baby care

advice from Tiffany Masterson, creator of Drunk Elephant and pioneer of “clean beauty”

advice from Tiffany Masterson, creator of Drunk Elephant and pioneer of "clean beauty"

The American calls for more responsibility and transparency on the part of brands, and relies on retinol, vitamin C and an adapted beauty routine.

It’s been a little over a year since the best-selling brand of Sephora stores in the United States took up residence in France. His credo? Minimalist formulas to be combined like a “blender” and colorful packaging. Passing through Paris, Tiffany Masterson, the founder, returned to the success story of Drunk Elephant and its philosophy. But also on the two star ingredients of the moment: vitamin C and retinol.

Prohibited ingredients

For Drunk Elephant, it all started when Tiffany Masterson decided to market a facial cleanser in order to make a small additional salary. “With this experience, I started discussing skin issues with clients, my friends… I tried to find out why they had these problems and I started to analyze the compositions. I was really curious to know how the skin worked, why this or that ingredient was used, and what role it played. Preservative, thickener, antioxidant, vitamin C, perfume, essential oils… What is the purpose of each?»

Tiffany Masterson notes that ingredients are of course integrated into the formulation for their actions on the skin. Others are used to secure the formula, to stabilize it. And finally, that some are just for the marketing argument. “They are present in each product: perfume, dyes, essential oils or even alcohol, which mattifies. All this is not good for the skin. Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), for example, is present in all cleansers, although it is very aggressive. It is a small molecule that penetrates, sensitizes and strips the skin. There are also the chemical screens which, in my case, consistently cause redness, rashes, and inflammation. And the silicones, which are just there to make the product silkier, give it a nicer texture. I have therefore identified six categories, the “Suspicious 6”. If we eliminated them, would that allow people to get rid of all their skin problems?

The best of both worlds

Tiffany Masterson then begins to look for brands whose products do not display these ingredients. She can’t find any. “At the time, the mindset was that everything that was imagined in the lab was dangerous, and everything that was natural, without danger. Result, pregnant, I used natural products. As soon as I was no longer, I said to myself “too bad” and I used more chemical treatments because I wanted results. The one who is neither a chemist nor a pharmacist, but curious and passionate, wonders if there can be a bridge between these two worlds, with the best of both approaches. “I wanted a new category with synthetic and natural products that were non-hazardous but all good for the skin, free of disruptors and biocompatible. Ingredients that can be absorbed by the skin.”

Our Clean Beauty selection

Clean Beauty before its time

Drunk Elephant was born and is part of the codes of what is now called Clean Beauty. “When I started, the term didn’t exist. In the 3-4 years leading up to the pandemic, people really started to care about ingredients and formulations. Right from the start, I decided to speak very openly and transparently. I think brands should be responsible for what they use, what they give consumers, and what people pay for. We need to back up our claims, do what we say, and provide them with products that deliver on their promises. But I think if a brand uses perfumes, essential oils, and alcohol, they should be held accountable because people end up with skin problems they can’t explain. They say to themselves “I was born with this.” But often that’s not the case and it’s a result of the ingredients they use.”

A desire for transparency that will quickly seduce a public initiated to Clean Beauty by sites like Beautycounter and Goop. “People were previously vigilant with their bodies and what they ingested, but not so much with their skin. The pandemic felt like the phenomenon was accelerating a bit, because everyone had more free time and was at home. Which means more time to hang out on social media and ask more questions. I think we are going in the right direction: it makes brands accountable. Rather than pushing people to blame themselves for these skin problems, it’s now up to brands to stop creating them.”

Drunk Elephant Firma Fresh Vitamin C Serum Drunk Elephant

«Less is more»

Beyond the ingredients that she does not wish to integrate into her formulations, Tiffany Masterson adopts the philosophy of minimalism. “I’m definitely a fan of Less is more. And I think people have to listen to their skin. For me, there are two essential products right from the start: sunscreen and cleanser. The first because we spend a lot of time trying to undo all the damage we caused when we were young. The second, because you have to wash your face. At least once a day, in the evening. For the founder of the brand, it is important to preserve the acid mantle of the face. “It contains the microbiome that maintains the PH balance of the skin. It helps to protect against the external elements, and simply to protect and preserve the youthfulness of the skin. On the other hand, it warns about over-cleaning. “When you clean it too much, the skin panics and starts producing too much sebum. When you have an oily face, you want to clean it more, mattify it. And we put on drying alcohol and clay. And that’s a mistake, because the only reason skin produces too much oil is if you overdo it. So we just have to let her guide us, let her do what she knows how to do.

Apart from these two essentials, she also underlines the importance of meeting a need for hydration with a cream and a serum. “As we age, our skin stops renewing itself as quickly. Retinol will help with this, as well as a mild chemical exfoliant. Over the course of a lifetime, the skin’s needs change: for a baby, a cleanser and a little hydration or at least soothing are enough. But as a teenager, you start craving exfoliation, retinol, a good cleanse, and sunscreen.” For this period of life, she particularly recommends lactic acid, which is milder. “And from your 20s to 40s, vitamin C is important as are ceramides that help fill in wrinkles and peptides.”

Vitamin C

Among the star ingredients of the moment, we find vitamin C at the heart of a flagship serum in the range, the C-Firma Fresh Day Serum. “Vitamin C is a perfect antioxidant. It will firm the skin but also help to lighten it in a context of hyperpigmentation. It also protects and corrects, for example, the damage created by exposure to the sun. And helps prevent them if you wear it with sun protection.” Tiffany Masterson recommends combining it with retinol, as research shows that the latter amplifies the benefits of vitamin C.

There are several forms of vitamin C but “none has as much benefit and potency as L-ascorbic acid.” However, the latter is very difficult to stabilize on the skin. “Air is vitamin C’s number one enemy. For our C-Firma Fresh serum, we therefore chose an airless pump that the consumer will activate once, then we don’t use it. never open again. It is the only vitamin C on the market, to my knowledge, which is never exposed to the open air and which remains highly effective for a year.

Retinol, the all-purpose ingredient

A-Gloei Retinol Oil from Drunk Elephant. Drunk Elephant

Which of the retinol present in different concentration levels in Drunk Elephant? “It’s an excellent ingredient! One of my favorites because it can help a teenager with acne as well as an 80 year old woman with fine lines or deep wrinkles. But also the problems of hyperpigmentation, uneven complexion… To sum up, retinol penetrates your skin and teaches all the cells to act better. I think everyone should use it when they can.” Tiffany Masterson sees him as a “jack of all trades” who solves any problem. But also alert on its difficult use, the skin having to adapt to it. “People don’t always understand that you have to take it slow with retinol. Especially when you start: you have to use it once or twice a week only. If your skin is peeling from retinol, you’ve gone too fast. It is not supposed to make the skin red. If you use A-Gloei oil with the lower percentage, 0.5%, the retinol is already mixed with marula oil, which is healing, soothing and balancing. I recommend one to two drops daily mixed with Protini Cream and Vitamin C, under sunscreen. And for more mature skin, you can bet on the A-Passioni cream with 1% retinol.

Star ingredients and minimalist compositions, this is the philosophy of Drunk Elephant and its founder. The latter hoping to help its consumers, “men, women, young, old…” to take the right reflexes and better listen to what the skin is trying to tell them. On good terms.


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