DRUNK ELEPHANT: T.L.C. SUKARI BABYFACIAL
I heard about the Drunk Elephant brand purely by happenstance nearly 3 years ago. I was perusing various company profiles while on LinkedIn and stumbled upon this funny sounding name. Drunk Elephant? What does a “drunk elephant” have to do with skincare or beauty? At the time, the brand was still in its infancy stage and not much information could be found outside of their general website. Fast forward three years and Drunk Elephant products can be found in Sephora stores everywhere.
The folks over there have certainly been quite busy.
And during this three year time, I completely forgot about the brand until listening to a recent podcast which featured founder and Chief Creative Officer, Tiffany Masterson. She described her journey from stay-at-home mom to beauty mogul. And like many home beauty start-ups, the desire to find the best ingredients by curating DIY beauty recipes was an obsession. Without a degree in chemistry, formulations, or experience in the beauty industry – she forged this obsession to create a company that has become synonymous with trending titles such as “clean beauty”.
Yet, she is very clear that her brand is far from being “clean”. Drunk Elephant provides clarity on the website and identifies six ingredients (“suspicious six”) that the company has banned from its formulation:
- chemical screens
- sensitizing colorants/perfumes
- sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- essential oils
- drying alcohols.
And although the brand provides this list amongst other “blacklisted” ingredients, Masterson is definitely vocal of the positives and negatives of incorporating both naturally derived and synthetic ingredients. Masterson has stated that the stigma of synthetic or unnatural ingredients has often received an unfair and negative backlash – even confirming that the goal of the company was not to become an “all natural” beauty brand but to be identified as “clean clinical”.
Ah, “clean beauty”. Sigh. I do have a love-hate relationship with this term. And this can be a whole other story or post in the big debate about what is “clean” and “natural” relative to the beauty industry.
But back to Drunk Elephant. Masterson began her initial steps to entrepreneurship by selling soaps which parlayed to marula oil. Yes, the marula oil that is now the Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil. The very oil that is still a part of the Drunk Elephant product line. In fact, the Drunk Elephant name was born out of a desire to understand marula oil. Prior to the creation of the company name, Masterson was interested in the benefits of marula oil and did a quick Google search. The results provided images of elephants eating the marula fruit and its resultant signs of what seemed to be “elephant inebriation”. Hence, Drunk Elephant.
Despite the large list of Drunk Elephant products which I have been itching to review, the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial has been one of the most interesting and widely discussed of their product line.
So, of course, I needed to know. I bit the bullet and purchased the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial ($80/1.69 fl oz.). Described as a mask, this product is supposed to provide a luminous outcome after use due to its combination of:
And after a week of use, I do have to admit that it helped with skin resurfacing and the texture of my face seemed to be slightly smoother.
But, you know me, I wanted to understand the science behind this product and wanted to know what I was putting on my face.
Ok, the claims as detailed on the website for the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial:
“Babyfacial™ is a pro-quality AHA/BHA ‘facial’ that resurfaces to reveal greater clarity, improved skin texture and tone and a more youthful radiance. Think of it as an extra nudge for stubborn, dull skin (in other words, it’ll knock your cells off).
This innovative at-home facial contains a whopping 25% AHA and 2% BHA blend including our dream team Glycolic plus Tartaric, Lactic, Citric and Salicylic acids to gently but efficiently resurface as it exfoliates the pore lining, getting rid of built-up dead skin cells by breaking down the substance that holds them to the surface. Babyfacial™ combines potent antioxidants such as matcha tea, apple fruit and milk thistle to soothe with ultra-hydrating sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer and non-fragrant plant oils to replenish moisture and nourish skin. We chose chick pea flour over clay for brightening and balancing without over-drying and pumpkin ferment for amazing enzymatic action. Niacinamide, a “cell-communicating” ingredient, effectively revives a healthy look and feel to skin as it brightens and tones. Appropriate for all skin types, Babyfacial™ will dramatically smooth texture, minimize the look of fine lines, wrinkles and pores and boost overall clarity—revealing fresh, radiant, baby-soft skin.”
Ok, let’s parse this baby to its bare bones based on its ingredients:
|Substantiated||Claims||What's the Problem?|
Resurfaces to reveal greater clarity, improved skin texture and tone and a more youthful radiance.
25% AHA and 2% BHA blend (Glycolic, Tartaric, Lactic, Citric and Salicylic acids) to gently but efficiently resurface as it exfoliates the pore lining, getting rid of built-up dead skin cells by breaking down the substance that holds them to the surface.
Potent antioxidants: Matcha tea and Apple Fruit
Milk thistle to soothe.
