December 28, 2018

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream Has Me Doing My Best McKayla Maroney Smirk

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

Drunk ElephantA-Passioni Retinol Cream ($74) sounds very, very exciting! A 1% Retinol that acts to improve skin’s texture while diminishing fine lines and wrinkles, this powerful treatment contains Vitamin F which contains a blend of oils and lipids that protect against skin against environmental stressors.

Right now, this is pretty much the product that’s on every beauty editor’s lips and being promoted heavily across social media. It sounds like a dream come true for sure. A 1% Retinol is a very powerful solution to treat aging and the promise of restoring your skin’s tone and erasing sue damage as well as treating finer lines definitely will draw in a lot of skincare junkies in.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m intrigued. I don’t use retinol as of yet but it’s probably about time I start doing so!

But I gotta admit I’m skeptical. Drunk Elephant is a hit or miss situation for me, mostly misses if I’m honest! But what really has me smirking every so slightly is the fact this launched on Sephora’s website about two days ago (maybe less) and it already has several five star reviews. Most reviews state they used the product a week as they were able to purchase it in store a week before launch. I admit, I might be sitting here smirking a little bit as can I trust these reviews. Are these real reviews? Also, if they are real, can I trust someone who only used the product a mere week? It’s a a slippery slope here and I think I have to buy it and try it myself versus relying on all these raving reviews I’m seeing….!

What do you think?

Is Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream all that and the bag of chips they promise us?

Or am I setting myself up for another fail from the brand?

Where to buy



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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  • Rio

    You’ve brought up a good point, especially since the instructions recommend only using once or twice a week to start out! I’m interested in retinol based anti-aging that works with sensitive skin, and this one is getting tons of attention as you mentioned.
    At one time, the review sections were relevant for me but it seems they are used more as a selling tool at many online stores.
    That’s why I like your blog. I know you are the Real Real Deal and not just trying to sell product.

    • Isabella Muse

      First off, I’m very flattered! Thank you! <3! Secondly, ITA! I noticed they recommend twice weekly to start since it is a powerful retinol treatment. So, reviewing it after a week, well, it's hard to really say if it is working as by the first week you are likely peeling rather than looking radiantly smooth haha...! ;-D I'm rather wary of trusting these reviews lately on sites. Even amazon when I read a book review and I purchase it, read it, and I'm like wait, how does this have five stars? I hated it! It's all rather sad we can't trust what we are reading 🙁

    • kjh

      Hell, I use .1% in differin/adapalene at night. It took forever to work, but it did. I have gotten some littles from DE, and found some WAY too strong. MPO is to start with a lower %, use it 3x/week, until accommodated, then increase as tolerated. Protini was much too harsh. The C and B hydra were ok, until I sensitized to Niacinamide. DE is fine, but expensive, if you aren’t prone to reactions. I think a full 1% is going to give lots of folks problems, unless they are already habituated to Reninol, WHICH YOU MAY NOT be. I’d be real careful. They might have a metric ton of buffering ingredients, but I would be certain to get a sample first.

  • Anais Bon

    I will never understand why people bother with these super expensive skincare products when The Ordinary exists! Their line of retinol products works quite effectively and it doesn’t break the bank.

    • Isabella Muse

      Some folks don’t support the Ordinary due to all the drama so, there’s that sadly 🙁

        • Isabella Muse

          Yup, Brandon drama. He might not be CEO anymore but I think his antics might have left a rather bad taste behind for a lot of people. Also, a lot of people are concerned with EL being fully in charge and how long the brand will remain as good as it is. As we all know EL’s track record for changing formulas 🙁 Even though Brandon had a lot of issues he was at least passionate about what he was creating and what was going into his products. Not that I’m promoting near $80 retinol cream here Correction: Sunday RILEY not Drunk Elephant apologies! I am all OVER the place today! Tired 🙂

          • Anais Bon

            Well, with Nicola Kilner as the new CEO she shares a lot of the new values as Brandon and people seemed relieved on their social media pages that there was now a new person in charge. I’ve been using their products since EL bought them and there hasn’t been any change in the formulas…FOR NOW. I do share your concerns and fears about EL potentially changing things but in the meantime I think it’s a better alternative than spending $74 dollars on 1% retinol cream.

