving force behind the high price point?

“The driving force behind the high price point is the high cost of ingredients and formulation process. We begin with the finest whole organic and wildcrafted botanicals. We thoughtfully and painstakingly extract their actives through an ancient process borrowed from fine winemaking. This is more costly and time-consuming, but results in a product efficacy that is impossible to replicate using less expensive extracts.”

The formulation process she speaks of begins with a temperature-controlled enfleurage to gently infuse the whole-plant ingredients into the carrier oils. This intimate process takes weeks and results in a very unique blend in every bottle. I admire April’s choice to take the more challenging path to creating a standout product. I can better appreciate the high pricepoint knowing how it’s made — but that doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t deliver results.

Which leads me to what I found during my eight-week, nighttime only testing process. Vintner’s Daughter didn’t rid me of my chronic cystic acne (It’s hormonal, what can you do topically? Nothing.). But it did help calm it.

The first night I used it, I had a large cystic spot on my cheek as well as a cluster of red, angry pimples and cysts along my leftside jawline. This is the area of my face that is constantly in chaos. After applying Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum and going to bed, I awoke to less-angry, pink pimples and slightly smaller cysts.

I noticed the slight difference and continued on, pushing and pressing to my heart’s desire every night, and while the results were slow and steady, I can say that this oil helped my skin feel calmer. Did it immediately zap every hormonal breakout? No. Did it take my skin from red to airbrushed? No. But it did smooth everything out and leave my skin in a better state.

But that was until I started to experience some non-oil related irritation. If you’re feeling any tinge of irritation or redness, be aware that applying this oil will likely cause a little sting (hi, citrus oils!). You should always be aware of what you use on broken skin, clearly, but even slight redness or heat in the skin will become more agitated when using a very active formula. So, know your skin and alternate nights if you have any irritation issues. The goal is to not burn your face off!

Example: From time to time, I get dry patches on my cheeks and am prone to a little dryness from using acid toners a few times a week. If you’re experimenting with acids, you really do not need to be using them while using Vintner’s Daughter. This formula is active enough (remember, bergamot and lemon!) and takes on the brightening duty that your acids typically do.

April recommends the following skincare steps:

“I always suggest cleanse, tone / essence and then apply Vintner’s Daughter — and that is it. It is quite powerful on its own, and unless you have super dry skin, it’s probably all you need to lock in moisture.”

That’s the directive I follow at night when I use Vintner’s Daughter (and every once in a while, I throw in some exfoliation and a mask), and I’ve loved the experience of using it during my bedtime routine.

I’m drawn to the idea of using this facial oil in the fall and winter when I could use a little extra brightening. But it’s also a brilliant year-round thanks to its unique, astringent texture (especially for combo/oily types).

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum is one I’d consider adding to my oil arsenal, but for the pricepoint, I wish I could use it as my exclusive daytime and nighttime oil.

I don’t know of any plans to expand the Vintner’s Daughter line (this is the one and only product at this point!), but might I plant the seed of creating another beautiful oil featuring zero photo-sensitizing ingredients?

Have you tried Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum? What are your thoughts on the ingredients list and formulation process? How much would you pay for a luxury face oil? Tell me in the comments! may include affiliate links to featured products. Not all product links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from an affiliate link, earns a small commission.

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  • I too love this oil for the way it helps to calm redness & spots. I was sent one from VD but I also bought the Beauty Heroes box so I could give one to my Mum and she’s loving the oil. As I’m only young I wouldn’t buy it again as although it helps with the spots, I don’t really need any help with aging skin or anything but my Mum is a big fan!

  • lynne

    I agree that this oil is special. The texture and next-day appearance of my skin is beyond any other oil I’ve tried. I’m also battling some cystic acne, and have had more success with these two products: Nelsons pure and clear acne treatment gel, and Kypris clearing serum. I’m not a fan of other Kypris serums and oils I’ve tried, but I use the clearing serum as a spot treatment, and it’s good. The Nelsons is inexpensive, dries fast and has no smell, which is nice. And it does seem to bring the inflammation down faster than normal.

  • Gina

    There is something about Vintner’s Daughter that just has rubbed me the wrong way, first it was those photos of the product where they stretched it to look larger than it actually is, then it was the denial of photo-sensitivity (I actually have an e-mail that says this oil can actually PROTECT from sun rays), now it is the ingredients list isn’t even accurate? Three strikes, you’re out.