Replenish moisture and nourish skin: Ultra-hydrating sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer
Replenish moisture and nourish skin: Non-fragrant plant oils
|Pumpkin ferment for amazing enzymatic action. |
No correlative publications linking pumpkin ferment with these claims.
|Chickpea flour over clay for brightening and balancing without over-drying. |
No correlative publications linking chickpea flour with these claims.
| Niacinamide, a “cell-communicating” ingredient, effectively revives a healthy look and feel to skin as it brightens and tones. ||None|
| Smooth texture||None|
| Minimize the look of fine lines, wrinkles and pores.||None|
| Boost overall clarity—revealing fresh, radiant, baby-soft skin. ||None|
SKIN TYPE & USE
According to Drunk Elephant, the Babyfacial was created with every skin type in mind.
Side note: I believe this statement is deceiving as we all know that AHA & BHAs tend to be super sensitive even for the most rugged of skin types. So although the folks at Drunk Elephant have made this statement – I would still proceed with caution and take into account your individualized skin history.
Because, in the end, this is ultimately a chemical peel made specifically to slough off dead skin cells – no matter how “gentle” it claims to be.
THE GOOD & THE BAD
Ok, this was a long one. A doozy of ingredients that didn’t seem to end.
If we look at the first (generally most abundant) ingredient listed as being water, we understand that there can be issues of bacterial contamination or growth. Thankfully, there is are ingredients that may counter this within the formulation – such as chelating agents: trisodium ethylenediamine disuccinate. and citric acid. Luckily, one of the three AHAs (glycolic acid) is prominently listed next! So it might be safe to assume that the 25% AHAs relative to the total formulation – is real.
This is indeed a facial mask chocked full of hefty potent ingredients: AHAs, BHAs, niacinamide, cross-linked hyaluronic acid, plant oils, fruit extracts, and green tea – just to name a few.
Still, there were a few rough ingredients in this list that I found a little concerning – such as:
- Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer
- Sodium Hydroxide
- Titanium Dioxide
The use of multiple surfactants and viscosity-increasing agents:
- Sorbitan Isostearate
- Polysorbate 60
Oh, and the usual myriad of preservatives always thrown in there:
- Caprylyl Glycol
- Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate (natural preservative)
Either way, it is always good to question all the ingredients listed. Am I right?!
THE UGLY (PRICE)
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial ($80)
DO I NEED THIS?
The term “need” is certainly relative to each individual. If the price point becomes a critical factor — then there are other alternatives that might be better served in terms of experimentation. And if $80 does not dissuade you from purchasing this potent AHA/BHA facial — then consider yourself lucky. I’ve included a few dupes that one may consider trying if you want to experiment based on the potent benefits of an AHA/BHA chemical peel/facial.
One thing is clear, consistency is key. Though these ingredients have considerable immediate effects — prolonged and constant use is critical to the success of seeing significant improvements.
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution (Reviewed here)
Herbivore Botanicals Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask (Reviewed here)
Peter Thomas Roth Max Complexion Pads
Pai Copaiba Deep Cleanse AHA Mask
Ursa Major Bright & Easy 3-Minute Flash Mask
ARE THE CLAIMS BACKED BY SCIENCE?
Aside from chickpea flour and a few other proprietary blend ingredients – a good percentage of the claims may be substantiated. The claims, itself, were not overly specific and therefore may be drawn from multiple ingredients. As a result, most of the ingredients had multiple benefits that could be applied to each individual claims.
In the end, Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial’s success stems from its blend of potent AHAs/BHAs coupled with plant oils and skin-conditioning agents such as cross-linked hyaluronic acid, sodium hyaluronate crosspolymer.
I suspect this won’t be the end of this funny sounding company name, Drunk Elephant. I’m curious to see what they come up with next!
Until my next review!
You are amazing! I was wondering about this one. Thanks for writing such a passionate and informative article. While it sounds like a solid exfoliating treatment with minimal irritation, I think I will stick with my current fave, Eccobella Leave-On Invisible Exfoliant for now. I guess Sukari Babyfacial would feel more luxurious but the Eccobella works very well and doesn’t irritate my skin.
I will look forward to your next reviews! 🙂
In general, I always recommend folks to proceed with caution when products become so hyped-up or extensively marketed. Sometimes it just makes sense to follow the beat of your own drum – and your skin will thank you for it. The T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial may not work for most people and, as you have noted, there are certainly other alternatives. I’ll have to check out the Ecco Bella Leave-on Invisible Exfoliant.
Showing love to all brands (big or small) is the best way for consumers to have access to the best products – otherwise, where would be the variety? I just wish I had the bandwidth to tackle EVERYTHING. Maybe one day! Thanks for the love! ❤️