Drunk Elephant's Founder on Why Avoiding the Suspicious Six Will Give You Good, Glowing Skin
Drunk Elephant is one of those skincare brands that catapulted from a niche, clean beauty brand to cult-status overnight. You can't put that kind of success down to a single product, influencer or marketing campaign, but you can put it down to their philosophy on skincare.
Founder Tiffany Masterson believes in only using ingredients that are biocompatible with skin. "There isn't another brand doing it that I know of, and I think it's been a game-changer for my consumer, and me personally. I'm not sure people credit the philosophy but that's okay, it is *the* reason for the success of Drunk Elephant. "
We sat down with Tiffany to find out more about biocompatible skincare, the thought process behind creating new products and her best skincare advice.
Scroll to read our interview with Drunk Elephant Founder, Tiffany Masterson.
POPSUGAR Australia: What does your morning routine look like?
Tiffany: I wash my hair every other day with Drunk Elephant shampoo and conditioner . . . I'm typically working on new formulations, so I'm always rotating different things in and out of my routine. If I develop something and fall in love, I'll use it exclusively until I know it's something I can't live without. On Sunday mornings, I do Babyfacial and our Happi Scalp Scrub 20 minutes before I get into the shower. I apply my Sili Body Lotion while my skin is still wet, still standing in the shower. It's so easy that way. I never cleanse my face in the morning and I apply my skincare products right when I get out (A-Passioni, C-Firma, Lala, D-bronzi and B-Hydra all mixed together and followed with Umbra Tinte). I dry my hair if I've washed it and apply a little eye makeup and go. I'm using Drunk Elephant now head to toe . . . I'm excited to say.
I drink a plant-protein + collagen powder shake every single morning . . . I even travel with a little blender. I try to work out and stretch every day as well. I have found that stretching daily has fixed my aching back . . . it's incredible. I also now always drink at least two huge bottles of water a day. I add Nuun tablets for extra vitamins and hydration.
PS: And your evening routine?
Tiffany: At night I cleanse with Slaai or Beste depending on whether or not I'm wearing eye makeup. I typically apply a mixture of Marula, B-Hydra, TLC Framboos and Protini. I finish with F-Balm. There isn't enough hydration when you're my age. I also apply C-Tango to my eye area. I floss and brush. I put in my Invisalign which has the added benefit of keeping me from grinding my teeth. I take a pile of supplements every night at bedtime.
PS: What do you think it is about Drunk Elephant products that made them an instant cult-favourite?
Tiffany: I believe it is plain and simple, the products work due to very efficacious formulations and the ingredient-elimination philosophy that I am committed to. My philosophy is truly something I feel people haven't really tried before, so it represents hope in a space where people are desperately searching for a solution. We avoid what I call the "suspicious six", six categories of ingredients (essential oils, SLS/SLSES, fragrance/dyes, drying alcohols, silicones and chemical screens) that I believe are at the root of most skin issues people struggle with, like inflammation, congestion and sensitisation, and all that they bring with them.
Customers who have long described their skin as "sensitive", "acne-prone", "combination" are discovering after switching exclusively to Drunk Elephant that their skin was just confused and sensitised because of the ingredients they were using on a daily basis. It was never their skin, it was a result of an incompatibility with ingredients that can be found in some combination in almost every product on the market today. When a customer comes to me and asks what they can do about their skin issues, regardless of what they are, I suggest my ingredient-elimination diet and almost every time, they come back and say their skin has been transformed. They are shocked and they tell their friends . . . l think this is why the brand grew at the rate it did.
PS: How did you build such a loyal fan base so quickly?
Tiffany: To me, the most important element to building a successful brand is to always put the consumer first by giving them something unique and truly effective. My approach to developing Drunk Elephant is to think about how I would want the products I am putting on my own skin to be made; I'm always in the consumer's shoes because I *am* the consumer. By doing this I'm never tempted to cut corners — I want the best for myself and I want people who spend their hard-earned money on my brand to get what they paid for.
I firmly believe that if the products truly work, people will be happy and then will tell everyone they know. That organic word-of-mouth has been the key to Drunk Elephant's fast rate of growth and success. There have been many influencers and celebrities that have organically talked about the brand. We don't pay influencers for a mention and we don't advertise. If they like it and want to share it with their followers, we are always excited and grateful for that. But the real influencers are the customers who tell their friends and spread the word that way. If my best friend is telling me that a product worked for her, that's why I buy it. So, the products have to work and it's my job to make sure they do what we claim they do!
