The Skincare Secrets of a Drunk Elephant


Tied to the same sentiment that ‘every cloud has a silver lining,’ the Texas-based founder of skincare brand Drunk Elephant Tiffany Masterson found that, when it comes to innovation, there’s no greater motivator than necessity. Masterson’s lifetime of mild rosacea led to countless trips to high-end dermatologists, which was accompanied by hundreds of dollars spent on their prescribed skincare routines. Every avenue she pursued made her condition worse, which is when the stay-at-home mom of four was prompted to look elsewhere for a solution. Sparked by the mildly calming effects that a simple cleansing bar had on her face, she began compiling a lengthy spreadsheet that detailed each ingredient and its role in the product. Soon, this breakdown process was extended to include every beauty product that Tiffany owned—or had any interest in owning—and an extensive self-schooled science education followed. “I became a beauty investigator,” she recalls.

“A passion that I never knew I had in me was awakened and I became obsessed with understanding the purpose of each ingredient in every single skincare product.”

After a period of time, the purpose of each scientific compound became clear and Tiffany was left with an illuminating realization: It’s not so much about what’s in a skincare product, it’s about what’s not in a skincare product. For example, a face cream that’s loaded with potent antioxidants but also contains essential oils for scent and marketing purposes will be detrimental to your skin’s collagen production and unbalance its pH level because scent is an irritant and therefore sends the dermis into reaction mode. “Our skin is our largest organ—it knows what to do,” she explains. “But when you disrupt its pH level with volatile skincare, you’re actually preventing it from working. I couldn’t believe that so many products designed for sensitive skin contain ingredients that are such clear irritants.”

This newfound encyclopedic knowledge was all well and good, but to truly utilize it (and to make long-lasting changes to her own skin), Tiffany knew that she needed to start a skincare line. The question was, did she have to tools necessary to do it? “I’m not a doctor, I was just a mom with a passion looking to help myself,” she says. “I sat for months—night and day—wondering how to put my knowledge to good use.” As coincidence (or fate) would have it, news of Tiffany’s investigative skills spread to a willing investor in 2012 and the next step became clear: she was to submit all of the ingredients she found to be honorable to a chemist for review. After that, six key products containing only those compounds were formed to be the foundation of her range—each backed up by positive clinical trials and personal experimentation. The starting lineup included a zinc-based sunscreen, a fruit-derived glycolic night serum, two cleansing bars, a Vitamin C day serum, and a luxurious face oil.

By July 2014, the range was ready to launch under one of the most original monikers in the skincare industry—Drunk Elephant. “When I first started my investigations, I learned about marula oil which is extracted from the kernels of the marula tree in Africa,” she explains. “When elephants eat the fermented fruit from the tree, they become tipsy and so the name was born.” To begin, the line was sold exclusively online, but Sephora soon came calling and asked to do a trial run in a few of its store. Within three weeks, the entire line was sold out, and the beauty chain increased its buy to cover 22 stores. As of today, you’ll find Drunk Elephant products in every Sephora outlet in North America, and plans are in motion to bring the line to its stores in Europe, Canada, and Australia.

“I created this line from the standpoint of a consumer, so we’re completely customer-oriented and I think that people can feel that. Everything that we do is transparent and all of our ingredients are accounted for in layman’s terms, but backed by very real scientific studies. We aim to be entirely accessible and if our customer want to ask questions, we’re happy to answer and edit accordingly.”

As Drunk Elephant continues to grow, Tiffany is adamant that the creation of new products sticks to her time-tested at-home formula. She still keeps her spreadsheet of ingredients and as new ones appear within the beauty industry, they are added accordingly before being sent to her chemist for review. This process was followed for the eye-cream that was added soon after the brand’s initial launch and for the latest addition to the range: A whipped face cream that contains an impressive blend of six African oils with small enough molecules to deeply penetrate the skin without blocking pores. Next in line to hit stores is a liquid cleanser, which Tiffany has slated to debut towards the end of this year. No present or future Drunk Elephant product will ever contain parabens, fragrance, dyes, sulfates, or any number of a long list of ingredients that are proven to be known carcinogens, hormone disruptors, or irritants, but that’s not to say that Tiffany is afraid to mix the best that Mother Nature has to offer with the latest scientific advancements. “People equate safe with all-natural,” she explains, “but nature has plenty of irritants too. The key is to knowing your ingredients and what works.”

Which brings us back to why Drunk Elephant is such an easy brand to get behind: Tiffany is not a big-wig conglomerate sitting in a removed headquarters looking for a way to cut-corners and trick consumers into buying an unnecessary amount of products. She’s a woman who developed something that she needed and possessed enough drive and good fortune to share it with us all. Today, she still lives in Texas and does the school run, but she’s also the owner of a cottage industry that’s about to go global. It’s inspiring because it’s evidence that if you work hard anything is possible and it’s comforting because it feels like she’s one of us.


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