What is the deal with Drunk Elephant? We are going to discuss everything from the brand's safe and natural skincare motifs to the attacks the brand launched on its customers via social media. We are discussing this because Cassandra believes that consumers come first, and she believes that people should have access to skincare brands and cosmetics that match their morals and skin concerns. That’s why she digs into the ingredients and the ethos of different skincare brands. She wants to share knowledge and discover what lies beneath so you can make accurate, inspired, and educated choices. That‘s why, in this blog, we’re digging into Drunk Elephant, a skincare line that Cassandra questions.
What is Drunk Elephant?
Drunk Elephant is a skincare line that has had a cult following for a long time primarily because of the ingredients they choose and avoid. The line is vegan and cruelty-free, and they’ve also donated to elephants. However, as mentioned before, there were a couple of shady things on their social media. To find out how this impacts consumers, let’s dig into how Drunk Elephant actually started.
How Did Drunk Elephant Start?
It was started by a mother of four who was struggling with her skin. She had a really oily T-zone, combo skin, and sensitivity. She was struggling to find products that actually worked for her. So, she did what Cassandra always recommends. She “turned and learned’ her ingredients, and she decided that there were six ingredients that she didn’t like. She called these the “suspicious six” ingredients, and from there, she embarked on a journey to create a skincare line that omitted these six ingredients. In the beginning, she started making a bar cleanser, but eventually, started creating other products as well. Her products honed in around the idea of including potent active and omitting the “suspicious six.”
As she started creating and selling these skincare products, she found that her skin evened out, and she attributed this to leaving out the following 6 ingredients:
Fragrances & Dyes
She concluded that these products were not only problematic for her sensitive skin, but for everyone’s sensitive skin. As someone who has struggled with acne for 15 years, Cassandra can relate to this conclusion. However, to say that all sensitive skin is caused by or reacts poorly to these 6 ingredients is a little dangerous to say, especially since conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis exist. People with those skin conditions can have skin that is extremely sensitive regardless of what products they’re using. So, when it comes to the philosophy of the line, Cassandra relates, but she finds it fallacious to generalize sensitive skin and skin reactions like this.
Now, let’s talk about what’s even more questionable – one of the brand inspirations of “Drunk Elephant.”
The name "Drunk Elephant" is referring to a myth where these elephants go eat the fruit from the marula tree. Supposedly, as the fruit sits on the ground, it ferments, these elephants eat it, and they get drunk. This doesn’t really happen. According to National Geographic, this was a myth created by the tourist industry to gain profits on safaris. But basically, they called the line Drunk Elephant because every product includes their key “marula oil.”
Mythical or not, Drunk Elephant has seen a lot of success since its inception. Magazine editors, beauty gurus, and influencers seemed to love the products. But, in Cassandra’s view, she actually sees a lot of similarities between the brand, Drunk Elephant, and a tourist safari. The experience might be great, but there are flaws with the ethics and morality of the experience.
Drunk Elephant has lived by the slogan “a product is only good as its worst ingredient.” They do donate to elephants, but we don’t know how much, and we don’t know where it’s going.
As for the quality of the product, Drunk Elephant does have some beneficial ingredients. When you take a deep dive, the products do have beneficial ingredients. There is retinol, some acids, and the formulas do seem to be suspended nicely.
In regards to their “suspicious six” claims, Cassandra agrees that, yes, a good portion of them can be sensitizing. On the other hand, to say that these ingredients cause everyone’s sensitive skin is an inherently flawed argument. More simply, it’s super wrong. The second thing is that they are making this claim while most of the products are between 70 and 90 dollars. A couple of them even go above that. While the packaging is really pretty, it’s expensive for the amount of product that you’re truly getting.
Thirdly, Drunk Elephant was sold to Shiseido super recently, and we don’t have details about how this may impact the integrity of the products. Brands being purchased by larger lines happens quite frequently. So, that’s nothing new, but consumers are often left in the dark about what’s going to change about the brand. For instance, Drunk Elephant is cruelty-free. However, Shiseido, the new parent company, is not. Is Shiseido going to start taking the products and selling them in mainland China where they would have to test on animals to be sold? Someone who works in the research department of Drunk Elephant says that the line is going to remain cruelty-free. However, we don’t know if this will last, especially since the internal workings of Drunk Elephant are very shaky. At least that’s what it seems given that the company was attacking others on social media.