    • LeaMe

      It absolutely cannot protect from sun rays when the serum includes photo-toxic essential oils. It’s not accurate. Now the list of ingredients sounds great, but not everyone really needs so many carrier oils or all of those essential oils. If you want a good serum produced for your needs, find a certified aromatherapist. It won’t cost an arm and a leg like the Vintner’s Daughter serum!

  • Janice

    I get that not every good ingredient needs to be labelled “organic” and for many small farmers it is very costly to go for the certification which is part of why it is costly to have an organic formula. So when she claims that part of the reason for the insane sky high price is because of this, I’m completely lost as it should logically be cheaper since the certification cost is avoided.

  • Never heard of the brand. I don’t get why an natural oil-based product has to be so overpriced.

  • Natasha

    I don’t feel this serum is worth $185. After one month of consistent use at night, I have large pores, sun spots that have not faded at all, and get tiny whiteheads which I’ve never had before.

    • ReddJohn

      Sounds like your skin is having a reaction to essential oils. Plus do you wear SPF on your face daily? If you read the article above, she states you should probably put it on at night because of the sun exposure issue with a few of the ingredients in regards to sun damage/spots. But yes, the oil is not for those who have skin reactions to essentials oils. You should try Sunday Riley’s Juno oil. It doesn’t contain essential oils in the ingredients. Tiny white heads usually means your skin is having a reaction to one or some of the ingredients and I’m guessing it’s the essentials oils.

      • LeaMe

        Exactly. You really have to be careful with essential oils. I’m in the beginnings of aromatherapy certification courses and have already learned that I’m allergic to lavender and sensitive to clove oil. Also, some of the carrier oils in theserum aren’t always skin friendly to some people. The phototoxic oils in the serum are bergamot and the lemon. There are versions of these that aren’t phototoxic. Honestly, a group of friends could share costs of the oils and make their own dupe of this serum easily, with less than $200 for supplies to make a a huge amount of the serums. Some of the essential oils could be omitted, or buy the jojoba diluted versions to cut down the costs of the rose, frankincese, sandalwood, neroli. Carrot seed oil is great, get Co2 distilled instead of buying a bottle of the carrot carrier oil. Keep the essential oils to 18 drops (or less) per oz of combined carrier oils.

      • Abigail

        She did say she was using it at night, though.

  • alsa qarisa

    have you tried nude progenius oil? it’s amazing! I had hormonal breakouts and I’ve had great results. it succeeded in calming them down plus it zaps pores like nothing else, with a fraction of the price compared to this one.. It’s sort of a dry oil so I use it day and night.

    • I’ve tried a small sample from Sephora and loved the texture! Awesome that it worked so well for you <3

  • Cassie

    Have you tried anything else recently that helps with cystic acne? I would love to try this, but it is just so pricey…..I just don’t want to spend the money and it not help!! Thanks for this blog!! :)

    • Have you read my review of Zum Rub in Frankincense & Myrrh? This helped me tremendously with cystic acne:

      The only other thing that really helps is figuring out your hormones. If you are not opposed to taking a pill, you should look into Spironolactone. It lowers testosterone in women and helps control oil and breakouts.

      I have been on it for several months now and have noticed a major difference in how oily my skin and hair get. I have several friends and co-workers who are on it, too, and it has worked magic for them. See a write-up here:

      • Cassie

        Thank you so much!! I am going to research the Zum Rub right now…do you order it off of Amazon or do you have another site you prefer?

      • Cassie

        I just ordered! Thanks so much!! This was a much cheaper purchase to give a try….I appreciate it!

        • You’re welcome! Amazon is always easy … but you can also usually find it at your local health food store or grocery store. Whole Foods definitely carries it. Good luck!

  • Sophia

    I purchased this back in August when I had great skin, and now I’m afflicted with cystic acne that started in September. Vintner’s Daughter has done nothing for the acne, and I keep breaking out. I may be one of the few people where the product did not offer any benefit…or made my skin worse! I stopped using it last month. I won’t be purchasing it again.

  • Katie

    So sketchy ingredients label… no organic certification… and weird stretched out photos that make the bottle look bigger than it is? Yes organic does not encompass all high quality oils but the certification costs money which is it is more expensive than even higher quality oils that do not pay for certification, so her statement is illogical. I’m going to take a hard pass, would love to see this get the Beauty Idealist treatment, you know she’d rip her a new one.

