Drunk Elephant is a premium skincare brand that you’ll find on a lot of skincare addicts’ shelves, with their stylish minimalist packaging. Here’s my review of 8 products I’ve tried from their range, and there’s probably going to be a part 2 in the near-ish future. Strap in – it’s a bumper review!
Drunk Elephant Brand Overview
Drunk Elephant do a lot of things right with their products.
Their packaging is awesome. Most of their products are in twist-top airless pump bottles, which is a great combination of convenient and effective. The airless pump jars that their moisturisers come in have the perfect flat tops to mix in oils or tretinoin.
The colours look cheerful but sophisticated, and you’re really unlikely to reach for the wrong product with this level of colour coding. They’re also square which make it easier to twist the top if you have wrist grip issues, and look gorgeous for super trendy Instagram shelfies.
The packaging also has clearly labelled info (percentages of actives, pH, skin effects, usage instructions) which is useful. I’d prefer it if they also had ingredient information on there too. While it’s on the cardboard packaging and easy to look up on their website, most people throw out the outer carton, and it’s hard to keep track of formulation updates.
I’m also a big fan of the simplicity of Drunk Elephant’s products. Each product has one or two star ingredients or ingredient classes that tackle the same skin problem, so you can pick and choose what to use to suit your skin’s needs.
Most of their products contain evidence-based ingredients, and most of the products have both the pH of the product and the percentage of the key actives clearly shown as well. While you can’t say with certainty whether a product is going to work based on just this information and the ingredients list, it does take a bit of the guesswork out of picking products, so I applaud them for that!
The Drunk Elephant website is one of the best brand websites I’ve ever seen. It’s incredibly informative: there’s full ingredient lists, recommendations for companion products, pages telling you the difference between different moisturisers, and so on. These all seem like pretty obvious things to include in a website, but it is SO RARE to see a site with information this complete.
Here’s where I’m a bit more critical. Drunk Elephant prides themselves on being effective and safe – “clean clinical”, in their words. My attitude to their brand message is… a whole lotta mixed feelings. So this is going to be a bit long-winded, I apologise!
I’m usually disapproving but understanding of a brand listing the ingredients their products are “free from”, since there’s so much (frequently misinformed) consumer pressure. But Drunk Elephant goes to some length to brand themselves as evidence-based, effective, clinical etc., so I feel like I need to point out the issues I have with their marketing.
Drunk Elephant’s Suspicious 6
One of the brand’s core ideas is the “suspicious 6” ingredient categories that Drunk Elephant avoids. Their idea is that these 6 ingredients are “at the root of almost every skin issue”, which I disagree with.
There are loads of much better researched factors (genetics, ethnicity, age, environment) that have been found to contribute to skin problems apart from skincare products. It also sounds a lot like the common pseudoscience claim to fix “the one true cause of all disease”, when the reality is far more complicated than that.
I also have mixed feelings about their reasoning behind the individual ingredients they’ve included in the “Suspicious 6”:
- Essential oils – I agree that they’re generally just for aesthetic purposes, and while most people are tolerant of them, they don’t add much. There are a few essential oils that have skincare benefits though, like tea tree oil which can be effective against acne.
- Drying alcohols – I don’t have a big issue with alcohols in skincare, especially if they’re at a low concentration. They can cause temporary dehydration but you can reverse this with humectant skincare ingredients (more on the scientific reasoning behind this soon in a podcast, hopefully!).
- Silicones – Drunk Elephant avoid these because they could potentially slow down the penetration of other products, which is a fair enough concern, even though I think most of the the time the layer they form won’t be complete enough to block things much. They also say that silicones can cause breakouts, but so can anything else.
- Chemical screens (sunscreen ingredients) – These are generally fine, and in fact I prefer the newer organic sunscreen filters to inorganic zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which tend to result in greasy products, ghostly white skin and unreliable protection. In the US, the newer organic filters haven’t been approved yet, so I don’t blame people for opting for zinc oxide for UVA protection over the less stable, fabric-staining, sometimes irritating avobenzone. But a blanket of “suspicion” over all organic sunscreen filters is unwarranted.(Click for a downloadable preview of part of the sunscreen chapter of my Guide to Basic Skincare with a breakdown of the different sunscreen ingredients and their properties.)
