We live in a world where we have many choices when it comes to products, especially when it comes to skincare products. Rewind back to 5 or 10 years ago, finding all natural skincare was incredibly hard. Fast forward to now, the green beauty market is one of the most fastest growing and lucrative markets out there. As consumers, we now have so much choice when it comes to natural products, especially when it comes to face oils.
In a market that is incredibly competitive, we now also have options from face oils that are incredibly kind on the wallet like those from Boots, Sukin or Trilogy. On the other end of the spectrum we also have luxuriously priced face oils such as those from Rodin, May Lindstrom, 5YINA, African Botanics and of course, Vintner's Daughter. There are also the happy in between oils like those offerings from Antipodes Skincare and Drunk Elephant Skincare. With the array of different facial oils on the market these days, it is incredibly hard for the average person to pick one oil. Many have similar ingredients or promise to do similar things, it isn't hard for someone to become confused.
However, with such a vast range of different oils available on the market, how can one oil cost $20 whilst others companies are charging well over $250 for their formulations? This is something I used to personally struggle with as I just felt like I couldn't shell out so much money for a skincare product. Was it really worth it? My view points have changed as I have started to develop an appreciation for these wonderful creations (my bank account does not like this at all). As I learn more about skincare, I can truly appreciate the time, energy, passion, and monetary costs that are involved. In writing this post, I decided to reach out to some of the more luxuriously priced companies that produce these face oils to understand exactly WHY their oils cost siginificantly more than others in the market. As I read through my email correspondence, I start to notice that there is more to these popular face oils than meets the eye. As Julia Noik from African Botanics puts it perfectly, "when it comes to ingredients and formulations on the market, not everything is as it looks". Put simply, everything is not as black and white as many of us may think. There is so much more to making and creating these facial oils than pretty packaging and marketing - the reasons why these oils are probably more expensive than your average Organic Rosehip Seed Oil from the drugstore does come down to its quality, method of extraction and the general design process.
Quality is Everything
One thing I have learnt from some of the brands I have spoken with is that quality is absolutely everything in producing some of the finest face oils and is something that brands such as African Botanics prides themselves on. "The quality, efficacy and high performance that our customers first notice from using our products. From the very start of African Botanics, our desire was to bring a positive luxury element into every product in our line" says Julia, co founder of luxury skincare brand African Botanics. Just because a face oil has the same or similar ingredients, those exact ingredients can be extremely different starting from where the actual plant itself was grown, how it was harvested to how the oil itself was extracted from the plant. Julia notes just because an oil is the same species, it won't necessarily be the same oil in the way it feels, sinks into the skin and how it will most importantly perform. The reason being? It all comes down to quality.
African Botanics is luxury skincare brand that bases most of its products on the use of Marula Oil, which comes from the seeds of the Marula tree/plant that is native to South Africa. Julia and Craig Noik, the founders of African Botanics are extremely passionate about their formulations, especially the quality of their formulations and Julia, kindly took the time out to go over the differences in quality that oils can have in the market. "It would be important to point out that just because it is Marula oil, there can be and usually is a vast difference between the grades of Marula oil available" says Julia. The price of a 60ml bottle of their hero product, the Pure Marula Oil is USD$120, which for many is quite a lot of money to shell out, considering there are USD$25 alternatives on Amazon. However it is likely that the quality between the two different oils would be quite different in terms of texture, colour, smell and consistency. It turns out that there are many factors that can affect the quality of the grades of oils available. Things such as fruit varieties of certain plants, geographical positioning, the soil, climate, purification and extraction methods can effect the quality of the oils used in our skincare.
Quality of oils can be measured scientifically using quantitative values such as FFA (Free Fatty Acids) values and spore counts. Spore counts are quite important in the production of Marula oil due to the fact it is a natural oil - it will contains spores. Spores are a naturally occurring mould that is present in the Marula kernels before pressing. All batches of Marula oil from African Botanics are micro tested to make make sure that oil is first and foremost safe and not contaminated. Julia and Craig utilise the use of scientists and botanists to check these values to ensure that the quality being used in all products will perform as there is a huge focus in harnessing the powerful phytonutrients, fatty acids (such as Omega 9) and antioxidants in all the oils used in all African Botanics range.