  • Just Great

    This worked great for my skin the first week, my husband even commented on my glowing skin. But the 2nd week into using my Keratosis pillars flared up and just continued getting worse. Now I am having getting my KP under control again.

  • Meaghan Gatchell

    I was really hopeful…my skin has been really great this past year and my perioral dermatitis did not rear its ugly head this year! so with all the hype and amazing reviews i got a sample if this to try before spending the $200….used twice to bed last couple of if nights and first night was ok…but woke up this am with a severe reaction to it…i have not changed anything else in my skincare. it has flared up my perioral dermatitis and have a rash on my neck….im so dissapointed and frustrated….once this happens its basically uncontrollable and spreads….i have to stop all product use and hope i don’t have to go on antibiotics….so to end my rant….its a beautiful oil but if you are prone to or have ever had perioral dermatitis….or if you have sensitive skin and are prone to seasonal allergies…..i wouldn’t try this!

  • Sissy

    So basically she’s using a distiller.

  • sumpat

    I’ve been testing out a small sample for the past week and love it!!! But the price point is insane. How does Vintner’s Daughter compare with Josh Rosebrook’s active infusion serum? His price point is just so much more attainable so I’m curious to know the difference in efficacy and experience.

    • Erin

      Did you ever figure out about the comparison to JR Active Infusion Serum? I’m wondering, too…

      • sumpat

        Hey Erin, I ended up using Maya Chia’s Super Couple!

        I’ve already gone through one bottle (lasted six months for $85) and just placed my order for another bottle with Integrity Botanicals. The improvement in my skin’s complexion has been insanely awesome. From what I’ve read, it’s the astaxanthin and combo of other ingredients.

        • Erin

          Hey Sumpat,
          Thanks so much for this rec! 6mos is a long time – we’re you using it AM & PM? Just trying to gauge how long it would last for me ;) it does look good & I had read recently about chia being the latest super-food for the face. I’ll give it a go – same price point basically as JR’s product and still waaaayy below Vintner’s daughter! Thank you! :)

          • sumpat

            I realize now that my username is sorta odd. I’m Suman, nice to meet you! haha

            So yeah, highly recommend Maya Chia’s Super Couple. I usually use it AM + PM. Three drops total per application. It’s so potent. And then I use JB’s tinted nutrient day cream on top during the day~ My skin’s never been happier!

          • Erin

            Well hi there Suman :) I was just unimaginative and used my real name as my username :/ !!
            Anywho… thank you for the info – I, too, use the Tinted Nutrient Day cream! I’m feelin’ like my skin may react like yours, then! Thank you so much!! Continued success with your skincare! :)
            xxx e.

          • sumpat

            Yay! Happy to help! Please let me know if you do go with the Maya Chia serum. Would love to know how it’s working for you~

  • Marika

    I bought this pretty excited from reading all the incredible reviews from the celebrity facialists and other beauty experts. I’m not outrageously sensitive to smells but I couldn’t bare the smell of it. It’s all natural and floral essences but awful to me. Washed it right off. I contacted them and they said the benefits outweigh the smell and I should try to leave it on because the smell doesn’t last that long. But it does. SO I can’t use it and I can’t return it. No idea if it works obviously.

    • Rhonda Fox Jones

      Will you sell the oil? I would be happy to purchase an oil like this to try. I am 65 and have had a cystic/hormonal acne condition ongoing since I was 52. I finally tried Seabuckthorn Berry in a Rose Hip oil from Cleopatra’s Choice. Boy has it helped. Then I went on to try many, many products from DermaE which is natural, plant based and together, they are helping my skin greatly.
      I honestly don’t believe all the hype about the oils and they way they are processed in Vintner’s Daughter making that much of a difference in a person with skin problems, anymore than any other good oil or serum with these main essential oils.
      I would love to be able to afford a small sample of Vintner’s just to see. As long as I’ve lived and as much as I have tried, I could surely tell the difference if there was one.

      • VK

        Rhonda, you can often find samples for sale on eBay for about $25, sometimes up to $30. It’s pricey for a sample but worth it in order to evaluate the product (before you fork out $185). Also, keep going with the oil. I find sweet almond, coconut, jojoba and Rosehip (nothing fancy, just what I find in whole foods) have helped me.