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Brand Spotlight - Drunk Elephant

Today is the first post of a new series called Brand Spotlight! For the series, I am planning to pick different beauty brands and cover their origin story, philosophy, product portfolio, and top formula. For the first post, I want to cover Drunk Elephant which has been in the news recently after being acquired by Shiseido for $845 million.

Origin and Philosophy

Drunk Elephant was founded by Tiffany Masterson. The brand's name refers to a myth that elephants love to eat fruit fallen from marula trees, which ferments in their stomach and gets them drunk. Marula oil is an ingredient found throughout the company's product offering.

The work on the brand started with the founder's own personal skin issues and her search for products that do not contain what the company refers to as the "Suspicious 6" ingredients: essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). The goal was to create skincare products that are compatible with the skin and don't contain allergens and toxins.

The "Suspicious 6" ingredients are pretty commonly excluded from clean beauty brand formulations. I like the clear and concise branding of the formulation strategy, even if the typical consumer may not understand what specific ingredients are excluded. I think the brand emphasis that naturals are not necessarily better for the skin is an important message. Common allergens are often found in essential oils and fragrances even when naturally derived. However, if the product is sold in the EU, regulation requires that the label includes a warning above a specified concentration, 0.01% for a rinse-off product or 0.001% for a leave-on product.

Product Portfolio

According the company website, the Drunk Elephant formulation strategy focuses on biocompatibility, pH levels, and safety. They make sure that active ingredients are at efficacious levels and work with the skin’s acid mantle. They use a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients and identify as a "clean" brand instead of a "natural" brand. For a breakdown of the different labels, refer to this prior post Natural, Organic, Clean - What does it all mean?

The product offering is focused entirely on skincare. It includes moisturizers, serums, masks, cleansers, sunscreens, eye creams, and lip balm. The products names are a bit odd but generally ingredient focused, such as A-Passioni for a vitamin A retinol cream and C-Firma for a vitamin C serum. Prices range from $18 for a lip balm to $134 for a night serum.

In my opinion, I find the mention of pH levels and safety to be a bit unnecessary since all brands are required to safety test their formulas. I didn't see anything called out by the brand to mention that they are doing anything beyond the standard clinical testing (typically a Human Repeat Insult Patch Test, or HRIPT) to ensure formulas are safe for use. As for pH levels, in my experience formulators are aware of the typical pH for the impacted area and work to minimize the product's impact on skin homeostasis. Drunk Elephant uses standard acidic ingredients like salicylic acid, vitamin C, and glycolic acid.

Top Formula

Drunk Elephant doesn't have one singular top formula like some other brands. They recommend using the full range together for best results and even suggest creating custom combinations of formulas. The Drunk Elephant brand name is derived from a story about marula fruit, so I'll focus on the marula oil that they sell called Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil.

This is easy for me to review from an ingredient standpoint, because it is 100% Sclerocraya Birrea (Marula) Kernel Oil. Other brands also sell marula oil, but Drunk Elephant claims theirs is created with a proprietary cold-press extraction and filtration process that justifies the higher price point. Marula oil is known to have skincare benefits due to naturally occurring antioxidants and fatty acids. This isn't the most exciting product, but it does exemplify the brand's focus on simplicity and effectiveness. I haven't tried this specific product, but I generally enjoy using oils on my skin and hair for cleansing and hydration.

My Experience

I've personally tried two samples of Drunk Elephant products that I got for free from Sephora for my birthday, the Protini Polypeptide Cream and Beste No.9 Jelly Cleanser. I liked both, but not enough to buy the full size versions once I used up the sample sizes. I have a cabinet full of free products and wasn't willing to spend $32 on a cleanser or $68 for a cream.

If you'd like to read a detailed review of the entire line, I found this one on Refinery 29 to be informative and entertaining: I Tried $808 Worth Of Drunk Elephant Products — & This Is My Honest Opinion

Have you tried this brand? Do you have a favorite product that you enjoyed using? Let me know in the comments below!

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