What do Pharrell Williams, Carmen Electra, DJ Khaled, Lori Harvey, and The Rock have in common? Give up? They’re all in the skin-care game. Today, with so many people entering this booming sector of the beauty industry, it seems as if the only prerequisite is the possession of skin.

I wish them well. But does anyone else feel as if they’re drowning in serums?

“In the last five years, we [in the industry] have only talked about skin care,” says Carol Hamilton, group president of acquisitions and business development at L’Oréal USA. “And we’ve all been trying to figure out how to bring it to skin-care 3.0, 5.0, 10.0.”

What may be next is not so much a move forward as a return to the past. Vintner’s Daughter, for one, is finding success by rejecting the triple cleansers, mists, and eye, neck, and jaw creams. It’s the antithesis of every actor-fronted skin-care brand, taking a minimalist approach and using old-fashioned plants for a few multi-purpose elixirs. Imagine if Loro Piana did serums. It’s quiet luxury for the face.

Vintner’s Daughter promises next to nothing. It doesn’t claim to reduce wrinkles, eliminate dark spots, or fight the signs of aging. It doesn’t take out ads or invite influencers to the South of France in exchange for endorsement posts. It manufactures products following the slow pace and exacting principles of wine-making. It’s beauty’s version of slow food.

April Gargiulo, the founder of Vintner’s Daughter, consulted with herbalists near her home in Napa Valley to come up with her formula, which she took to labs, proudly showing that her serum could be produced from whole plants in a mere three weeks. “I was told over and over again, ‘Oh no, sweetie, this isn’t how it’s done,’” says Gargiulo. “‘We make things in three to six hours. But trust us, it’ll be faster. It’ll be cheaper.’”

They weren’t the only naysayers. Jean Godfrey-June, the beauty director at Lucky magazine at the time and now the executive beauty editor of Goop, heard about the brand and its owner and thought, “She was nuts.” Also, “What a terrible name. That sounds so crunchy and weird.” Sarah Akram, an aesthetician who owns a salon in Alexandria, Virginia, and is an ambassador for Dior in the U.S., says, “I never gave it a chance when it first launched. I was kind of judgy.”

“I was told over and over again, ‘Oh no, sweetie, this isn’t how it’s done.’”

Nevertheless, Gargiulo, the actual daughter of an actual vintner, persisted. “My saving grace was that people used it and they were like, Holy shit,” she says. “They told their friends, and they told their co-workers.” It didn’t hurt that those talkative friends were Gwyneth Paltrow, Tracee Ellis Ross, Hailey Bieber, and Rachel Brosnahan. Or that their co-workers populated movie sets and the halls of Goop. “It was still girlfriend to girlfriend, but the girlfriends had big platforms.”

Alice Lane, a makeup artist, was one of those early adopters. “The smell hit me first. And the way it feels,” she says. She used it on models, designers, and actors, including Paltrow. “I can say for real, hands on heart, I loved it. Because a lot of the time back then, people were just saying they liked things because they were paid to say it. And I had tremendous guilt about that.”

After she finished rolling her eyes, Akram also dipped into the Vintner’s Daughter serum.

“Well, here’s the thing—I feel like it changed my skin. And that’s kind of crazy because it’s an oil with all these natural ingredients. When you hear about products that can do that, really, it’s only retinol.”

For Lane, the serum gives her “complete skin confidence. And I work in front of a mirror all day. That’s hard because you actually make somebody else look beautiful while you watch yourself slowly disintegrate.... It brings a sense of calm. Calm, pleasure, trust.”

No one I spoke to can put a finger on what the serum actually does for the skin or how it works. Akram talks about brightening, moisturizing, plumping, and elasticity. Godfrey-June says, “It wasn’t about a claim. Vintner’s Daughter has always had that cachet of just, this is great. Period. It reminds me of Crème de la Mer at the beginning. It wasn’t, This is going to get rid of your wrinkles. It was, this is the greatest; you have to get it.”

Vintner’s Daughter is over 10 years old, and, for most of those years, it consisted of just two products, a serum and an essence. Last January—don’t faint—Gargiulo added a cleanser. Barbara Sturm, who also started her line 10 years ago, has, by my count, 68 products, including multiple shampoos and a diaper cream.

If you wonder how, surrounded by these behemoths, Gargiulo could possibly stay in business, I’m with you. Retailers who need to fill their shelves with an abundance of attention-grabbing products were also stumped. Succeeding with the big players—Sephora and Ulta—“is all about whether or not you’re noticed,” says Hamilton. A two-product brand can’t possibly hold its own in that environment. “The retailers were like, we love Active Botanical Serum,” says Gargiulo. “And in the next breath, they’d be like, But we don’t know how to talk about a single S.K.U. [stock-keeping unit], and we don’t know how to merchandise it, either.” Nordstrom carries Vintner’s Daughter, but only online. “They want us in their physical stores, but where am I going to live?” asks Gargiulo. “On a shelf down at the very bottom, next to the elevator on the way to the bathroom?”

Despite these obstacles, the Vintner’s Daughter serum may be one of those rare products that endures. A forever product, like Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair, born in 1982, or Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, from 1930. That’s the dream. “The beauty industry amazes me,” says Godfrey-June. “People constantly come up with new things, and then there can be an April Gargiulo, whose product is not going to get old. I think of Vintner’s Daughter like Weleda Skin Food, which must be close to 100 years old at this point, and it’s still going strong.”

Hamilton believes product longevity has less to do with the ingredients or their messaging than with commitment. “It’s more what you don’t do than what you do. Because we don’t owe the fact that Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion is still around to the formula—we owe it to Clinique being so consistent. It’s the ability to not proliferate and instead to believe in what you’re doing.”

Still, Hamilton isn’t waving her pom-poms yet. “Vintner’s Daughter may be a little bit too slow,” she says. “And I’m not sure that three [products] is enough. Some people need an eye product, and then you may need an exfoliator. The regimen can be more than 3 but shouldn’t be more than 10 products.”

All in good time. April Gargiulo is in no rush.

Linda Wells is the Editor at Air Mail Look