January 12, 2018

This is Why Drunk Elephant Skincare Isn’t Working for You

I receive a small commission if you shop through my link.

As you may know I haven’t had a lot of success with Drunk Elephant Skincare and it got me wondering why it wasn’t working for me. What was I doing wrong? What wasn’t I experiencing the great results everyone else was?

Recently, I hauled two of the Drunk Elephant Holiday Gift Sets in the hopes I’d give the brand a second chance to see what it was I was missing and much to my dismay I didn’t really see better results. Even more recently I purchased the new Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream, which I love by the way, but I still felt like the rest of my routine with their products just simply wasn’t working out.

So, I did a little research, I reached out to Drunk Elephant, and here is why their skincare might not be working for you (and me).

Many, many of you commented to me and said that Drunk Elephant products worked best when you’re using them exclusively together. And Drunk Elephant agrees. I recently contacted them and explained some of the products I was using alone with theirs and they told me that due to the lack of silicones in their products and the fact they are bio-available it was best to use their brand exclusively.

Sounds like a gimmick right? “Use us only for the best results!” Hmmmm! Actually, they are indeed right. Due to the lack of silicones and other ingredients their products actually absorb into your skin a lot faster which means you’ll see results faster. For example, my nightly moisturizer is loaded with silicones and I was trying to use it in conjunction with T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum and I really saw absolutely no results. I started using it with Protini Polypeptide Cream and suddenly my skin looks so much smoother and softer. Likewise, for C-Firma Day Serum. When I stopped using my normal Belif moisturizer and started using C-Firma Day Serum along with Lala Retro Whipped Cream I felt my skin looked so much brighter! However, I’m not a fan of Lala Retro and ended up replacing it with Protini Polypeptide Cream when I got it and I’m much happier.

Drunk Elephant recommends avoiding silicones, essential oils, SLS, chemical screens, drying alcohols, and fragrance when using their products.

Do I like exclusivity? No, I don’t. I’m a lover of skincare and I don’t like limiting myself to a single brand but in reality you’ll get much better results with Drunk Elephant if you do stick with them exclusively. This is a lesson I learned for myself after trying and seeing very little results with their skincare. So, if you have some Drunk Elephant hanging out unused in your stash try giving them a whirl again but remember you’ll have to go on a skincare diet and limit yourself to the Drunk Elephant only to see the best results.

If you do try it out and it works for you I’d love to hear all about it!

Do share!

Hope this helps you as it did me that had a good deal of Drunk Elephant hanging out in her skincare graveyard.

I receive a small commission if you shop through my link.

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Abbey W.

    If I use C-Firma with B-Hydra, I can layer my beloved Belif over it, and it works fine. I quit using TLC because I felt like it was too harsh, and that may be why! I’m just not the type to stick to one brand exclusively.

    • Isabella Muse

      me either! I have different products I like so having a relationship with one brand is hard!

      • Jo Anna Hill

        The only DE products that I really like are the Beste Jelly Cleanser and the night serum. I was using those two faithfully with skincare products from other brands–couldn’t tell the difference with regards to how they worked. Then, I found out that DE isn’t rated all that well on the “Think Dirty” app, which surprised me, so I ditched it for other organic skincare items that are rated better by “Think Dirty, and they are less expensive!

          • Jeanine

            I just wanted to recommend boscia and origins. Those are 2 of my personal favorite clean brands. 😉

  • Christina

    Very interesting. My derm has always said that you don’t have to use one exclusive brand for your regimen. I don’t doubt your claims, but it still doesn’t make sense to me how a moisturizer would prevent an active serum from working, especially if it sinks in quickly, because moisturizers essentially work on the outer layers of skin; silicones, in particular, are just occlusives. I’m not sure why it would prevent an active serum from working on the deeper layers of skin if it’s already soaked in and you’ve applied your occlusives as your last step. I’ll have to ask my derm for an in depth explanation. LOL!

    I’ve tried some of drunk elephants products, and I just don’t like them. At the time, I wasn’t using moisturizers with silicones or mineral oils (I never do), and I still didn’t like them. I also didn’t care for their moisturizer. The only thing I want to try is the new polypeptide cream because the cream I’m using now, Skinceuticals Triple Lipid, has a lot of dimethicone in it. It’s the only thing that has kept my dryness and the raw feeling away, and strangely, I haven’t broken out from it, despite always breaking out with heavy silicones. It’s actually pretty good stuff with a really interesting texture, but it’s so pricey! And I want to use less cones. LOL!