With a background of fine wine making, creator of Vintner's Daughter, April Gargiulo emphasises greatly on quality. She firmly believes that "no short cuts can be taken in making the finest wines in the world and the same holds true for Vintner’s Daughter". At Vintner's Daughter, every plant and oil that comes in to the lab in which the infamous Active Botanical Serum is made is tested to ensure that they are of the very best quality. This is not only a costly process but also a time consuming process. However, this active testing of ingredients ensures that everything that goes into the Active Botanical Serum reaches April's high standards of quality, which is probably why her product has such a passionate following, with many Instagrammers that I follow claiming it to be simply amazing or the best thing they have used for their skin.
Geographical position, climate, soil and exposure to pollution are just some things that can effect the quality of a plant and therefore the oil it produces. One thing I noticed when speaking with Julia from African Botanics and April from Vintner's Daughter was just how much dedication and attention to detail there was when it actually came to extracting the oils from the plants to produce their some of their incredible formulations.
For example, at African Botanics, the Marula trees (which are native to South Africa) are one of the most important plants to the company. Marula oil is their signature product and ingredient, thus attention to detail is essential. They only use a specific variety of fruit that come from specific Marula trees and these trees are generally found in the wilderness (thus are wild harvested). When the harvest of these fruits start in January, the fruit from the Marula trees are used for juices, jams and even beer. The nuts of the trees are then left to be sun dried to prevent any moisture and mould. From there, each of these nuts must be carefully sorted and hand selected before extraction and also cracked by hand. This labour intensive process ensures things such as being exposed to too much direct heat, chemicals from undergoing too many processes etc are kept to an absolute minimum. The Marula oil itself is then extracted, crafted, formulated and bottled in South Africa (the source of the plants) using 'advanced technology and sophisticated, supercritical extraction without heat (cold pressed), solvents or chemicals to ensure the purity, bioavailability and the full potency of antioxidants in oil remains intact without compromise throughout the process'.
However, these processes don't stop at Marula oil, it applies to every other oil used in the African Botanics range and all of their ingredients. For example, the Fleurs d'Afrique Intensive Recovery Oil uses a variety of rare African plant oils such as Kalahari Melon seed oil and Mongongo in it's formulation, not just Marula oil. Many of these ingredients used in the African Botanics range is quite unique and native to South Africa and most of these plant sources comes from remote areas that are relatively untouched by pollution. These plant oils in general are quite rare and extremely hard to find. Botanical ingredients at African Botanics are used with the most recent and fresh plant crops to obtain the highest quality and concentration of active nutrients for the skin. I can now understand just why their face oils start at USD$120, the rare ingredients and the processes alone are quite time consuming and costly.
At Vintner's Daughter, the whole process of making a batch of Active Botanical Serum can take between 8-10 weeks. All the ingredients used in the Active Botanical Serum is created from organic or wild crafted whole plants. These plants have been carefully selected (a process which took April 2 years to come up with the formulation that stands today) as they are considered to be the most nutrient dense in the world. The decision to use whole plants instead of extracts of actives comes down to April's belief that it "is the only way to obtain all the skin beautifying minerals, phytonutrients, vitamins, fatty acids and amino acids from these plants".
The process of extracting these whole plants itself is quite interesting as Vintner's Daughter adopts ancient techniques inspired by wine making such as maceration. Maceration is a process in wine making where crushed grapes, their seeds and stems are soaked to extract colour, aroma, taste and texture. Whilst Vintner's Daughter doesn't adopt the actual maceration process (it is a technique that is only used in fine wine making), they do use a similar process called enfleurage which is a method that infuses the carrier oil used in the Active Botanical Serum with nutrients from the other whole plants. By using the enfleurage process, instead of developing flavours and textures (like that in wine making maceration), the process instead develops and extracts active nutrients such as vitamins and minerals from the 22 different active botanicals. The process is incredibly time consuming and expensive, with a lot of room for error to occur but the results are well and truly worth it as as the quality and the efficacy of the final product is supposed to be far more superior. It is also important to note that every plant is processed slightly differently as they all have different timings and temperatures, which again adds to the extensive process. It is important to note that the main carrier oil for Vintner's Daughter is organic, cold pressed grape seed oil and whilst many can say that whilst this type of carrier oil is effective for the skin, it is also relatively cheap to produce. However, it is also important to keep in mind this it is a small part of the process and production of creating the Active Botanical Serum due to the plethora of other processes that the occur to create the serum.