- Fragrance/dyes – Most people don’t have issues with fragrance, but for those who are sensitive, it’s nice that they can use Drunk Elephant products without worrying (although I personally prefer mildly fragranced skincare, because they’re more pleasant to use). Azo dyes can sometimes cause allergies, but it’s rare, and not really worth looking out for in my opinion unless you’re allergic.
- Sodium lauryl sulfate – It’s my least favourite cleansing ingredient after soap, so I’m pretty OK with this recommendation.
Overall, I don’t have a massive issue with Drunk Elephant avoiding these ingredients in their formulations. But at the same time, I don’t think there’s any justification for Drunk Elephant’s recommendation to go through your cupboard and toss out any products you have that contain them.
- Drunk Elephant promote the idea that there’s some sort of synergy between their products, and you should use them together and not mix them with another brand – I would love to see what evidence or reasoning they have for this. Their products tend not to pill with each other when layered which is convenient, but you can definitely mix and match brands without pilling either (though it’s less predictable).
- Drunk Elephant also say that they’ve removed the “obvious toxins and controversial synthetics”, which to me is marketing and not science. More on this in a later post, but in general, the word “toxins” in beauty is almost always going to be a red flag for pseudoscience (see for example the discussion in this excellent post from Science-Based Medicine).
- They don’t “take into account an ingredient’s synthetic or natural status” when deciding what to put into products, but contradict this by saying they’ve removed “controversial synthetics”, rather than controversial everything.
- Until very recently (late August 2018) Drunk Elephant had a long ingredient blacklist, but the sources they cited for their info are the David Suzuki Foundation, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Truth in Aging, all of which are known for being inaccurate and scaremongering. I think the fact they’ve since removed reference to this on their site is a sign they’re moving in the right direction.
- Drunk Elephant say that their goal to “teach the consumer that “natural” doesn’t automatically mean good”, which I can 100% get behind – but at the same time, they don’t entirely avoid the appeal to nature fallacy, stating that “Drunk Elephant aims for its products to be as natural as possible” and say that “chemically-laden” products cause your skin to be vulnerable.
- In general, there are quite a few claims in Drunk Elephant’s marketing that overreach what the scientific data shows, and what’s allowed under a cosmetic claim (the whole drug vs cosmetic regulation area is a bit of a minefield).
For example, Drunk Elephant used to say chronocyclin, a “chronopeptide” in a bunch of their products, turned into vitamin D inside the skin. This was based on the fact that chronocyclin had vitamin D-like effects on reconstructed human skin in a lab. They’ve since amended this on their site to just say it mimics the antioxidant benefits of vitamin D, which is far more accurate. However, there are still a lot of places which has the older misleading claim, so there’s probably a bunch of people buying their products thinking they can get the same vitamin D through Drunk Elephant products without risking sun exposure.
There’s been a few other examples of this in the past that I came across while looking up products (e.g. the claims about raspberry seed oil here – I’ll be reviewing Umbra in the next set of Drunk Elephant reviews). While they’ve cut back on the claims on their site and marketing now (presumably in response to feedback), it would be much more responsible to not make these sorts of claims in the first place.
Related video: Are Natural Beauty Products Better?
It’s really just the marketing I have an issue with – I actually really enjoyed a lot of their products! The nitty-gritty details of the products I’ve tried properly so far (there are still a few products that I’m yet to try – unfortunately I only have one face to test them on, and skincare testing takes a bit longer than for other categories!).
T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial ($80 USD* for 50 mL) is one of the products that I was most interested in. It isn’t officially available in Australia since the percentage of glycolic acid is too high for our standards (10% glycolic acid is generally the maximum allowed for retail), but I know a few Australians get it shipped from overseas.
Babyfacial is an at home peel type of exfoliating product that contains 25% AHA and 2% BHA. The AHAs include glycolic, tartaric, lactic and citric acids (“T.L.C.” stands for the mix of tartaric, lactic and citric).
Along with the exfoliating hydroxy acids, there’s also pumpkin ferment which can act as an enzyme exfoliant. antioxidants (matcha, apple, milk thistle) and hydrating hyaluronic acid. There’s also niacinamide which can soothe irritation.
