Drinking The Drunk Elephant Kool-Aid

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For the past 10 years, I've been loyal to one moisturizer: Sothys Immuniscience Cream. In my hopeless devotion to it I'll admit I haven't tried many of it's competitors for field research. Similarly, I've been stuck on Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser user for at least five or six years, without any thought about changing course or adding steps to my routine. If it's not already abundantly clear, when it comes to products, I’m terrified of change—not to mention the breakouts and greasy face that accompany it. Best to stick with the devil you know, as opposed to the devil you don't. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

But in the spirit of growing up and abandoning clichés, I set out at the beginning of 2015 to find a new skincare regimen that would release me from my Sothys security blanket (not that there's anything wrong with it—it's just that during my pondering of New Years Resolutions, I realized my skin probably needs something a little more amped up than what I found effective at age 15). After a bit of asking around and some intrepid online shopping, I came across Drunk Elephant. The process was similar to how I shop for wines: Give me good packaging and an offbeat name and we're in business. I took the whole six-product line home and haven't looked back.

Committed to this new relationship, I followed the instructions carefully—wash with the JuJu Bar in the morning, then apply the C-Firma Day Serum, their Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30 sunscreen, and a few drops of the Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil. The same goes for evening but with their gentler Pekee Bar, T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, and finished off with the same Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil—a step I'd never tried in regards to my face. While I can’t speak to the efficacy of the sunblock completely (winter in NYC isn’t the sunniest), I can say that it is the least greasy formula that I have ever tried.

Seeing that this was altogether new territory for me, I talked to the brand’s founder, Tiffany Masterson. The Cliffs Notes version of her story are as follows: She is ultra-sensitive to fragrances and essential oils and couldn’t find a product that didn’t contain them that was safe and effective. “It was like playing Whack-A-Mole,” Masterson said of her skincare dramas. “One problem solved meant another would flare up.” She discovered marula oil at an apothecary in LA and fell in love. “I was amazed by how moisturizing it was and that it soaked in without leaving any oily residue,” she recalls. “All this time I had thought that I needed powder to combat my oiliness, but what I really needed was oil!” Marula oil ended up taking center stage in her line, including as the inspiration for the name—according to stories, elephants love to eat the fruit from marula trees, but once it’s in their stomachs, it ferments and they end up drunk. This does not, however, happen if you drink the whole bottle of face oil (I asked).

From that starting point, she developed a line that is non-toxic, which is not to be confused with organic or all-natural. “Those terms are incredibly seductive to savvy shoppers who care about safety,” she said. “But neither necessarily means the product is clean, safe or non-irritating.” She carefully chooses ingredients, both synthetic and natural, by looking at their hazard and toxicity levels. Anything bad, whether natural or not, was out. “Drunk Elephant is a clinical-meets-natural concept that really hasn’t been tried before,” she explained. Translation: it actually works.

Of my worries about face wash in bar soap form, she said not to fear. “There’s a stigma attached to bars that I want to dispel,” Masterson said. “Ours is non-alkaline, soap-free, and non-irritating.” It won’t strip your face of its natural oils and throw your whole system out of joint. Same with the actual face oil which, instead of being dense and greasy, is super-light, and not at all scary. “Against the norm, I just let the oil be what it is without trying to control the scent or the color,” Masterson said. All of Drunk Elephant's products are scent-free. “That’s the way they use it in Africa, so that’s the way I’ll deliver it!”

I haven't completely abandoned my old products yet, but the Drunk Elephant and I have been pretty happy together for the past two weeks. I'm not dry or red, despite the windchill, and there haven't been any of those new-product breakouts. But no need to take it from me—take it from the strangers who have been complimenting me on my skin. That should be the barometer if your skincare is working. Just call it the miracle of the marula oil.

—Victoria Lewis

Photographed by Tom Newton.

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