Singular Vision Beauty Brands

January 6, 2022

A few years ago, multi-step beauty routines were everywhere—we went from three steps (cleanse, tone, moisturize) to nine or 10, including masks, pre-serums, emulsions and more. Hair care was getting more complex, too. The term “skinification” took hold—the idea that we ought to be exfoliating and priming our scalps, and nerding out over hyaluronic acid in our conditioners.

Then came Vintner’s Daughter, launched in California by April Gargiulo in 2014 with just one product: Active Botanical Serum, a 100 per cent natural multi-beneficial face oil suitable for all skin types, all issues, all ages. It was a challenging start; retailers just didn’t know how to merchandise it. “They would say, ‘Call us back when you have five more products,’ and I would say, ‘I don’t know if I’m ever going to have another!’” Gargiulo says. “In order to show your commitment to skin care you needed 12 steps or they didn’t believe you were a serious brand.”

Then Vintner’s Daughter was discovered by stars like Lady Gaga, Tracee Ellis Ross and Gwyneth Paltrow, who described it as “a little serum I love” to Vogue. Sales went through the roof—and the multi-step beauty backlash began. “There’s something I think—in this wild, crazy world where more is better—in carving out a quiet and thoughtful niche,” Gargiulo says.

Her brand, which now has a whole two products (Active Treatment Essence debuted in 2019), was launched just as self-care was starting to be part of the cultural conversation. “I was a new mom and self-care to me was not spending an hour in the bathroom,” she says. Part of what spurred her to explore beauty was her complex skin; she suffered from cystic acne and found even luxurious products did nothing for her.

Meanwhile, in Montreal, Amandine Azran was having a similar experience. She suffered for years from multiple skin issues like eczema, dermatitis and acne. “I’d taken the approach of trying many different products and they made my problems worse. And then I stripped things right down to basics and found I had fewer problems, but my skin was dull and so was my regimen. It wasn’t luxurious at all.”

Azran moved to a farm just outside of Toronto and “realized how well my troubled skin reacted well to the simplicity of being outdoors.” In 2019, she and mom Heather launched Amandine Sol Botanicals Inner Glow, a product she felt “would be able to carry so many benefits in one simple step. The ingredients marry together without competing with or overshadowing each other.”

It was a challenging time to launch a single-product brand, “the peak of the Deciem era when people were really into layering up many single-ingredient products,” Azran says. “We needed to explain … that we were prebuilding all those ingredients into one product and educate them on the value of that.” She sees Inner Glow as a multivitamin, and described her Dream Dew (an essence), launched early this year, as a green smoothie.

Another value that simple regimens have? People are more likely to comply with them. Azran says: “There’s no wondering what goes first, last, in between. I’m a skin-care junkie and I don’t have the time or patience to do all those steps, but I still want them to feel luxurious.”

The same philosophy is now being applied in the hair world. “We don’t want to add 10 more products to your lineup—and if you’re using a quality shampoo and conditioner you shouldn’t really need a lot either,” says New Zealand’s Jaimee Lupton, founder of Monday Haircare. “We are currently expanding our range in a really considered way, with the products our customers most ask for and want to see.”

It’s all about quality, agrees Clarissa de Queiroz, founder of The Hair Routine. “The important part … is not necessarily the number of products we use, rather the quality and purpose of the ingredients in those products. It’s important to only focus on the necessary ingredients our hair needs to be healthy to replenish it with water, oil and protein. It’s about understanding what the hair needs and when it needs it.”

De Querioz helps customers understand their hair and streamline their regimes by asking them to complete a simple questionnaire to determine when and how much of a product they need. “The goal is to be able to leave your house with fresh hair without worrying about styling it,” Queiroz explains. “It’s about having beautiful and healthy hair every day and not just for an occasion.”

But, if you’re basing your approach on not having too many products in your range, how do you expand and grow your business? Azran says she doesn’t have more skin care in the pipeline because the plan for growth is to continue to make products that are meaningful, effective and simple—though she envisages innovation in other areas where she can make simple products more luxe and beautiful. “Maybe there’ll be a point when there are no more products to make,” she says.

It’s the same for Gargiulo. “We will not be doing serums for mature skin or dark skin or acne-prone skin. We make a serum that is for skin, and all our skin thrives off the same nutrients,” she says. And she’s not looking to the beauty industry for inspiration as she builds her brand. “I think of Brunello Cuccinelli as a brand that has gone its own way and is so steadfast in its commitment to its purpose. Or old family wineries that are passed down from generation to generation and uphold the same philosophy. We are going for that—being a heritage brand, with formulas that are passed from mom to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend, because they’ll always be able to communicate with skin at a deep level.” —Aileen Lalor


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