Drunk Elephant's Founder on the Skincare Ingredients She Always Avoids

We chatted with Tiffany Masterson about her brand's wild success at Sephora, the ingredients she steers clear of and what's next for the cult clean-clinical beauty brand


If you haven’t already heard of/become obsessed with/been drunk and in love with Drunk Elephant, it’s high time you get acquainted. If the sheer hype surrounding the brand isn’t enough, the Houston, Texas-based skincare line (named for the way their star ingredient, Marula oil, affects elephants—myth has it that when elephants eat fallen Marula fruit, it ferments in their bellies and they get tipsy) is one of the fastest-selling skincare lines Sephora has ever carried. Since launching at the cosmetics retailer in 2014, Drunk Elephant’s success has only continued with each new product they introduce. Case in point: when their T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial hit stores last year, it only took a week to secure itself as’s best-selling skincare prod (sadly, it’s sold out right now on but you might be lucky enough to snag a bottle in stores).

It’s a plain reality that the skincare industry is majorly saturated, and it can be hard to sift through all the choice to find what will work for you. But Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson has focused on how to differentiate the brand, and the way we think about skincare as a whole. After years of analyzing her own skin, and flip-flopping between brands, she realized that simple ingredients were the answer.

“I started looking for brands that didn’t contain the Suspicious 6, and they didn’t exist,” Masterson said of the list of ingredients she actively avoids: irritating essential oils, fragrances, silicones, chemical screens, SLS and drying alcohols. “I wanted to have a line that worked as a system to reset your skin. Because I feel that every issue I’ve heard of comes from using these six ingredients.”

Unlike a lot of buzzy new brands that focus on naturally-derived ingredients, Masterson didn’t find that approach was right for her and Drunk Elephant. Through her research, she says she learned that a lot of synthetic ingredients are safe, and a lot of natural ingredients are irritating, landing on a new category altogether that Masterson calls “clean-clinical.” “There are bad guys on both sides,” she said. “I think that needs to be covered a bit more.” Masterson decided to only use ingredients that are necessary either for skin’s health or to improve the efficacy of the formula. She ended up with a line of eleven clean-clinical, cruelty-free, vegan products made with high concentrations of active ingredients and ideal pH levels that work for all skin types.


Fan favourites: Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, $90,; C-Firma Day Serum, $100,; and JuJu Bar, $35,

With no experience outside of her time as a sales rep for other beauty brands, Masterson faced a lot of challenges as she was launching Drunk Elephant. People told her she’d never get into Sephora or get her investments back, and chemists told her they couldn’t produce certain formulations without silicone.

“I worried a lot, and it was a challenge to do it differently and to reassure these people who were in the industry,” said Masterson. “But I thought we were on to something, and I knew I wanted something that had never been done before. And that’s why we’re high-fiving each other at the end of the day.”

So if you’re still looking for your skincare soulmate, it might be time to consider Drunk Elephant (Man Repeller founder and all-around cool girl Leandra Medine is a fan and an investor, if that helps). And if you’re already in love with the line, more good news for you: three brand-new Drunk Elephant products are coming to in 2018. Masterson couldn’t tell us exactly what they are, but we promise to keep you in the loop.

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