Creating and Testing
Another factor I think that many of us do forget to take into account is the creative process and time it takes to create a complex facial oil formulation. April Gargiulo took 2 years to create the Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum with natural skincare experts and delving into her own research she created the oil that it is today. She would have undergone many different trials of many different formulations, costing a significant amount of money to get where she is at today. Remember, there is a lot of time playing around with ingredients and ratios, when speaking with Marissa from Precious Skin Elixirs, she said that it took her several years to come up with the formulations she has available today. In creating her favourite oil, Amethyst, she mentions that she had to experiment with different ratios and several essential oils high in soothing azulene before she could come up with a formulation in which she was happy with and saw results.
When speaking to Ervina, co founder of 5YINA in Shanghai, she told me of the process in which it took to create all 4 of the brand's beautiful seasonal face oils. Each 5YINA product undergoes rigorous research and development whereby each product is tested and perfected for at least 2 years before it is officially released. If both herself and Angela are not happy with the product's formulation, they will both meticulously refine and perfect it until it passes their high standards of quality and effectiveness. When we discussed the formulation of the Divine Sheet Masks, she said that it underwent many different reformulations as it was extremely difficult to get the right consistency that was desired. At the time Ervina did hint about a potential new product release, but she wasn't yet happy with the formula, further delaying the release time. It shows that creating formulations take an incredible amount of time, patience, trial and error to get the right texture, consistency and most importantly results. These processes can take years before a product is ready to be released and do keep in mind many of these companies, are still relatively small and do not have the financial and labour backing of large corporations.
At African Botanics, Julia and Craig spent years speaking to leading botanists and native plant specialists to gain their knowledge and passion of native African plant species. These leading specialist have combined their valuable knowledge with cosmetic scientists to not only ensure quality of the ingredients being used but also to create some powerful formulations. Looking at the ingredients of the Fleur d'Afriques Intensive Recovery Oil, you can see the blend between powerful botanical actives as well as modern science as it combines a variety of botanical and plant oils with vitamins E and C ester, Retinol (Vitamin A, a powerful anti-ageing ingredient) with Coenzyme 10 to help the protect, store and maintain skin cells. I can truly appreciate that some of these research and development would be quite advanced in terms of the biotechnology used in creating some of African Botanics more complex facial oil formulas such as the Fleur d'Afriques Intensive Recovery Oil and the Resurrection Cell Recovery Serum.
Whilst this blog post does aim to highlight perhaps some of the reasons why some face oils are more pricier than others it doesn't mean I am telling that you MUST spend this amount of money on skincare. Spending this amount for a face oil or serum is completely your own prerogative and it is so important to spend within your means. For me, writing this blog was important for me to share some of the reasons why some face oils are more expensive than others and for others to learn and appreciate how some companies create face oils and the processes and the general attention to detail they must undergo. From this, I have learnt that it is important to appreciate that some of the plant oils used in our skincare are actually so carefully and painstakingly extracted to help maintain their composition, quality, efficacy and structure. I also have realised that behind the pretty glass vials and glass droppers are years worth of research, development and testing to create some of the many face oil formulations we love today. There is much more to face oils than marketing claims, the glamour and gorgeous packaging - it can actually be quite the process. Yes, some of face oils are indeed expensive, but perhaps this blog post gives you a little insight as to why that may be.
Have you purchased an expensive facial oil? What did you think of it in terms of quality and results? What is your favourite face oil to use? I would love hear your thoughts in the comments section below!