          • Isabella Muse

            Sorry Anais, delayed reply. I was happy to see Nicole reinstated and I hope that means that the brand will remain strong! Amen on not spending $74 for a small amount of retinol! I hope that EL doesn’t mess up the Ordinary as I don’t trust EL! They have ruined some of my best loved brands 🙁

    • Kish

      It’s going to take a lot for me to try anything from them again, I’ll be honest. I tried 5 different products and wasn’t overly impressed with any of them. Then with all of the drama? Yeah, I’ll pass. I suppose I’ll wait to see how their “new” operation goes, and I see they will be at Sephora again. If they handle that better (not out of stock all the time), then I’ll see. Cheap products don’t win me over, it’s the whole package.

  • Robin

    One of the YouTubers I watch tried this ONCE last week and her skin has been peeling daily for seven days!! She says her skin is soft, but I wouldn’t want to peel that long.

    I don’t use any retinols because my skin is so sensitive and I’m very happy with my cleanser moisturizer routine. 🙂 Anything harsh ruins my skin.

  • Karen

    I wasn’t aware of the Drunk Elephant controversy! Thanks for sharing! I’m also surprised by all the positive reviews on Sephora for this retinol cream. I actually started on Paula’s Choice 1% retinol solution treatment and my skin was dry and irritated for over 6 weeks. I’m still waiting to be wowed but I also know retinol takes months to see an effect so I’m really perplexed by these A-Passioni reviews. Amazing results from retinol after a week of use doesn’t sound plausible, especially considering that it takes some to build up to daily use of retinol.

    • Isabella Muse

      there isn’t any lol I’m just tired, it was Sunday Riley with the controversy apologies 🙂 PC def gets some raves! I’m heard some great things about it! But I am def a little wary or reviews on a retinol that people have only used a mere week! How can you tell it is working that quickly?!

  • Michelle

    I really like most Drunk Elephant products (moisturizers), but I haven’t been able to use any of their exfoliators since I have rosacea (I’ve tried, they burn). The retinol may be a problem for me too, but if I can get a sample of it I will try it out. I SO wish they would make a BHA-only exfoliator, it would be perfect for me! I don’t know why DE has been avoiding this.

    • Isabella Muse

      DE is hit or miss for me. Using items together from the brand seems to produce the best results for me but I’m one that jumps around a lot and some of their products don’t quite work out well with other items I use. Some have def be a bit disappointing too…! I want to love their stuff but never really works out for me for some reason and I revert to K favorites!

    • Isabella Muse

      Was his review favorable? I haven’t watched it to be honest!!!!!! Most of what I read are reviews on Sephora and a variety of e-publications from Allure who in my opinion are awful resources since they pump things up to the max!

    • Christie

      I was about to add the same comment. I don’t buy into Sephora reviews on anything much anymore. I also assume most of the reviewers are in their 20s and are only buying it bc it’s DE.
      But when I saw WG say he’s been using it for 3 mos and, yes, LOVES it, I was convinced. Not convinced enough to buy it as I have a prescription retinol that costs me nothing, but convinced it’s good. WG does say though that he uses retinol daily and even cocktails retinols. I myself have been picking up and stowing away my tretinoin bc I just. Can’t. Deal. With. The peeling!! Ugh. If DE is gentle, I’m in. I’m going to wait for Caroline Hirons’ review before fully buying into the hype.

  • Carol G

    I’ll just add my experience to the conversation: I’m using Retin-A prescribed from a Dermatologist and even the doctors say it takes a minimum of 12 weeks to start seeing results. And that’s using it every night. I’m not sure what this product is claiming but if a prescription takes that long to work I can’t imagine an OTC product working any quicker. Plus, $74 for this? Retin-A has a generic now. I got lucky and my insurance pays for it, but most don’t. However the generic is not much more than $74.

  • varya

    Those reviews strike me as utterly unbelievable given that all of them admit having used this for about a week. Which should mean once or twice. …unless these reviewers are all already retinol users of longstanding…and if that is true, then the immediate results they are typing about would be even less apparent. Did I mention I just read a new book? “The Emperor’s New Clothes!”, check it out.