The line was arguing with different customers about their experience with the product. Some people said that these products caused skin sensitivity. Why? Well, any skincare product that has acid, retinol, or active ingredients has the potential to sensitize the skin. Nevertheless, the founder believed that her products can do no harm because they avoid the “suspicious six.” She acted as if there was no way her products could possibly hurt someone else's skin. Drunk Elephant even went as far to say that every single skin condition ties back to these irritating ingredients. However, a lot of these conditions that cause sensitive skin are genetic. This would naturally mean that many instances of sensitive skin have nothing to do with the “suspicious six.” Yet, Drunk elephant attacked their customers on social media even though they were just giving a personal review on how the product specifically reacted to their skin.
All in all, though, we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. But ultimately, attacking people in the process is not good. The customer service is problematic as well. If you have a complaint, it’s very hard to get ahold of someone. Drunk Elephant filters out some comments on their social media meaning they delete or erase any bad comments that are posted about the line. This isn’t exclusive to the Drunk Elephant, and a lot of skincare brands do this, but it’s not a good look. If you see multiple customers having issues with your product, perhaps you should address them or explain how potent actives can cause redness, stinging, or irritation. Perhaps you might even want to change the formula.
This brand has not only had problems with customers, but it’s also had problems with other brands – specifically, Glossier, The Ordinary, and L’Oreal. Drunk Elephant started attacking Glossier and saying that they copied their packaging. Drunk Elephant then proceeded to go on Instagram and create fake customer profiles. These profiles bashed Glossier and portrayed a disappointed customer. One comment from a fake customer said, “You copy their packaging, you might as well copy their philosophy.” And then, Drunk Elephant’s official Instagram also attacked Glossier.
On top of that, Drunk Elephant and The Ordinary got into it. To be fair, we think that The Ordinary Started that one, but the point is, Drunk Elephant was verbal sparring for something random on social media once again.
Furthermore, they infringed on one of L’Oreals patents. L’Oreal owns the patent for Skinceuticals which is basically combining vitamin C, Vitamin E, and ferulic acid as a way to stabilize these molecules, making them more stable for your skin. So, Drunk Elephant copied them to make their C+E and ferulic serum. It’s a good product, and it’s a less expensive dupe for the $166 Skinceuticals, but naturally, it’s problematic to infringe on someone else’s patent. Also, if they can infringe on someone’s patent, why would they attack Glossier for copying packaging.
Some of Drunk Elephant’s top products are the ce4 ferulic which is a nicely stabilized version of vitamin C. It has ferulic acid and vitamin E which gives an extra boost to the skin, and no lie, it’s really good. There’s also the Protini which is a polypeptide moisturizer that’s supposed to have peptides that go into your skin and stimulate new collagen production. There’s also the popular Lala Retro Moisturizer which wasn’t a bad moisturizer, but Cassandra just thought it was really basic.
Lastly, let’s talk about what they said about Caroline Hirons.
Caroline Hirons loves a lot of Drunk Elephant products. However, she had a lot of problems with the Passioni Retinol Cream. She did a review, and they not only attacked her opinion; they attacked her intelligence. Just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean you can discount their experience and knowledge. Caroline Hirons tried to have a conversation, and they completely ignored her. But guess what? Because of this woman’s amazingness, she has remained objective. She still speaks highly about some of their products because she believes in the ingredients. That’s just a testament to this woman’s kindness, honesty, and intelligence.
So, although Drunk Elephant is vegan and cruelty-free and puts forth ethics, it’s interesting to think about how much drama has surrounded them. Years ago, Drunk Elephant sent products to Cassandra, and when she saw the drama around them, she became interested but was sorely disappointed. To Cassandra, the ingredients were hit and miss. However, their new and recent products are a bit different which could have a large difference.
All in all, Drunk Elephant is a vegan and cruelty-free line with some helpful actives which is good, but their philosophy about six types of ingredients causing all skin sensitivity, their lack of customer service, and their overly defensive demeanor whilst charging high prices are definitely some things to consider as a consumer.