    • Isabella Muse

      Let me know what she says. I didn’t dig that deep I just used myself own experiences. I felt the same way because essentially a serum applied before anything else should be fine. It isn’t like my moisturizer was somehow preventing it from sinking in considering it was the first item I used. But I indeed experienced better results using their items exclusively. I felt the same way! there stuff seemed overrated to me. I decided to ditch some my main routine to put the theory they have about using their items exclusively to the test ans so far I am having quite good results. Will I continue is the question as I have too many items that I enjoy using and if I have to quit them it would suck! I really do like the polypeptide so far! Quite hydrating and leaves me feeling plush and cushy 😀

      • Christina

        I’m seeing her on Wednesday, so I’ll report back then. LOL!
        The polypetide sounds like a winning moisturizer to me. I’ll have to pick it up!

        • Isabella Muse

          looking forward to hearing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So far, so good ;-D I’m liking it!

          • Christina

            Okay, like other have weighed in on here, it’s not true. Using products with dimethicone, oils, waxes, etc., should not affect the effectiveness of the products if you layer them correctly. Also interesting and kind of debunks what Drunk Elephant said, my derm just gave me a new prescription retinoid foam that I can use over my Triple Lipid Cream. I was like, are you sure? A foam over a cream? It has dimethicone in it, and she said yes, per the manufacturer, it’ll penetrate. I don’t think this is true for all foam products, but at least for this retinoid, it is!

  • varya

    Good to hear you are now getting good results with your Drunk Elephant purchase. I may try that Protini Cream because skincare is what I like to buy most. Many brands claim that their products work best together. Might even be true,if they are formulated to work together across the range. That said,Drunk Elephant products,including Protini Cream, contain the same “alcohols” that are found in a lot of skincare and I thought their Marula Oil was ummm,”essential”,no? Marketing terminology aside, Drunk Elephant is currently getting a lot of buzz on social media and in Silicon Valley among the “investment class”. All the obviously manufactured hype makes it hard to discern truth,that is why I appreciate Y-O-U so much. You are trustworthy.
    At the end of the day,my guess is that consistent use determines results as much as anything. But sure,putting a barrier cream on before a treatment item isn’t optimal.

    • Isabella Muse

      aw thanks varya flattered!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just know from my own results after dropping what I was using and starting to use DE exclusively I saw much better results. whether this holds true for everyone is debatable but at least I feel a little better about the line as before I really wasn’t thrilled with it 😛

    • Cyn

      I know this is an old post but….Marula Oil is not an essential oil and when they refer to alcohols they mean the drying alcohols like denatured, sd alcohol, etc. Benzyl, Cetyl, etc. alcohols are fatty alcohols that moisturizing. They are fine for the skin unless you have a sensitivity to them.

  • Amy

    As a cosmetic chemist, they only recommendations they got right were trying to avoid essential oils & fragrance due to the potential for allergies. Also, some preservatives can cause contact dermatitis (I for one can’t use anything with Benzyl Alcohol). Other than that, it’s all marketing hogwash. This is my two-cents.

    • Isabella Muse

      I’d totally take advice from you any day of you’re a cosmetic chemist ;-D Although, I have had better results using their products without injecting other outside brands! Before I was really seeing no results, now things are a bit better.

    • Christina

      Thanks for the clarification, Amy! It’s always great to hear an explanation from a cosmetic chemist. I think your profession is so neat, and I have always regretted not going into it or dermatology. 🙂

    • Carol

      I, too, would trust you over what a company says. Cosmetic chemists know exactly what’s going on whereas the marketing people are trying to sell. Thank you for your comment, Amy.

  • Laurie

    Since I picked up a kit during the Rouge sale, this is great info to have. When I get to it, I will try it exclusively. With such expensive products, it’s important to use them effectively, otherwise it’s a waste of hard-earned cash.

    Thank you for doing what you do. It’s incredibly useful. You’ve helped me avoid getting caught up in the hype over certain things and I’ve also been turned on to some products I never even would have noticed.

    • Isabella Muse

      Do it! I think you’ll get more bang for your buck ;-D Aw thank you <3!!!!!!!!! I'm flattered to hear that!

  • Jeanine

    I’m one of the few who just don’t love DE. I’ve tried only using de products and i agree they do work better but for me not worth the price tag. I will stay faithful Sunday Riley where i see real results! So glad to see it’s not just me who didn’t fall in love.

    • Isabella Muse

      Likewise. I never experienced dramatic results either. I started using them solely to see if I’d have better results ans so far, so good but I’m not willing to give up my entire routine for DE :-/

  • Virginia

    While my skincare is currently a miss mosh of like 6 brands , I like the idea of using one brand exclusively. I have some drunk elephant and I wonder if that’s why I haven’t seen amazing results. I think I may try to get a sample or starter set of their brand.

