Drunk Elephant: Everything you need to know about this cult brand

Drunk Elephant UK
(Image credit: Instagram: @drunkelephant)

Put simply, Drunk Elephant has sex appeal. For one, its neon-topped bottles are millennial clickbait. Two, it consistently makes up 50% of the top 10 skincare bestsellers at Sephora.

This is especially impressive given Drunk Elephant wasn't founded by a big cosmetics company but by a stay-at-home mum of four, which we think is a nice touch.

Here founder Tiffany Masterson answers your FAQs…

How Did Drunk Elephant Start?

‘Before I developed Drunk Elephant, I had all sorts of skin issues. I'd occasionally break out, had mild rosacea, visible pores, you name it,' says Masterson.

'I was a frustrated, confused brand-hopper searching for anything that would help. I started selling a bar cleanser on the side while educating myself about ingredients and what roles they play in a formulation. Six ingredients were at the root of my issues. These are what I call the 'Suspicious 6' - essential oils, fragrance/dyes, silicones, chemical screens, SLS and drying alcohols. Once I eliminated them from my routine, my skin returned to a clear, balanced state. But I couldn't find products without at least one of the Suspicious 6 in them. So I decided to make them myself.'

Subsequently, Masterson started working with a chemist on 'clean' formulations with the highest levels of actives possible.

She launched Drunk Elephant in 2012.

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Why Is It Called Drunk Elephant?

Fun fact: it’s actually named after drunk elephants.

‘As I was choosing ingredients, I came across marula oil,' says Masterson.

'I googled it and found videos of intoxicated-looking elephants. Rumour has it that elephants eat the fallen, fermented Marula fruit and become drunk. I knew that a memorable brand name would create curiosity and attract attention. For the first year, people tried to get me to change it. I’m happy today that I didn’t listen. I knew the brand wouldn’t be me if I did.’

Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil, £34, Cult Beauty

Drunk Elephant, Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil, £34, Cult Beauty

For Masterson, virgin oil – 'straight from the pip' – is superior. Hence, you'll find it throughout the line. The oil itself is rich in fatty acids, antioxidants and has anti-microbial properties. All of which, makes it great for minimsing fine lines, redness and improving elasticity (to name a few of its benefits).

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Why Is Drunk Elephant So Good?

Two reasons.

It won’t rile even the most finicky skin. This is because of Masterson's ingredient-elimination philosophy. You won’t find the Suspicious 6, which can trigger unwanted reactions, in any Drunk Elephant product.

The ingredients she uses, however, are top grade. Think resurfacing acids, omegas and powerful antioxidants like vitamins C, E and ferulic acid.

Drunk Elephant has even come to the rescue of retinol lovers. Vitamin A improves the look of fine lines, pigmentation and acne, but on the flip side it can also cause dryness and irritation.

Enter Drunk Elephant A- Passioni, which gets its name from the way retinol is encased in a blend of passionfruit, jojoba and marula oils to make it less shocking for the skin.

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream, £62, Cult Beauty

Drunk Elephant, Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream, £62, Cult Beauty

To ensure Drunk Elephant retinol is even kinder to skin, Masterson chose vegan retinol derived from beta-carotenoids in green botanicals and coloured fruits. This translates to a reduced risk of sensitivity.

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‘We won’t ever include gimmicky ingredients to change the look, smell or feel of a product either,’ says Masterson.

Consequently, there's no danger of essential oils or artificial fragrances spiking your vitamin C serum to make it smell of oranges.

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, £67, Cult Beauty

Drunk Elephant, Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum, £67, Cult Beauty

As with all good vitamin C formulae, it acts like a great hyperpigmentation treatment to help reduce the visibility of discolouration (like dark spots) and the signs of ageing.

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Is Drunk Elephant 100% Natural?

No, Drunk Elephant combines natural and synthetic ingredients.

Masterson's main criteria is that they must be biocompatible with your skin. In other words, ingredients that your skin can recognise, process and benefit from so it can stay healthy.

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These include powerful natural actives and non-toxic synthetic ingredients formulated in such a way that the skin can readily absorb them.

‘It isn’t about natural vs. synthetic, it’s about effectiveness and safety,' explains Masterson. 'Treat skin with nourishing ingredients that it can get along with. Essential oils are natural but they can inflame the skin. Non-fragrant plant extracts, however, deliver the same, and often better, benefits.'

She defends her use of synthetic ingredients, which often get a bad rap, by saying: 'Your body synthesises ingredients all the time from the nutrients you feed it. The same applies in skincare. Take vitamin C, for example. We synthesise it so it becomes ascorbic acid. Nutritionally it is the same as an orange but it is a more stable and concentrated version for the skin. '

Why Aren’t Drunk Elephant Products Categorised By Skin Type?

Neatly ticked boxes aren’t Drunk Elephant’s style. Masterson reckons that when skin gets what it needs, it will be in balance. That's why all the products suit every skin type and you can mix and match to your heart's content.

‘I have a different approach to skincare,' she says.

'There are true skin types we are born with (oily, dry, sensitive) but I don’t think they need different ingredients to thrive. Skin is skin; if it is dry it just needs more moisturising ingredients. Skin that naturally produces more oil needs less. It’s pretty simple. I want people to see that removing certain ingredients can transform their skin. It is these bad guys - the Suspicious 6 - that trigger issues.'

And guess what? According to Masterson, even sensitive skin can still tolerate high level of acids, like those found in the Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum.

'If we take care not to strip skin's protective barrier and allow it to slowly build up a healthy tolerance, there shouldn't be a problem.'

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, £76, Cult Beauty

Drunk Elephant, Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, £76, Cult Beauty

Here you'll find the 'dream team' of lactic, tartaric, citric, salicylic and glycolic acid, at a concentrate of 12%. The gel formula dissolves the glue binding dead cells to the skin's surface while you sleep. Consider it a one-way ticket to luminous skin come morning.

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Who Owns Drunk Elephant?

In 2019, Shiseido spent $845 million to acquire Drunk Elephant, one of the fastest-growing prestige skincare companies in history.

What Are The Best Drunk Elephant Products to Buy?

Keep scrolling for more of the best Drunk Elephant products you should snap up now..