Drunk Elephant: the brand that made you rethink skin care, and the woman behind it

The first thing you notice about Tiffany Masterson is her supernaturally radiant skin. Her complexion that belies her 40-something years, it’s so glowy and even you assume it’s some (rather fabulous) foundation until she reveals she’s not wearing any. But, of course she has glorious skin. Masterson is the powerhouse behind cult skin-care brand, Drunk Elephant.

Once upon a time however Masterson’s skin wasn’t quite as swoony-worthy. Her own concerns (including rosacea) led the Texan mother of four to try just about every skin potion out there, “hopping from brand to brand…with zero success”.

Determined to understand what was going into the skin-care products she’d tried and tested, Masterson began reading—a lot. Research eventually led her to identify a recurring pattern of ingredients that regularly popped up in products she found were causing her problems (she dubbed them the ‘Suspicious Six’). Eliminating them from her own routine, Masterson embarked on creating a product range that focused on active, skin-nourishing ingredients—without any of her blacklisted irritants. And so, Drunk Elephant was born: the line-up of good-for-you skin care that’s as cute as it is clever. On recent trip to Australia, we caught up Masterson to talk cults (the good kind), skin wellness, and what’s next for the brand.

TMM: Tell us about the ‘Suspicious Six’.
TM: “They were six ingredients (irritating essential oils, fragrances/dyes, silicones, chemical screens, sodium lauryl sulfate, drying alcohol) I was very suspicious were at the root of my issues and everyone else’s issues.”

You’ve reset your sensitised skin and as part of this process you’ve spoken about skin being in a reactive state, how does that inflammation impact on the products we’re using?
“My philosophy is there are ingredients that are in fact natural and very effective on the skin but your skin can’t receive and really use the ingredients we’re giving it if it’s in a reactive mode. If you fill an AHA or glycolic acid with silicones or essential oils or fragrances and all these things, it literally creates a scenario in your skin where it can’t even use the AHA. It’s so confused and reactive that whatever the good ingredients are, you may as well throw them away.”

Is there a way we can hit refresh on skin to rebalance it again?
“Get back in touch with your skin. Sometimes, like after the holidays, you haven’t exercised, you’ve eaten horribly, drunk too much wine—whatever—you feel out of touch, like you don’t know your body anymore. So, you go on a cleanse for 12, 15 days [and] you start to feel your body again, you start to want to be in it again. You’re sleeping better, you’re waking up better, your eyes are clearer; you can focus. You’ve got your body back and you’re feeling good.

“And that’s what this is. It’s a clean break—taking out the stuff that’s making your skin sluggish and foggy, and you’re back in touch with your skin again.”

Drunk Elephant has really become a cult favourite, always flying off shelves at MECCA. Why do you think the brand has been so successful?
“First and foremost, I’m a consumer—I’m not a chemist, I’m not a doctor. But I feel, as a consumer I knew exactly what I wanted and I really went with my gut. I chose the colours I wanted, chose the packaging I wanted, chose the ingredients I wanted and really felt, as a consumer, that needed to be out there and I think for the right reasons.

“I think it’s a real, transparent, easy-to-get-your-head-around brand. It has a feeling of ‘wow, this is going to be safe’ and ‘wow, this is going to work’ at the same time. I think it’s a new category: ‘clean clinical.’ [I think] it can go head-to-head with any dermatologist brand out there.”

The shelfie-friendly packaging is really clever, too.
“I remember getting frustrated with all the steps, all the numbers and every package looked the same. And I wanted something I could put in my hand and mix up. I have four kids, I have no time in the morning and I’m not reading anything at 11 o’clock at night. I grab a pink (T.L.C) at night, a yellow (Marula Oil) and a blue (B-Hydra), that’s all I know, I don’t have to pick anything up [to read it]. So the colours…no one knows the names, they just know the colours.

“And they look cool on the counter, I don’t want to hide them; they look good out, it looks like a decorative situation. They’re fun to look at, they’re easy to grab.”

We know the importance of drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep, is there anything else that we can be doing for our skin?
“Taking the extra step and kind of acknowledging that [beyond] the external health of your skin, skin wellness is very important. The ingredients in your products are as equally important as what you’re leaving out [and] what you’re eating every day. You can’t be just taking great care of your skin and eating hamburgers and smoking cigarettes and drinking all day, that’s not going to work. It’s both. I think it’s the whole lifestyle.”

Any hints about anything new that might be coming from the brand?
“I have a new form of cleanser coming out very soon. [Ed’s note: launching at MECCA in March.] And I have a little bit of foray into… I wouldn’t call it makeup but colour. Just my way of colour—not a lot, just something which I think is exciting. It’s also beneficial for the skin, too. I’m just kind of working on some things that I want in my life and in my routine that I feel are missing.”

Any parting words of wisdom?
“Truly, you need to do very little. We’re improving our skin as we’re using these good ingredients but we’re letting it just be and thrive. I think of it as a pro-skin approach. It’s not necessarily an anti-ageing approach because our skin [does] age but how do we want it to age? We want it to age as gracefully as possible and without being sluggish along the way, which will yield a better result [and] just end up with more youthful looking skin.”

Words by Helene Pappas
Shot on location at Mahalo Poké
February 2018


viewing of products