  • Kish

    I don’t bother with Sephora reviews anymore. Most people are given the stuff for free and are just yapping with excitement about getting free stuff. Just like a lot of instagram people. They were sent this stuff about a month ago to try, but most of them seem to only ever say good stuff about Drunk Elephant, like over the top good stuff, so I doubt that they would say if they hated it. Some people are just plain suck ups lol. It’s why I prefer to stick to your blog for opinions, I know they are honest.

    • Isabella Muse

      Also, people will review something with “OH I WANT THIS” and leave five stars. It’s like WTH! you don’t have and you’re leaving a five star review because you like it? UGH! thanks girl xoxoxo!

  • Evelyn

    For what it’s worth, I’ve now used it two nights in a row though of course that’s not long enough to see a lasting or significant difference. I put Protini on top of it and use the C-Tango eye cream as well. I have had absolutely no irritation, redness or peeling and I have somewhat sensitive skin. I really like the fact that it seems to sink in quickly and leaves no sticky or tacky feeling, which are two of the things that have turned me off their vitamin C serum and the framboos. Those two seem to take forever to dry down to the point that I would feel comfortable putting other products on top, or going to sleep and not having my face stick to the pillow. And I’ve liked the way my skin looks in the morning – smooth, and to my eyes, a bit brighter. I’m lucky that I have really good skin (I’m 59 and have very few crow’s feet or wrinkles – have used sunscreen religiously since my 20s and have good skin on both sides of the family) but I noticed some emerging crepey texture under the eyes. My skin seems slightly plumper in the morning and it has actually diminished some of the redness I get around my nose. So I’m keen to see how this looks over time. But people raving about significant changes after a week … not buying that.

  • Dot

    I’ve been giving this side eye—that seems SO strong for most people, especially us dry-skinned folks! And it seems like something you’d need several weeks of use to be able to tell if it makes a difference, which makes me definitely question all the rave reviews.

    Retinol seems like it might be just too much for my skin, but I started using a gentle retinol from RoC about two weeks ago that’s also got some moisturizing properties; I can’t tell if it’s making a difference but at least I’m not peeling. I didn’t have good luck with SR Luna Oil, which seemed to dry me out too much!

    • Isabella Muse

      ITA! Retinol could take years to see results imho! Not a week or even a month!

  • Frozendiva

    I’d be more interested in a review if the people who wrote them used the product at least 3 months (especially skincare). A week? Hardly. After the initial hype and sales, it’s down the review trenches when maybe it just doesn’t work as well as it did.

    When I bought a 30% off Estee Lauder lipstick set on Boxing Day, the sales associate mentioned a new retinol peel that was coming out soon and claimed to be anti-irritating. She plans to try it out herself.

  • Sara Bledsoe

    See, when I saw this I was just like a puppy, ears perking up, so excited. I looove DE. I had been interested for a while, but some of their reviews said that it done nothing for them. Then, you posted about how apparently to get it to work you needed to use exclusively DE (and definitely nothing with cones) to get it to work so I bought a sampler set, and holy crap, it’s done wonders. It cleared up breakouts, almost entirely eliminated what tiny fine lines I had, and makes me glowing all the time. As you can tell, I’m pretty evangelical about DE now. I really think it’s worth the fidelity and money.

    • Isabella Muse

      oh my pleasure! DE is def one that I feel works best when I’m using their stuff together. For example their vit c never worked great for me but I started using it with their Glycolic Night Serum and I started seeing better results ;D!

  • Jackie

    I like Drunk Elephant… it’s true some products work better if you use it solely with other DE products and some are duds for me, but overall it’s a good company in my opinion. I think that skincare, like books, can be very subjective to personal chemistry and preference (some are just terrible though lol). I don’t use retinol often and what I do use is a much lower concentration, so I doubt I’ll buy this product. However I didn’t know about EL now running ordinary, that’s such a shame as they tend to ruin brands 🙁 Also I’m weird and read the bad reviews first, people tend to only review for free if something is bad haha. There are some honest people who review honestly but too many do it for some kind of payment so they skew their responses.

