I am on a perpetual hunt for skincare brands and products that not only deliver real skin-changing results (duh), but are carefully packed with green ingredients. I believe in a solid skincare regime, and one that is mainly organic and non-toxic. As a beauty writer, I find it hard to be green 100% of the time. I mean, have you seen Tom Ford’s black plum mascara? It’s so worth breaking my own rule. But the way I look at it, I am not slathering that mascara all over my face and body every morning and night. It’s the stuff that you apply twice a day, everyday and for the rest of your life that I focus on keeping clean and green.
A couple of weeks ago, a brand called Drunk Elephant caught my eye. The packaging is colorful, happy and inviting. It was the Zinc Sunscreen that convinced me of the authenticity of the line. I used it during a weeklong trip in the Caribbean, and I loved it. My skin just drank it, and I couldn’t get enough. The brand is picking up major traction these days, but not because of its culty cool packaging or its whimsical name, but for it’s clinically effective product that really does work. If you have sensitive skin, well this might be the brand you you.
To prove my point, Drunk Elephant is the ONLY beauty brand sold at one of my favorite stores here in New York, Kirna Zabete. I heard the store went through hundreds of brands before choosing Drunk Elephant, because they were set on offering the best to their customers. I sat down with the company’s founder, Tiffany Masterson, to get the details on this new on-the-scene green beauty brand and even asked her some of my own organic skincare questions.
Tiffany: Drunk Elephant is a clinical meets natural concept that I developed after years of searching for that perfect product, but also after realizing a need in the marketplace for a line that was clinically effective, low-hazard and non-irritating at the same time. I just couldn’t find it. I would say that the main difference is that Drunk Elephant is NOT an all-natural brand. It is made with synthetics and natural ingredients, but they are all non-toxic. Another big difference is that it is made without any essential oils. The products just smell like the high quality ingredients they are made with. It kind of forced me to isolate the top of the line, best ingredients I could find. The end result is something I really don’t think people have tried before and something that people are really excited about. We give our skin way too much credit for being “sensitive,” “easily irritated,” etc. Could it be that it’s the ingredients found in most skin care products are causing these issues and it’s not our skin after all? I think we need to focus a bit more on what a product is going to do for us, how it’s going to do it, and what each ingredient is there for.
Annie: Will I have better and glowier skin after using Drunk Elephant?
Tiffany: I think so! My customers certainly say they do…I think the word I hear more than anything is “healthier.” We want to give your skin a break from all of the irritants and set it back to its original healthy state. This will allow you to go bare-faced more often, which just feels good. I think you’ll notice smaller pores, less redness, less inflammation and a more even appearance or tone. This won’t happen only because of the potent, hard-working ingredients that can be found in the products, but also because of what I’ve chosen to leave out of the products. There are certain ‘natural’ ingredients that aren’t very skin-friendly. To a certain extent, we’ve all been led to believe that most of the bad guys are synthetic…not so.
Annie: What does non-toxic mean? Is this similar to organic or all natural? I can’t keep it all straight!
Tiffany: “Non-toxic” means that the formulations are made with chemicals that are safe and low-hazard for humans and the environment. We take into consideration a wide variety of potential health risks including carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, allergenicity and neurotoxicity. “All natural” generally means that the ingredients in a formulation are derived from natural sources without any synthetic compounds. “Organic” ingredients would mean only plant-sourced ingredients grown without the use of pesticides or synthetic chemicals. Both natural and organic ingredients can still be toxic or bad for our skin and neither necessarily means clean, safe or non-irritating. Both terms are incredibly alluring for a customer who cares about safety. I went with non-toxic because I wanted high-performing products that were non-irritating. I chose ingredients without taking into account their synthetic or natural status (not all synthetics are bad!), only looking at hazard and toxicity levels that can be found in both natural and synthetic categories. Of course I was concerned with toxins getting in our blood stream, but I was also concerned about the sensitizers and irritants that can affect our external skin health, so I removed them all. I think at the end of the day, there are bad ingredients in every category and there are also great, safe ingredients in every category.
Annie: I love the name, by the way. Where did it come from?
Tiffany: When I first tried Marula oil, I instantly fell in love, so I went online to do some more research. I found a video on YouTube of elephants eating the fallen Marula fruit and stumbling around like a bunch of cute drunks…the rare case a drunk can be cute ;). Since my formulations are so serious, I decided I could spice things up a little with a sassy name. Being forgettable will not be our problem!
Annie: I know you’re a fan of a paired-down beauty routine. Describe what you mean by “less is more.”
Tiffany: I really wanted this to be a simple approach to skincare and when I say less is more, I’m talking about what you are putting on your face and what I’m putting into the DE formulations. I’m not sold on the whole “skin type” thing. I wanted to do one line that everyone could use without worrying about a particular issue, like sensitivities or breakouts. I wanted to use only ingredients that are there to benefit our skin health directly and lose all the marketing fluff like colorants and fragrances, natural or synthetic, which by the way I think are at the root of many of our chronic issues in the first place. To put it simply, less is more means fewer products with cleaner ingredients that we can all use and get results. Also, I want to float the idea that skin care products for our face should not be scented in any way, ever. Hopefully one day we’ll look back and say, “Can you believe when we used to put essential oils and perfume on our face?” They can cause sensitivities and inflammation. Why do we do this? I’m hearing from customer after customer that once they stop, it’s impossible to go back. Less is more when it comes to our skin.
Annie: Tell me about the sunscreen. What is so important about 20% Zinc?
Tiffany: You have to keep in mind that we are only working with Zinc Oxide, so we didn’t have the option of using chemical screens like Avobenzone and Oxybenzone that would make it easier to produce a sheer formulation like I wanted. It’s not easy to make a true physical block that is sheer, without the aid of a chemical screen. I wanted a product that really worked and was non-toxic and safe on top of being easy to wear, which wasn’t an easy thing to find. For Umbra, the zinc needed to be at a high enough level to provide the requested sun protection factor on its own, without any help from another active sunscreen ingredient. So we worked it, and re-worked it, until we were able to come up with the perfect blend that goes on and turns sheer almost immediately. No more ghost face, but broad-spectrum physical protection SPF 30, safe and low-hazard. It was truly a feat and we are so proud of this product.