PS: How important is social media to your brand?
Tiffany: My brand's social media is very important and is the way I stay in close contact with my consumer. I love constructive criticism, as long as it's sincere, and I learn from it. I love the suggestions and feedback. It's how I grow as a brand and as a founder. You'll see me tweaking things, updating formulations, making things better for this or that reason. The consumer comes first for me. They challenge me. My goal is to make them happy and I can't very well do that without their honest feedback. Also, my platform is an opportunity for me to educate and arm the consumer with the tools they need to connect with their skin and learn how it works, what it best responds to.
I also love seeing people support each other, share experiences, skincare smoothies, barefaced selfies, while finding common values in our social community. My community members are loving and they praise each other. It's always happy and fun when you see people being kind and supportive of one another and learning from each other. I think the brand is a word-of-mouth brand and because today's main form of communication is social media, it makes sense that it's helped drive a lot of awareness.
PS: What does "biocompatible skincare" mean to you?
Tiffany: Biocompatible means the skin can get along with, accept, absorb, process, and benefit from the ingredients we are feeding it without sensitisation, irritation, congestion or disruption. We are committed to using only ingredients that either directly benefits the health of the skin or support the integrity of our formulations, regardless of whether they are synthetic or natural. We focus on healthy pH levels, ingredients the skin recognises, the small molecular structure that's easily absorbed, and effective active ingredients that also support and maintain the skin's acid mantle. Of course, we tell people that if they are continuing to use ingredients (suspicious six) that are putting their skin in a compromised state, then no product can truly do its job, including ours. It only takes one disruptive ingredient to ruin a formulation, and one disruptive formulation to ruin a routine.
PS: Did you notice a shift in the way you approach skincare once you started creating it?
Tiffany: It was really the fact that I look at skincare a little backwards that caused me to create Drunk Elephant, to begin with. Skin is skin. The skin is an organ that functions a certain way. It has a protective barrier that guards and maintains its function. So, our first order of business is to respect and support the barrier. If we feed the skin only biocompatible ingredients that is can accept, understand, recognise, process and benefit from, while avoiding disruptive ingredients (the Suspicious six) then the skin can do what it's supposed to do and our skin is happy and healthy.
I'm opposed to anything that doesn't have a clear and direct benefit to the health of our skin or the safety and efficacy of the formulation. Inflammation and its resulting irritation lead to excess production of oil, larger pores, acne breakouts, collagen breakdown and ultimately, premature ageing. Nobody wants that.
PS: Congratulations on the launch of the new Milki Micellar Water, what kind of thought process goes into creating a new product?
Tiffany: Thank you! I create products based on what I feel is missing in my own routine. I'm incredibly picky about what I launch and if I'm not reaching for it daily while in the testing phase, it's not likely a product I'll end up launching. I can get an idea, prepare an ingredient deck, submit to my chemist and have a sample in hand within two weeks, but that's only if I hit it on the first go-around. It's taken me a year and more to settle on a formulation before, so it just depends.
PS: In your opinion, what is the most underrated skincare product?
Tiffany: It's not a product, it's my philosophy of using only ingredients that are biocompatible with skin. There isn't another brand doing it that I know of, and I think it's been a game-changer for my consumer, and me personally. I'm not sure people credit the philosophy but that's okay, it is *the* reason for the success of Drunk Elephant. My purpose was to try and help people with their skin and I think I've been able to do that and that's what matters.
PS: Best advice for keeping skin hydrated in Winter?
Tiffany: I think the very best way to keep skin hydrated is to cut down to cleansing only at night, use a moisturising pH-appropriate cleanser, avoid hot water, follow up with a great chemical exfoliant (this is key!) that will remove the buildup of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin that will block hydration and moisture from penetrating . . . then apply a good layer of silicone-free moisture and hydration. You can mix all of that together . . . we use only bioavailable ingredients so no need to layer. Wake up to fresh, balanced, moisturised skin even in the Winter.
PS: And finally, any advice for anyone wanting to launch a skincare brand?
Tiffany: Always be confident in your beliefs and stay true to your values and vision. There will be lots of outside pressure to do things a different way, to change things up to conform to the norm. As you grow, there are more people involved and more opinions at play. It's fine to listen to advice and opinions, but never forget why you are there. If it doesn't feel right, you don't have to listen or take the advice, just follow your gut. It is your dream and your script, do not let anyone re-write it. Stay in your lane, don't look around too much. Know what you're good at and find people who can do what you can't.