    • Isabella Muse

      Too true! sometime can work amazingly well for me but not for you! YMMV when it comes to skincare no doubt! EL purchased the Ordinary a while ago however, there was more control over it when Brandon was there but his antics, drama, and generally mental health. I think Brandon was passionate about his products and I liked that about him however, I tend not to trust EL. They ruin brands at times imho! So I hope the line stays true! I dunno if the ones on sephora are paid but I think sometimes people do get free product which sometimes encourages positive reviews :-/

  • kel berg

    i’ll probably try this but i’m with you. sephora reviews are typically banal for me, especially when it comes to skin care.

  • Marsha

    You’re right to be skeptical. The studies on retinol say it takes six months to see real results, at least as far as wrinkle reduction. I’m more apt to say that people aren’t lying about the reviews (though I’m open to the idea that they are hired reviwers) so much as they fool themselves into thinking they are seeing results. They think, therefore it’s true. Also, as a person nearing 40, I have to say, I roll my eyes at reviews from 20 year olds that claim that the texture of their skin is so much better. The average 20 year old has no idea what that means. I could put jergens hand lotion on my face when I was 20 and see “a visible improvement of my skin texture.” (Not to say there aren’t young people with issues such as rosacea, acne scarring, etc but they also won’t see improvement with retinol in a few days, if at all.) Bottom line, reviews are generally useless and I only trust a product I have tried for at least a full bottle’s worth. You’re smart to take it all with a grain of salt.

    • Isabella Muse

      There is a mighty big chance they are thinking they are seeing the results! Been there haha! I’ll use a moisturizer once and trick myself into believing I look amazing in that single use ;-D I agree, at 20 you def can’t really speak about retinol!

  • Tracie

    I am intrigued by this product. I use prescription retin-a alternating with retinol and acid products on a daily basis and have been doing so for years. I also get a professional chemical peel monthly. With that, I have seldom had serious peeling (aside from chemical peels) while using any retin-a or retinol. Retin-a/retinol is not an exfoliating product, but skin might respond to the increased cell turnover by exhibiting redness and peeling. Retin-a is 100 times stronger than retinol but retinol is so much more gentle on the skin. I’ve used some retinol products and have experienced some immediate (within a week) clarity, so it’s not impossible but depends on ones skin. I also watched you tuber Elle Leary Artisity include this product in her yearly favorites. She even mentioned that while she had only been using it for a short time (a week), that she noticed a difference in her skin. Dermatologists recommend anyone over 30 definitely should be using some sort of Retin-a or retinol product. There is nothing like it on the market that creates the same results. I’ve had pretty good experiences with DE products, and will probably pick up this too. It also seems to have an uncanny resemblance to prescription Retin-a. I’ve used other Retin-a products that are pretty good but more affordable: The Ordinary comes to mind.

  • Silvia

    Looks like a small tube to me for the $$$. I find it too expensive. I get a prescription aha retina cream 0.05 (tretinoin) from my dermatologist not cheap either, for mellea breakouts on bottom of chin a few but specially under beck and it works great. I also use sometimes all over the face and never get red or flaky or any kind of skin problems having a bit of sensitive skin myself. But I would be very wary of non prescribed anything since Olay Regenerist in red jar gave me a burn once. I’m thinking to try Differin is much cheaper but also less potent I asked dermatologist on last apt. and he said is fine but much less strength of medicine. Be careful putting these things on face I’ll wait for plenty of reviews before trying or ask doc.

  • Jenn

    I recently saw this product on Sephora and immediately went to the ingredient list. Retinol is listed as the twelfth in line. I am a registered nurse and have worked in a dermatology office for six years. We sell similar products (skin medica, avene, obagi) At a similar price point which is generally tolerated better for sensitive skin types and are not as far down the line in ingredients. These products have a less potent form of retin-a mixed with other ingredients to make it more easily tolerated. Granted, the effects are less dramatic. To be honest, over the counter Differin (adapalene) gel from the drugstore used to be prescription only. It was primarily prescribed as an acne treatment but also doubles as an anti-aging treatment. It is under $15 for a 15 gram tube and much more potent and effective than all of the “retinols” our there. It will be more drying but you should only use a pea sized amount for your entire face and then follow with a moisturizer to help combat any dryness. The goal is to use this nightly but you do have to start out 2-3 nights per week for a while for your skin to acclimate and reduce the peeling/sensitivity. I’ve been using this for maybe eight years and my skin is in pretty good shape and I’m in my mid 30s. I just wanted to weigh in on that as it is expensive and there are other things out there. Lots of products can claim to have retinol but it could be a tiny amount and really not be doing much for your skin.