I’m a huge fan of these high strength wash-off hydroxy acid products. I find that they fit in better in my routine than leave-on ones since I don’t have to worry about it interacting with other products and balling up, or about pH clashes.
Babyfacial is a slightly sticky pale brown paste that comes in a pump bottle. It has a runnier texture than Kate Somerville’s Exfolikate, which I found really nice to use in the shower – Babyfacial works better in drier conditions. It’s recommended that you leave it on for 20 minutes. I’ve accidentally left it on for longer before which was OK, although my skin is very acid tolerant, so always be careful if you aren’t sure how your skin will respond.
Babyfacial does sting a little when you first apply it if you have any sensitive spots. This is despite the relatively high pH of 3.5-3.6, which should be less irritating than most professional peel formulations which are more acidic and closer to pH 2. But as it dries down, the stinging stops (and starts again if you decide to re-wet the product). Definitely don’t use this after squeezing pimples! I found that tapping the stinging spots with my fingers helped with the annoying feeling.
My skin had the usual benefits of an AHA afterwards – it was softer, smoother and more even toned. There wasn’t any redness or irritation, and my skin could even handle tretinoin.
If you’re new to exfoliation, I wouldn’t recommend this product to start with – try something less strong first, otherwise you might end up overexfoliating which can take ages to recover from (check out my free exfoliation guide for tips on how to start exfoliating). If you’re an exfoliation veteran, I’d still recommend taking it slow with peel-like products.
Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Glycolic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Salicylic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Silybum Marianum Seed Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder, Cicer Arietinum Seed Powder, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium PCA, Allantoin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Dextrin, Polydextrose, Sorbitan Isostearate, Amylopectin, Niacinamide, Phytosphingosine, Lactic Acid, Propanediol, Citric Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Polysorbate 60, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol
T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($132 AUD for 30 mL/$196 AUD for 50 mL) is a chemical exfoliant that contains a blend of 12% alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric, citric acids) and 1% beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid). The “T.L.C.” in the name refers to the tartaric/lactic/citric alpha hydroxy acid combination that also features in T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial.
Framboos is a clear gel product, which I really appreciate. While I don’t mind the occasional watery toner, it’s much easier to get a gel from your hands to your face without splashing, which is especially important when it’s a low pH product (low pH exfoliant in your eyes is not fun – learn from my fail).
I also like that it has relatively high amounts of both AHAs and BHA. I find that I like using both for my skin. Even though some brands promote the idea that AHAs should be used for dry skin while BHA should be used for oily skin, I’ve never seen any solid evidence for this recommendation, and in practice I’ve found that my oily skin likes both. I like using BHA for its anti-inflammatory and pimple/blackhead fighting properties, while AHAs are good for making my skin look smoother and less pore-tastic overall.
The pH of this product is 3.8-4.0, which means that it should be low enough (in combination with the high AHA percentage) to be a medium strength chemical exfoliant. I’ve found it really good for my irritated tretinoin-sensitised skin. A lot of medium strength AHA products now sting a bit on application if I’ve used tretinoin recently (likely due to the low pH), but Framboos very rarely irritates my skin. The mix of anti-irritant actives they’ve included might help as well.
Other notable ingredients: raspberry extract (antioxidant), hyaluronic acid (hydrating), horse chestnut, white tea, cactus (anti-irritant).
Related posts: The Essential Guide to Exfoliation (it’s free!)
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Buddleja Davidii Meristem Cell Culture, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Allantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Galactoarabinan, Propanediol, Disodium EDTA, Xanthan Gum, Hexylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Sodium Nitrate, Potassium Sorbate, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Benzoate.
C-Firma Day Serum
C-Firma Day Serum ($116 AUD for 30 mL) is a vitamin C-based antioxidant serum. Vitamin C is sort of amazing: it increases collagen (hello plumpness, goodbye wrinkles), fades hyperpigmentation like nobody’s business, and protects against sun damage (read more about the wonders of vitamin C here). It’s my go-to ingredient for fading post-acne PIH.
C-Firma has the classic vitamin C (in ascorbic acid form), vitamin E (tocopherol) and ferulic acid combination, at 15%, 1% and 0.5% respectively. This combination is in a bunch of vitamin C serums from brands like SkinCeuticals, Paula’s Choice, Skin Deva and Ausceuticals. The big advantages of this combo is that it stabilises the notoriously unstable (but highly effective) ascorbic acid, and there’s scientific evidence to back up its improved effectiveness compared to vitamin C on its own or combined just with vitamin E.