    • Isabella Muse

      I’m sort of kind of committed to certain brands but I tend to mix and match a lot! I was mixing DE with a lot of different things myself. I decided to detox to experiment and so far it’s working out much better for me!

  • kjh

    DE’s general principles are consistent with Paula’s. Prob why Paula loves DE so much. My main thing is to avoid irritants, and that goes well beyond SLS, fragrant essential oils, alcohol. Often both PC and DE have stuff I cannot tolerate. Recently got new fun derm stuff that makes almost everything intolerable…some days, even water. Before that, My combo of Differin, Paula, Cosrx, and a smidge of DE and the Ordinary worked. I think many lines are created to work synergistically, but find I have always been intolerant of entire regimes. Currently, AHAs, which were always tough, are unbearable. What I like about the Ordinary is their limited ingredients approach. You will know right away, if s.t. is a problem. It can take a month to know if s.t. is effective, depending on your cell turnover rate. The older, the longer, is a rule of thumb. One of the most important things is to add or change only one product at a time. And getting nerdy about it (spreadsheets, etc.) can really help you track it.

  • Maggie

    Would you please do a review/comparison of the two DE creams? Thanks!

    I’ve been using the C-firma serum. I like it, but not sure I love it. Wondering if it’s worth combining it with their line of moisturizer to see if it boosts effect like you experienced.

  • Sarah B.

    I love Drunk Elephant! My skin has been transformed with their products. I prefer the Protini cream in the am and Lala Retro in the pm.

  • Maggie Liu

    This blog post actually convinced me to try out their products BC I actually try not to use silicones (seems to break me out if I use too much). I was originally put off by the name (am I really supposed to take “drunk elephant” seriously?!) and the prices but I am impressed with the ingredients and packaging after taking a close look. Thanks , Muse!

  • Colleenie

    I bought a trial set during the Sephora sale and haven’t tried it yet. I don’t like the idea of having to use their products exclusively for things to work. I can understand how they could be more effective since they are designed to work together, but their products should do what they say they will do with it without other products from the same brand. I am finally pretty happy, after years of trial and error, with my basic skincare products. I still can’t help experimenting with new stuff though, haha! I think I’ll still use the trial set, but I’ll just use it in conjunction with everything I already use. If I see improvements, yay! If not, there is always something new to try!

  • cecilia

    I avoid all silicones, fragrances and oils in my products and the stuff I’ve tried from them still did nothing so…

  • Allie

    Thanks for posting this because I see so many people on Instagram using a few DE products, a few glossier, etc. and it just doesn’t work that way. I use DE exclusively and wouldn’t have it any other way. You’re definitely wasting your money if you use other skincare brands with it. I could not live without the night serum and marula oil!

  • Kri

    I did not want to try DE anything due to the high price tag but kept hearing wonderful things about their products. When I received a Sephora gift card, I finally bought their vitamin c gift set. Ok, let’s say now I believe the hype. I don’t use their exclusively and the vitamin c is working for me. I hate that I like the vit c serum cuz it’s soooo expensive. But the airtight bottle and results will force me to repurchase.

  • Ricci

    I am committed to a certain pricey organic brand because it works, my skin is so sensitive I am scared to try different brand

  • kel habicht

    muse you test so many products i don’t know how you could do a 1 brand skin care regimen!

    • Isabella Muse

      lol! It’s hard when I’m testing stuff but I def have a routine I stick to most days of my life 😀

  • Sue

    I used a few full sized DE products exclusively (cleanser, the framboos serum, the marula oil and since I have really dry skin also the lala retro cream on top of the oil ). I also used their umbria sunscreen, but broke out with an allergic reaction so I had to throw it out. Although I did like the other DE products (other than the sunscreen), I think I get better results with my combination of different k-beauty brands. And I love to try new things too so it’s tough to only use DE exclusively.

  • Brandy

    I’ve wanted to try a few DE products, but I’m glad to know I have to use them exclusively so I won’t waste my money buying them. I have two brands (Cerave and Clinique) that I’m not willing to ditch to try their products. Thanks Muse.

    • Isabella Muse

      My pleasure dear! Although, so far I’m having good luck using them exclusively I feel the same as you! can’t ditch my tried and trued for these!

