The skincare industry’s darling, Drunk Elephant; a starlet in bloom. A year ago I bought most of the collection, threw everything else in a box, and went all-in. I ate well, paid attention to my skin, and cut out everything that was not Drunk Elephant. My skin should have been brilliant, but I saw no notable difference over those three months than when I was using a hodgepodge of products from a bevy of brands. No miracle came, and so I tossed Drunk Elephant aside. A few months ago I was given even more of the collection to try, and thought that this concoction of products may be more successful. Unsurprisingly it was not, and I developed more blemishes than usual which lasted longer and healed slower.
– Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum* (DE, Sephora, Dermstore)
– Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum* (DE, Sephora, Dermstore)
– Drunk Elephant Beste Jelly Cleanser (DE, Sephora)
– Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel* (DE, Sephora, Dermstore)
– Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil* (DE, Sephora, Dermstore)
– Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream* (DE, Sephora, Dermstore)
– Drunk Elephant Shaba Complex Eye Serum* (DE, Sephora, Dermstore)
C-Firma Day Serum
A potent blend on paper—with 15% L-ascorbic acid, 5% ferulic acid, and 1% vitamin E—this was my first true foray into the world of vitamin C. I have post-inflammatory erythema (PIE) rather than post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH); red marks rather than brown marks. Vitamin C is notably effective at reducing hyperpigmentation through disrupting melanin, however I have seen no conclusive evidence to suggest it corrects PIE. Despite this, Drunk Elephant does recommend C-Firma as a corrective treatment for acne scars. I saw no level of advanced correction with regards to my PIE, in fact I believe C-Firma was contributing to my extra blemishes as within a week of stopping they seemed to fade in severity. If your issue is PIH with no active blemishes, perhaps this would work for you; otherwise, I fail to see any benefit.
T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
The iconic Drunk Elephant product, T.L.C. is another potent product: glycolic, salicylic, citric, lactic, tartaric acids plus calming, anti-inflammatory, and hydrating ingredients like marula oil, cactus extract, and sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer. Perhaps this was just not enough for me, or perhaps it was too much, but I find my skin responds far better to retinoids than constant acid application. A common misunderstanding with acne suffers is that skin cells are being turned over too slowly, when in fact it is the opposite; elevated levels of hormones cause quicker skin cell turnover from the basal layer, which are then not sloughed away quick enough, and thus form blockages. Acids in theory clear these skin cells away faster, allowing them to be pushed through naturally. What would be more effective though, would be to regulate the level of skin cell turnover to begin with; retinoids do that. So on a theoretical level, this level of exfoliation daily is rather excessive for most people and you may see far more effective results with a retinoid paired with a more gentle means of exfoliation.
Beste Jelly Cleanser
A welcome addition to the Drunk Elephant family, I bought this as soon as I saw it but after a few weeks of using it I have still yet to develop a strong opinion. The formulation is very clinical, with only a bit of cantaloupe, marula oil, and aloe thrown in from nature. The surfactants used are modern and the pH is slightly acidic at around 6. Beste has a sticky clear gel texture which makes the cap being on the bottom rather annoying; it runs a wee bit after closing. On the skin it has a good creamy lather, and skin absolutely feels clean after rinsing. What gives me hesitation is how tight skin can feel after using it; a hydrating essence is an absolute must and when I tried it for a week without one my skin was raw along my jaw and I developed a nasty bit of blemishes which I recognize on myself as stemming from dehydration. While this is gentler than the bar cleansers, I find that using this means adding another hydrating product to compensate and that seems a tad bit excessive.
B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel
A medium-weight serum to better enable the skin to hold water, B-Hydra is an interesting concept that needs greater clarification on the packaging. This is not a moisturizer, this is a serum; you need to pair something with it. I am not sure if someone with oily skin would need to because in theory they produce their own oil-based occlusive barrier, but everyone else needs to mix this with an oil like Marula Oil or a moisturizer like Lala. I tried both and found the Marula Oil and B-Hydra combination to be the most effective. My skin felt comfortable, foundation application went brilliantly on days I wore it, and my skin better tolerated T.L.C. application in the evening. That being said, I have still not received a satisfactory answer as to how ‘coconut alkanes’ differ from coconut oil, and it could have been something else in my routine but I did notice more severity in blemishes when including this into my routine.
Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil
‘Luxury’ as a descriptor is a tad bit much for my taste, but this is a brilliant oil. It is more heavy on oleic acids, which means it is far more effective at hydrating than at balancing, but its small molecular size apparently means it is not very comedogenic. It blends wonderfully into B-Hydra, and is unlike any other carrier oil I have tried in fluidity; it glides on the skin and skins in so easily. I enjoyed this face oil, and will continue to use it as a booster in the cold winter months and on summer nights when the air is dry.
Lala Retro Whipped Cream
A tragic product for anyone but a connoisseur of heavy creams, this blend of six whipped oils is a neat concept but heavy, occlusive, and greasy on my skin. Beyond that, my skin would flush and burn upon application which I have been told is due to the inclusion of yeast in the formula though I cannot confirm that. All in all, this is for the person who would be comfortable with the original Nivea cream on their face. A strong pass for me.
Shaba Complex Eye Serum
Ah now this is brilliant. I rarely find an eye product that I find performant, but this is a true treat. It has a lightweight creamy texture which blends easily into skin, and no detectable scent which I prefer around the eye area. Black tea ferment, copper peptides, edelweiss, niacinamide, ubiquinone, citrus fruit bioflavonoid, sea buckthorn oil, and sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer all work to relax the eye area, soften fine lines, reduce the appearance of dark circles, and improve texture. I find most eye creams overpromise and underdeliver, but I notice smoother dehydration lines and a brighter look to the undereye area.
All things considered, the entire brand is a pass for me. The prices are far too high for the ingredients in play here, and the packaging is tired and reminiscent of decoration for a sad birthday party that nobody attended. But beyond all of that, it annoys me to no end the manner in which the Drunk Elephant social team prides itself on being greater than any other brand in the industry. This is not the ‘one and done’ collection they sell themselves as; it is a curated selection of products that are mostly good, but far from innovative. Good acids can be found from NeoStrata; good vitamin C is being done by Dr. Dennis Gross, Algenist and Perricone; modern cleansers are gentle and pH-balanced; night creams are a dime-a-dozen; and even Neutrogena has figured out hydrating serums. All Drunk Elephant has done is make the work easier for you, but that costs you more and it comes with your buy-in of their holier-than-thou attitude.
Disclaimer: Products marked with an asterisk (*) were given to me free of charge. I receive countless products each month, and say nothing about the majority of them; I will only review a product if I think it is worthy of words, either negative or positive. Links are to the easiest and most common retailer. All opinions are my own and do not reflect those of the companies mentioned, nor my employer.