Is Drunk Elephant Clean & Sustainable? We Investigate
Discover Drunk Elephant, the vibrant skincare and haircare brand making waves since its inception in 2013. Founded by Tiffany Masterson, Drunk Elephant is known for its philosophy of pH-balanced products, formulated without harmful ingredients. The brand’s global presence expanded when Shiseido acquired Drunk Elephant in 2019, further amplifying its allure to beauty enthusiasts around the world.
Drunk Elephant’s playful, color-coordinated packaging has garnered over 1.4 million followers on Instagram, and it’s easy to see why. The brand exudes a cohesive and eye-catching aesthetic that instantly stands out. Beyond the visuals, Drunk Elephant’s website offers a modern and user-friendly experience, complete with detailed insight into the ingredients that go into each product.
Embracing the ethos of biocompatible skincare, Drunk Elephant prides itself on the fusion of natural and synthetic ingredients that benefit skin health and enhance the overall formulation. One standout aspect of the brand’s marketing is its emphasis on avoiding six common yet potentially harmful ingredients found in many beauty products.
But does Drunk Elephant truly live up to its promise of safe and effective skincare? Join us as we delve into a comprehensive analysis to uncover the truth.
At Better Goods, we rank brands on our three pillars: ingredients, sustainability, and animal welfare.
Brands are rated on the three pillars as follows:
This ranking is for the best of the best. Only exemplary brands will receive a ranking of best for any category.
This ranking is for brands that are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.
This ranking is for when we find something we find iffy. Not a good sign.
This ranking is reserved for the worst of the worst.
Ingredients (Rating: Good)
Most Drunk Elephant products listed on the website have a complete list of ingredients. The brand is transparent about its use of both synthetic and natural ingredients. On its website, the company explains that, “While Drunk Elephant aims for its products to be as natural as possible, it is far more important that the ingredients in them be effective and safe for your body and skin.”
Most of the ingredients found in Drunk Elephant’s products are safe to use. The company is transparent about its belief that products should be made without the “Suspicious 6™”:
- essential oils
- drying alcohols
- chemical sunscreens
- sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
In a note to customers on Drunk Elephant’s website, Masterson explains the brand’s philosophy for skincare. The “Suspicious 6™” is a term coined by Masterson, as her philosophy is that these six ingredients were at the root of her personal skin issues. Her skin’s appearance improved when she removed them from her skincare routine. Drunk Elephant deems the “Suspicious 6™” as harmful to the skin and leaves these ingredients out of its formulations.
The products listed on Drunk Elephant’s website lack these ingredients. Essential oils have the potential to irritate skin and cause allergies, depending on the concentration. Drying alcohols can disrupt the skin’s barrier. A 2016 study pointed out that more medical studies are needed to determine the safety and efficacy of silicones in skincare. Like Drunk Elephant, we don’t recommend using chemical sunscreens. Fragrances and some synthetic dyes have been found to be toxic. SLS can cause irritation and may carry absorption risks. Thus, Drunk Elephant’s philosophy regarding ingredient elimination seems to check out.
However, when reviewing the products, we came across a few ingredients we recommend avoiding or taking caution when using frequently.
- Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that can be safe to use in small concentrations. However, it is linked to allergies and respiratory concerns.
- Retinol, a form of Vitamin A, is present in some products. However, the amount used is a low concentration.
- Some ingredients may cause topical allergies, like lecithin, chlorphenesin, cocamidopropyl betaine, chlorhexidine digluconate, cetrimonium chloride. We recommend checking the ingredients or testing new products on a small patch of skin if you are prone to skin allergies.
- Acids like glycolic acid and lactic acid can cause skin irritation, so products containing these ingredients should be used carefully.
Sustainability (Rating: Iffy)
Drunk Elephant does not elaborate on its sustainability initiatives on its website. However, the brand makes the following statement about its packaging on its website:
Most of our products are recyclable, except for the Littles and Midi sizes, Umbra, the clear wrap on our Pekee and Juju bars, and sample packettes. For detailed recycling info and instructions, please see the individual product pages on our website. If you don’t see the recycling info for your product, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
However, individual product pages do not always list recycling information for each product.
Animal Welfare (Rating: Good)
Drunk Elephant makes a statement about animal welfare on its website.
“No, we do not test our products on animals, including elephants–although we think they could use the help!”
Cruelty-Free Kitty reports Drunk Elephant is a cruelty-free brand. The company and its suppliers do not test ingredients or products on animals. Drunk Elephant’s products are not sold in places where animal testing is allowed by law. However, Drunk Elephant’s affiliate company Shiseido is not a cruelty-free brand.
Drunk Elephant is not a 100% vegan brand, as reported by Cruelty-Free Kitty. Some ingredients are vegan, while others are not.
The Brand’s Online Controversies
Like many brands, Drunk Elephant has been involved in some online controversies. Cosmetics giant L’Oréal sued Drunk Elephant for patent infringement in 2018, as reported by Cosmetics Business. Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum has a similar formulation to SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum. Drunk Elephant reformulated their serum in 2021.
Customers have criticized Drunk Elephant for the way it handles honest feedback. An Instagram post dated June 5, 2020 on Drunk Elephant’s social media page shows followers calling out the brand for its lack of transparency around diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
Followers were not pleased with Drunk Elephant’s reply to a follower, which stated, “However, we feel strongly that making a ‘human inventory’ of our team and then using that information for marketing purposes is an incredible ethical violation of our employees right to privacy.”
Customers of the brand expressed disappointment and asked Drunk Elephant for more accountability.
Final Brand Ratings
Our rating scale ranges from “Best” (for having the best practices) to “Bad” (for having unacceptable practices). We rated Drunk Elephant as follows.
|Drunk Elephant is transparent about its use of both synthetic and natural ingredients and avoids the “Suspicious 6™” harmful ingredients. Some ingredients may cause allergies or irritation, so caution is advised for those with sensitive skin.
|Drunk Elephant does not provide extensive information on its sustainability initiatives. The brand states that most of their products are recyclable, but individual product pages do not always have recycling information.
|Drunk Elephant is a cruelty-free brand, as reported by Cruelty-Free Kitty. The company and its suppliers do not test ingredients or products on animals. However, Drunk Elephant is not a 100% vegan brand.
Overall Rating: Good
Drunk Elephant is a skincare and haircare brand that uses natural and synthetic ingredients to create formulations that are safe to use on skin and address a myriad of skin issues. It is a cruelty-free brand that uses some vegan ingredients. The company is transparent about its ingredients. Most ingredients are not harmful and are safe for use on skin. However, we recommend checking the ingredient label if you are prone to allergies.
The company addresses recycling for some products, but has room to grow regarding their sustainability practices.
For these reasons, Drunk Elephant receives an overall rating of Good.