      • Brandy

        I know Beautypedia slams companies that don’t put enough antioxidants in their skin care like DE and Paula’s Choice products do. I tried several Paula’s Choice products since it’s cheaper than DE and ended up with either breakouts, itchy skin, or my skin didn’t feel moisturized enough, so I’ve been so hesitant to try DE. I wonder why some products look so great on paper but don’t translate well to some people’s skin? I guess I just need simpler products for my reactive skin.

  • Tiffany

    This company is full of crap. I’m not a cosmetic scientist by no means but it is pretty easy to see through their absurd claim about their serum not being absorbed by using another brand on top of it. If you use a serum before any moisturizer with or without silicones, the serum would not be affected because it would have already been absorbed into the skin. (Assuming you allow your serum time to penetrate.)

  • Linda Johnson

    I love the Drunk Elephant products. I only have 4 right now, but will add to my collection. I feel like they have really helped my older dry skin.
    I have the cleanser, Maraula Oil, B-hydra Intensive Gel, and the LaLa Retro Whipped Cream, (I only use it a few times a week). I had ordered some samples in my Sephora orders of their other products, but in two orders received no samples at all. I would think Sephora would be a bit more prepared. Really enjoy your blog.

    • Isabella Muse

      I’m happy to hear you had good success with them Linda :D! aw thanks <3! Glad you are loving Musings!

    • Susie

      Yeah, what’s up with Sephora and their samples? The last 4 orders I have reveived have had 1 or 2 but never the 3 I selected. Closer to Christmas, I was thinking, well they are so swamped that they’re running out. Now I am losing patience. I actually make a lot of purchases based off samples. I guess ultimately it’s their loss.

  • Susie

    This is so interesting and puzzling to me. I have been using many Drunk Elephant products for over a year now with great results but I continually add other products like the Ordinary, Dr. Jart and a lot of other Korean skincare products into the mix. I have never had them undermine the efficacy of my Drunk Elephant. Hmmm, maybe I am just lucky with my combos, lol!

    • Isabella Muse

      Hey whatever works!!!!!!! ;-D I was mixing with my routine and sadly, I didn’t see great results so I detoxed and just used DE exclusively and saw much much better results! I imagine it differs for everyone!

  • SweetCitySarah

    I tried the La La Retro cream and felt a slight burning sensation on my skin so I stopped using it. The fact that the company claims their products only work properly when used exclusively is ridiculous. For that fact alone, I’ll avoid their line.

  • genevieve

    That is really useful information Muse for a lot of people. I haven’t tried DE, as it is so expensive here in Aus, but I think their reasoning is sound.

  • Anne

    I’m not a cosmetic chemist but I am a biochemist (graduate level) and the DE answer is nonsense. You need to know how to layer your skincare for maximum efficacy. For example, products contains occlusive agents like oils, waxes and silicones should be used as a last step so as not to prevent absorption of water based items. You do not need to use brand specific products, you just need to know the ingredients of the product you are using and layer accordingly. I have several DE products which were given to me. I like them but can’t say I love them. The packaging is great but the contents are just OK. I think they are way overpriced for what they are and the DE line is mostly a triumph of marketing.

  • Ally

    I use DE products but not exclusively. I find that I love her C Firma and TLC Framboos serums (I noticed immediate results w/ the first and results after a week w/ the second) but did not notice any results with B Hydra or the Baby Facial paired w/ the Marula oil.

    Currently, I use Sunday Riley’s Luna topped w/ C Firma at night and love the results! Once DE comes out with a retinol, I’ll try that, but until then, I’m happy w/ my mix of several brands (SR, DE, Kiehl’s, Ole Henriksen & Kate Somerville)

  • Sue

    Hi. I look forward to reading your blog and I’m glad DE is working better for you now that you use them exclusively. I do like their products and would like to combine one of them with other products from other brands. I was wondering if you know of any dupes for the DE T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Night Serum? While I like the serum I really need to find a much more affordable dupe. Please let me know. TIA

    • Isabella Muse

      I actually use a physical exfoliator so I don’t have a lot of recs for a good BHA but Paula’s Choice might have a good affordable AHA. I know they have a skin perfecting glycolic serum that gets rave reviews 🙂 Hope this helps!

      • Sue

        Thanks for the info. I was hoping for a serum with both 12% bha and aha like the DE serum, but I’ll check out Paula’s Choice aha products. You have great skin (in your photo) so I guess I need to start using exfoliating products too lol. So far I mostly focus on hydrating my very dry skin and treating hormonal acne on the parts that are not dry, but more normal (combo skin is annoying).