C-Firma has a pH of 3.3-3.5, which is on the higher side for ascorbic acid-based vitamin C serums (for example, Paula’s Choice uses pH 3 while SkinCeuticals is pH 2.5-3.0, and I recommend pH 3-3.5 for my DIY ascorbic-only serum). It’s still in the recommended pH range, and the higher pH might make it less irritating.
As well as the key vitamin C + E + ferulic acid antioxidant trio, there’s also licorice root extract which is anti-irritant and brightening, and pumpkin extract which acts as an enzyme exfoliant. There’s also chronocyclin, the ingredient with the controversial vitamin D claims, and humectant hyaluronic acid which is very hydrating.
I found this serum really effective at fading my hyperpigmentation. It has a thin texture that works pretty well under sunscreen and make-up, but I found that it was a bit too sticky for my oily skin, so I prefer using this at night. It also has the very common skin-staining issue that every ascorbic acid product I’ve tried has. It comes in a nice twist-top pump.
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Ethoxydiglycol, Ascorbic Acid, Glycerin, Laureth-23, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Ferulic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Chondrus Crispus Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Phyllanthus Emblica Fruit Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Tocopherol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Acetyl Glucosamine, Hydrolyzed Quinoa, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Tetrahydrodiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrodemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Tetrahydrobisdemethoxydiferuloylmethane, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Glycine, Sucrose, Maltodextrin, Propanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Polysorbate 60
C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream
C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream ($93 AUD for 15 mL) is an eye cream that contains a whole slew of antioxidants, peptides and vitamins.
It contains 5 forms of vitamin C: sodium ascorbyl phosphate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl glucoside and ascorbyl palmitate. I’m not sure there’s a need for 5 forms of vitamin C, but there are some water-soluble ones as well as oil-soluble ones, which could theoretically help make the vitamin C more effective, but these 5 vitamin C derivatives don’t have as much evidence to support their effectiveness as ascorbic acid.
There are also 8 peptides which have anti-wrinkle effects, although these are generally based on manufacturer studies, rather than independent peer-reviewed research. Other notable ingredients include moisturising plant oils and ceramides, and free radical-quenching antioxidants including superoxide dismutase, ubiquinone and vitamin E.
C-Tango has a silicone-like texture but sinks in quickly. I applied this around my eye as well as to the freckles on my upper cheekbones. It faded pigment pretty well, similar to other vitamin C products, and it was moisturising and didn’t irritate my skin (although some people have reported stinging, so make sure you test it on your own skin). It’s moisturising and works well under make-up, although I usually use it in my night routine.
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ceteareth-6 Olivate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Linoleic Acid, Phospholipids, Ceramide NP, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Protein, Ceramide AP, Phytosphingosine, Cholesterol, Ceramide EOP, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Palmitoyl Dipeptide-5 Diaminobutyroyl Hydroxythreonine, Palmitoyl Dipeptide-5 Diaminohydroxybutyrate, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Panthenol, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone, Dipeptide-2, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Fragaria Ananassa (Strawberry) Seed Extract, Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Extract, Morus Alba Leaf Extract, Hydrolyzed Rice Protein, Spilanthes Acmella Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Ubiquinone, Superoxide Dismutase, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Phytic Acid, Actinidia Chinensis (Kiwi) Fruit Extract, Vaccinium Myrtillus Leaf Extract, Tocopherol, Thioctic Acid, N-Hydroxysuccinimide, Chrysin, Mica, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Phenoxyethanol, Pentylene Glycol, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Titanium Dioxide, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Benzoate, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Tocopheryl Acetate, Sodium Dextran Sulfate, Sorbitan Isostearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Steareth-20, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Citric Acid, Chlorphenesin, Polysorbate 60, Potassium Sorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin
Protini Polypeptide Cream
Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68 USD* for 50 mL) is an anti-aging moisturiser that contains a bunch of peptides (9 signal peptides according to the description). It made its debut at the beginning of the year, but unfortunately it’s another product that isn’t yet available in Australia – you’ll have to settle for Lala Retro instead.
