When Anne Vangelisti received an email from British Vogue magazine, she was suspicious.
She had a new skincare product for sale, but had no idea how far the word had reached in a short time.
“They contacted me after seeing my Instagram profile. It is amazing how social media has connected everybody,” she said from her escape-the-Saskatchewan-winter home in Las Vegas. “They were very forthcoming with the email and it had all the indications that it was from British Vogue.
“I really checked over all the little details on it. I went to the British Vogue website, cross-referenced that that person actually works there and forwarded that email to a friend who works in marketing
here in the States. He said, ‘Yeah, that’s legit.’
“It was very astonishing to think that I had come up on their radar.”
When the magazine came out, there was her product in the Fresh Faced Beauty section.
Vangelisti (nee Martynuk) has developed a skincare line called Apotheca Borealis. The one featured in Vogue is a Saskatoon berry-based serum.
Vangelisti was living in Los Angeles when she started dabbling in natural skincare products. It came at a time when she was having health issues, and was recovering at her home after surgery.
“I started making really simple recipes and would give it to my friends to try out. That created the spark for what eventually would become a skincare line.”
With the cost of medical care, Vangelisti returned to Saskatoon in 2015. Development of her product started in December 2016.
She set up her lab.
“Aka my kitchen,” she said with a laugh. “I knew I wanted to do my own skincare line and wanted it to be something that was very Saskatoon-centric.
“I was eating Saskatoon berries because you could buy them frozen at the Co-op, and I was taking them in smoothies; so I was very aware of the benefits of them.
“So I thought, ‘You know, you find all these other things, like all these other berries are used to make oils.’ I thought there had to be a Saskatoon berry oil out there, so I started doing research online; calling up places, orchards in the areas where we are making Saskatoon berry food products. And nobody was doing an oil, an extract or something I could use readily in a formula.”
She discovered ways to make extracts and infusions using dried Saskatoon berries. From those, she planned to create a skincare product. She started experimenting.
“It took a few months for me to finally come up with a product that I could successfully use in a skincare formulation.”
Once she had her product, she gave out samples to estheticians and makeup artists in the city. Vangelisti herself is a former makeup artist.
“I was getting such good feedback that I knew I had something really special.”
She said her father gave her a hand when it came to making distillations, but other than that she has gone it alone.
One of the tricks was figuring out how to work with preservative systems. She had to ensure the product would last for more than a week.
“These berry extracts are very delicate. It is very easy for them to oxidize if you are not treating them properly.”
She is finding her product has amazing healing properties.
“People of all walks of life are finding it is doing a multitude of things. It is hydrating their skin; it’s improving their skin texture; it’s shrinking their pore size and people that suffer from acne are able to use it to clear up their skin.”
She said it worked wonders when she was on a trip to Thailand last year.
“I know from personal experience that Saskatoon berries provide a natural source of SPF. I reversed a sunburn. I put (the serum) on at night and by the morning the sunburn was gone.”
Vangelisti couldn’t say enough good things about Saskatoon berries.
“They are probably the most potent super food in the world and completely untapped and discovered outside of our city. They’re incredible.”
She said the berries she uses are from around Greenwater Lake, where a cousin has a cabin. She does most of the picking herself. She fires up a quad and off into the bush she goes.
“It was important for me to utilize natural compounds including boreal forest plant ingredients that have been used by Indigenous cultures for healing and beautifying benefits throughout the ages.”
Among the other ingredients she works with are juniper berries, dandelion root, raspberry seed oil and black currant oil.
Vangelisti said having her skincare product featured in Vogue has been good for her company.
“It has definitely provided publicity. I was in Saskatoon for a year and doing this skincare line for most of that time and wasn’t getting a whole lot of traction. I had one vendor in Saskatoon that was carrying my line. Other than that I wasn’t getting any attention, but by having a major publication putting the spotlight on it, it’s really done a lot to get the name out there.”
She foresees her product popping up in many locations.
“I think once people realize how amazing Saskatoon berries are I think it is really going to catch on internationally.”
The Apotheca Borealis Saskatoon Berry Serum is available for purchase in Saskatoon at Green Tree Beauty (greentreebeauty.com) and online at ApothecaBorealis.com.