        • Isabella Muse

          Thanks! I do have a clear complexion with no visible pores but my skin is duller and drier which is a pain in the ass 🙁 I really have to keep on top of it otherwise I can be super tight. I use Dr. Denese Firming Facial Microdermabrasion Cream which is def one of my favorite ways to de-flake 🙂 and get my tired, duller skin to look good again. You should try injecting Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Hyaluronic Acid into your routine. Def will treat that dry skin in a hurry and get it nice and plush.

  • Sue

    Ever since I started using first essence treatment and sheet masks, my skin seems less dull than before, but I’ll start exfoliating too. I’ve tried hado labo products that I ordered online from target.com before. I like their hydrating serum, but I think the ones sold t target are made in the US. I wonder if the ones from Japan are better in terms of formulation. I’ll search for the Hada Labo Gokujyun Premium Hyaluronic Acid online. Thanks again for the advice. I’ll definitely keep reading your blog. I love that you have reviews on products from Asia as well as department store brands and drugstore brands.

    • Isabella Muse

      Likewise. People think I am nuts for using them a few times a week but my skin is so much more brighter when I do use them daily! If you mean the Hada Labo Tokyo ones, those are a bit different from the ones in Japan but ingredients are similiar. My pleasure! Try the milky one, I really like that one! Aw thanks <3! I love Asian beauty and started my blog on it although nowadays I'm more diverse 😀

  • Kerstin Shammaa

    Hi – In the interest of being helpful to others, I wanted to share my DE experience. I am 48 years old with congested, sensitive skin. However, if treated correctly it looks almost normal. I have used the DE products – pretty much all of them – diligently for more than 6 months, exclusively with advice from their customer service. I ended up with terrible skin – large inflamed pimples, excessive dryness (which is not surprising given the reliance on acids in these products), hardened blackheads, the list goes on. Interestingly, after having stopped all of the DE products and using fractionated coconut oil, a mild cleanser from my aesthetician and a physiogel cream for irritated skin, my face is almost back to normal after a little over a week.
    I wanted DE to be my solution – clean and clinical, it sounds so good. However, I don’t think I have ever come across a skincare brand where so much time is spent on controlling public image, constantly responding to negative reviews with ‘you are not using it correctly’. A customer in the US got so angry that she sued them over their Shaba eye cream.
    These products may well be a great solution for a lot of people, but definitely not for everyone, and one needs to be able to express that.

    • Isabella Muse

      oh no I am so sorry to hear that! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Laura

    Hi. I recently changed my whole entire skin care products to switch to DL but for some reason my skin ALWAYS feels so thight!! I have enlarged pores now all over my T zone and I hate It! I have stopped the TLC Framboos cause I felt it was too string for me. So, now I only have the vitamin c serum and lala retro. I occasionally use their marula oil too, but no matter what I change, no matter how I alternate the products, my face is still super thight. I can see it and feel it even when I smile. I have a feeling it’s the vitamin c, but I’m super confused!! I usually have an oiler T zone, but never really struggled with pores. Could someone help me here??? I really wanted this brand to work and I can’t seem to find anything really that good about it. Has anyone here had a similar reaction to mine? I also would like to mention that I am only using their brand, no other brand, and I do this with the only purpose to really give DL the opportunity to work. Please help me!! Is this tightness a sing that my skin is having a bad reaction? Or does it mean my skin isn’t just liking It?

  • Sam

    FYI they do use silicones that are simply masked as other scientific names. Look at the middle of the list of ingredients in the C-Firma serum as an example.

    They are also not as natural or bio-available as they claim considering phenoxethanol is still used as a preservative in their skincare.

    I don’t and never will trust this brand unfortunately.

    • Isabella Muse

      thanks Sam! Yes with all the controversy sadly I’ve lost some of my trust as well!

  • Fontaine

    Drunk Elephant remind me of Apple. They want everyone to use their products and ONLY their products. That kind of attitude just doesn’t sit well with me. I use many different skincare brands, my faves being The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice. I have no interest in buying anything from Drunk Elephant, maybe if they reduced their prices I’d consider it.

  • Alysha

    You don’t have to use one line exclusively if you try to stick to bioidentical skincare or really an skincare that avoids silicones and emulsifiers. I use DE with dermaviduals products that were recommended by my naturopathic doctor and I see great results!

  • Elizabeth

    After using Paula’s Choice for years which then failed when the rosacea started appearing, I switched in frustration completely to Drunk Elephant and it was a life changing event. After only a few days, my skin now behaves more normally than it ever has. I have nothing but praise for this range. I wish it came out earlier in my life!

  • Kel Berg

    i just picked up my free birthday gift from sephora and it is 2 mini drunk elephant items. curious to try as i never have!