    P.S. I love the mckayla maroney reference. I am a huge gymnastics buff and it made me laugh out loud

    • Isabella Muse

      Hi Jenn! Sorry for the delayed reply and thanks for your feedback! I have no experience with retinols so it’s nice to hear from someone who knows about them! ;-D thanks for the rec on Differin, I know if it but had no idea it was a good anti-aging treatment! Haha I’m glad you enjoyed the reference! that look though lives in my mind forever!

  • Paige Shaw

    For the prices DE charges, I’m willing to wait for a LOT of reviews – and trustworthy, long-term trials at that – before I plunk down $75 st Sephora.

  • Vicki Stammer

    Isabella, I’ve been happy with CeraVe’s retinol (see I have sensitive skin and have used it without problems. I’m over 60, so there are quite a few differences in our requirements, I’m sure, but at either Target or Walmart this is a “cheap and cheerful” way to give retinol a try. I use it every night in combination with Pixi’s retinol tonic. Hope this is helpful.

    • Isabella Muse

      I’m glad to hear it Vicki! ;-D cheap is always good for me! ;-D

  • Emily

    This product, more than any other I can remember, blew up so huge on Instagram a few weeks before launch. They sent out all these beautiful packages to influencers, and though I am not and never aspired to be an influencer, I really only read and rarely post on Insta, I started feeling like the unpopular girl in middle school who didn’t get invited to the party. Is that weird? It made me less likely to want to try the product, not more.

    • Isabella Muse

      lolll aw emily! don’t feel that way! You are so the popular girl with me ;-D Sometimes Instagram can be a little flashy with the PR packages and the gifts/trips/etc…! <3!

  • Stephanie

    I love most DE products, and have used them for three years, but this missed the mark for me. I have a prescribed 1% Tretinoin product, so maybe I’m not being fair. I haven’t used the DE retinol product long, but I can’t stand the smell. Generally their products don’t have a scent. I got a sample, glad I didn’t get the full size.

  • Wendy

    I purchased the Drunk Elephant retinol cream and used it twice as directed within the week I purchased it. My skin was very soft and smooth the day after the 2nd application however….. the day after that I woke up to extremely dry, red, and peeling skin that lasted fo te days! I think the Drunk Elephant retinol will be a great cream eventually. I would strongly recommend anyone who is new to retinol to start out with something mush milder than 1%, then slowly work your way up to it. Trust me it doesn’t leave a pretty site in it’s wake if your skin is not accustomed to retinol. Hope this helps.

  • Avinash

    I am 32, male and very recently started using skincare products after noticing lines on forehead and around eyes. And tried products from SKII, EL, The Ordinary, NIOD, Paula’s choice, Clarins before jumping onto DE. Passioni was the first product from DE which I tried. I don’t know much yet but I guess my skin is sensitive. Having used The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid for 3 months (with no effect), I thout my skin is used to Retinols. But for first two weeks of using this I had redness and my face would hurt on touching, particularly cheek bones. And then started peeling for 2-3 days. I continue to use it as I have read Retinols take months to show effect. But from what I noticed – DE products go well with my SKII serums, do not go well with Clarins, PC’s C15 Booster along with Passioni worked better than C-Firma Day and Passioni, Protini is magical

    • Isabella Muse

      Hi Avinash! You’re not alone with your trouble with DE’s formula. A lot of people that used it said it was quite strong and caused peeling, redness, and some burning. It’s a pretty strong retinol. It’s one reason that I haven’t jumped in yet to try it. Do let me know how your testing goes! I don’t have finer lines but I wanted to try it for minor sun damage and to brighten up my skin. Plus I think I’m sort of ripe to start using a retinol in an anti-aging method!