The science behind peptides is a bit spotty, and most of the peptides included in this cream don’t have independent studies to back up their effects (which is a problem with pretty much all peptide products). The selection of peptides in Protini is a bit unusual. It contains a lot of “sh” peptides, which stands for synthetic human (the peptide is the same as one found in the body, not that it comes from a farmed android or anything… I think). Here’s the list, and their purported effects (according to their manufacturers, so take it with a massive heaping of salt):
- sh-Oligopeptide-1: Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) – prevents wrinkles and heals wounds by creating new epidermal cells
- sh-Oligopeptide-2: Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 (IGF-1) – prevents wrinkles by creating new epidermal cells
- sh-Polypeptide-1: Basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (bFGF) – prevents wrinkles by creating new epidermal cells, improves elasticity by synthesising collagen and elastin
- sh-Polypeptide-9: Vascular Epidermal Growth Factor (VEGF) – promotes hair growth through supplying nutrition to hair follicles by generating new blood vessels (um… OK)
- sh-Polypeptide-11: Acidic Fibroblast Growth Factor (aFGF) – improves skin elasticity by synthesising collagen and elastin
- Copper Palmitoyl Heptapeptide-14 and Heptapeptide-15 Palmitate – reduces wrinkles by increasing collagen and elastin
- Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 and Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1: Matrixyl 3000 – reduces deep eye wrinkles and increases collagen
On my oily skin this was fantastic as a night cream – the texture played well with the rest of my routine (it features one of my favourite base ingredients, dicaprylyl carbonate). I layered humectant products underneath, and mixed in a few drops of oil. It has a pH of 4.0, which I found quite interesting. Moisturisers usually have a higher pH, but I didn’t notice any irritation from the low pH of Protini (and this might actually be beneficial, if you’re using a high pH cleanser).
The container is also brilliant. It’s an airless pump jar. You open the lid and press the platform, and the cream comes out of a hole in the middle. Once you let go the platform springs back, and you’re left with a nice surface for mixing things into your cream. If you don’t manage to use up all of your mix, you can pop the lid back on and finish it up the next night. I’ve been mixing in oils and tretinoin.
The pump is also notable because it’s really easy to dispense partial pumps, so you can try to estimate how much you need and only dispense that much (although I regularly fail at this).
If your skin is sensitive, it might worth trying out a sample before you buy it, since some people have reported that they feel stinging or have broken out from it.
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Bacillus/Soybean/ Folic Acid Ferment Extract, Nymphaea Alba Root Extract, sh-Oligopeptide-1, sh-Oligopeptide-2, sh-Polypeptide-1, sh-Polypeptide-9, sh-Polypeptide-11, Copper Palmitoyl Heptapeptide-14, Heptapeptide-15 Palmitate, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Alanine, Arginine, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine, Threonine, Valine, Acetyl Glutamine, Coconut Alkanes, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Aspartic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Lecithin, Butylene Glycol, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Sodium Lactate, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sorbitan Isostearate, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 60, Lactic Acid/Glycolic Acid Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Isomalt, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Sodium Benzoate, Phenylpropanol, Glyceryl Caprylate, Symphytum Officinale Callus Culture Extract
B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel
B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel ($75 AUD for 50 mL) is a pH 5.5 serum that focuses on delivering hydration to skin. It contains humectants in spades: there’s panthenol (pro-vitamin B5), pineapple ceramide, a couple of glycols (butylene and pentylene), and glycerin.
Ammonium acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer is typically used at 0.5-2.0% in formulations, and I’m pretty sure the pineapple extract is below 0.25%, so I’d say butylene glycol (which is a perfectly safe ingredient by the way) and glycerin are doing the heavy lifting here. There’s also hyaluronic acid, which is effective at very low concentrations. Hydrating and antioxidant plant extracts make an appearance too.
The texture is a nice gel, and the pump bottle is handy. But I personally find that a separate hydration product doesn’t fit that well into my routine, and the other Drunk Elephant products are hydrating enough that I don’t get that much extra benefit out of this. If your skin is drier then it might make a bigger difference for you.
Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Ananas Sativus (Pineapple) Fruit Extract, Berberis Vulgaris Root Extract, Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Lens Esculenta (Lentil) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Coconut Alkanes, Panthenol, Sodium PCA, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Lactate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Cyclodextrin, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Citric Acid, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Ethylhexylglycerin
Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil
Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil ($105 AUD for 30 mL) is pure cold-pressed marula oil, extracted from the pip of the marula fruit. Marura oil is rich in oleic triglycerides (I’m trying not to say “rich in oleic acid” because I think it leads to confusion – more about this topic here), which makes it good for dry skin. I found this oil really nice to use in winter, mixed in with moisturiser to stop it from pilling as much during application.
Unfortunately, for a pure oil, Drunk Elephant’s version is really really expensive. The price is in line with their other products, but if we look at the price points of other cold pressed marula oil products, they can be about 1/10th of the price.
It’s difficult to justify buying this if you care about value for money. There might be a difference in quality, the amount of antioxidants and the packaging, but for most people I don’t think this would justify the tenfold difference in price. Drunk Elephant also suggest that you could use it on your hair, but with my super thirsty bleached hair, that’s a hard no.
Ingredients: Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil
Lippe Balm ($26 AUD for 3.7 g) is a lip balm that mostly uses a blend of plant oils and butters. It smells mildly like wax and tastes mildly sweet, which I’m guessing is the beeswax in the formula. As well as moisturising ingredients, there are some antioxidant plant extracts.
It’s a little light for my super dehydration-prone lips, but if you’re looking for a lip balm that’s free from petroleum jelly and lanolin this might work for you. However, if you’re vegan, note that it does contain beeswax. Drunk Elephant also suggests using it around the eyes to smooth crow’s feet, which is a clever use I’ve never thought of.
Ingredients: Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Beeswax/Cera Alba/Cire d’abeille, Ozokerite, Polyisobutene, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax/Cera Carnauba/Cire de carnauba, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax/Candelilla Cera/Cire de candelilla, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Dictyopteris Membranacea Extract, Magnolia Grandiflora Bark Extract, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Schinziophyton Rautanenii (Mongongo) Kernel Oil, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Dicaprylyl Ether, Tribehenin, Sorbitan Isostearate, Lauryl Alcohol, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol
What I liked:
- Awesome packaging (especially the airless pump jars)
- Clever marketing ideas (but unfortunately a lot of the time not really based on science)
- Convenient product textures
- Nice formulations that layer well
What I didn’t like:
- Expensive (although keep in mind that the prices I’ve listed here are for Australia – Australian prices are almost always a fair bit pricier than in other countries!)
- Claims sometimes go further than the science indicates
- Marketing is fearmongering (but improving)
- T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
- T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
- C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream
- Protini Polypeptide Cream
Have you tried Drunk Elephant? What did you think?
These products were provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. This post also contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and purchase any product, you’ll be supporting Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.
24 thoughts on “Drunk Elephant Skincare Review Part 1”
Lovely Michelle, many thanks for this excellent review. I only tried their TLC FRAMBOOS GLYCOLIC NIGHT SERUM and I wasn’t blown away and left disappointed a bit. Probably, it’s because my skin is used to stronger exfoliants from Neostrata and Skinceuticals. No-one can touch them 🙂 And I didn’t see any difference after using the TLC exfoliant.
It’s quite interesting to see that you recommend their Protini Polypeptide Cream. My skin is also oily. Maybe I will try it but the problem is quite expensive.
Anyway, many thanks again for the review and looking forward to reading part2 🙂 🙂 And completely agree with you on their suspicious six or clean clinical.
Thank you Roman! I haven’t used any exfoliants from Skinceuticals but I loved the Neostrata when my skin was a bit more robust 🙂
This was such a thorough and brilliant review as always. I am curious about trying the C-tango eye cream but that price point is unjustified.
And also, so excited about a potential podcast! Waiting! 🙂
Thank you so much! Maybe see if you can get a sample?
Unfortunately I have only ever tried their sunscreens because of all the positive reviews. However it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say they were the worst sunscreens I have ever used, gloppy, thick, and pilled like crazy. I always use up my sunscreens because I’m cheap but I couldn’t do it. I was surprised because of their reputation. Wondering if you had a chance to try them.
Their original Umbra Sheer sunscreen is going to be in my next set of Drunk Elephant reviews!
I’ve tried quite a few of DE’s products and the sunscreen is the only one I didn’t like (for all the reasons you listed). Everything else has been leagues better, so I definitely wouldn’t judge the brand by the sunscreens.
Amazing, thorough review! Have you used Sunday Riley’s C serum or the Luna oil and if so, how do they compare with the DE C serum and night serum? Curious about a comparison from someone with as much knowledge as you have! Thank you!
I actually haven’t tried any Sunday Riley products before – I’m incredibly curious about Good Genes though!
I would be so curious of your opinion on good genes. I have tried DE framboos and good genes and I swear by good genes.
Please please review Sunday Riley!! ?
I’ve tried both DE framboos and good genes and I loved both except the old version of good genes smells so terrible hence my money is on DE here. However, I’ve started using Luna oil and skinceuticals 1.0 retinol (not together) so I have stopped using the other two (can’t use both retinol and glycolic I believe). Back to DE, I’ve been using C-firma for almost two years now I think, don’t even remember how many I’ve used (nor did I want to know how much I’ve spent), and recently started using C-tango. I have to say they are my fav VC serum and eye cream!!! I’ll keep using them for sure! I’ve got quite oily skin in summer but I don’t find VC serum oily, actually I even use rosehip oil after that….lol
I used to use their Vitamin C Serum due to the rave reviews, but after seeing how they fake Instagram accounts to leave rude comments on competitors’ posts (Glossier’s Instagram is where they got caught doing this), I’m a full pass on them. Their form of marketing isn’t remotely ethical.
That’s a fair stance!
Wow thank you for the thorough and honest review. It was very helpful and informative. This is my first time reading your reviews and will continue to read more.
Welcome! Thank you so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
I haven’t tried any Drunk Elephant, as they only just came to the UK where I could have them shipped to Germany from, and the price points were even more.
It is a brand that I am really interested in, despite having the same marketing issues you pointed out, but I will get there eventually.
And was that a hint for a podcast you will be recording? That would be amazing!
Anne – Linda, Libra, Loca
Haha it’s recorded – just a matter of getting it up! 😉
Love your posts! They are super informative and interesting.
Question! Did you actually test the pH of Protini? I was helping my daughter with a science project (testing various items around the house) and we measured the pH to be closer to 6 (100x less acidic than advertised). I reached out to Drunk Elephant about it but never received a response. Can you shed some light on this?
Hi Marie – I just tested it with a pH strip after dilution and got pH 5, so it could be close to pH 4. What method did you use for testing Protini?
Nothing I tried meshed with me, sadly. Saw no changes/effects from an entire bottle of C-Firma; the marula oil felt oddly hot on my skin, like applying a ‘dry’ oil; and the La La Cream managed to feel both too heavy and not moisturising enough(!) The Framboos didn’t stack up against an occasional swipe of P50V, either. Wanted to love it, but 0 for 4.
Hi, this review is very informative.. I haven’t tried this product, but I got so interested after reading this.. hmm.. Thanks for sharing tho
Thank you Michelle for this thorough and informative review!
I tried the DE Vit C serum when first released in US. It exacerbated my very oily skin and stained my naso labial lines. The smell then was intolerable – similar to smoked sausage, blech. I haven’t tried any other DE products because of the price and my sensitive skin. I was alrady using Algenist Genius Vit C Serum, a switch to DE would be at the same price point. I used DE for 4 weeks, didn’t see improvement and repurchased Algenist, which doesn’t pill under sunscreen or foundation primer. When I started using Algenist, after trying many other brands, I saw great results within a week. I must have reached maximum improvement from pigmentation that it can provide as I still have some sun damage pigmentation that won’t budge but the minute I stop using, my skin becomes duller and less smooth.
Really enjoyed your review. I’m currently trying this range amd it feels lovely on my oily skin, hoping for greater improvement with long term use. the only downside is that some products aren’t available in Australia( and i would rather not make purchases from mecca), also they’re is a lot of conflicting info on how to use products (what order) and how you can mix with their other products and other products that i like from other brands.
I have questions about the marula oil they use. They claim it is great for all skin, but it gets rated at a 4 on the comedogenic scale, and I think it gives me whiteheads. I’m wondering if you had any issues with the marula oil being pore clogging, or if my experience was from something else?
wonderful reviews, I do love the baby facial.