When it comes to the beauty brand's skincare beliefs, less is more

It's not easy to stand out in a market as saturated as skincare. But Drunk Elephant shot to cult status seemingly overnight, and for good reason: "It works, plain and simple," says founder Tiffany Masterson. The colourfully capped bottles and countless cameos in celebrity "shelfies" probably help, too.  

Following the recent launch of the brand's hair and body collection—which keeps to Drunk Elephant's philosophy of eradicating the "Suspicious Six" ingredients; essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, SLS—we caught up with Masterson to talk about taking care of the skin you're in, her self care practices during lockdown and why starting a brand takes serious guts. 

(Related: 5 Cruelty-Free Beauty Brands To Try)

Do you believe that less is more when it comes to skincare?

Tiffany Masterson (TM) Customers who have long described their skin as 'sensitive', 'acne-prone' or 'combination' are discovering that their skin was just confused and sensitised. It wasn’t their skin, it was the ingredients they were putting on their skin. I believe skin is skin and I don’t formulate for marketed 'types'.  I want to respect the basic function of the skin without disrupting and confusing it.

Everyone has skin and all skin functions the same way, just like our livers, hearts and kidneys. How skin and other organs behave is largely a result of what we consume internally and apply externally. I became suspicious of a certain six ingredients, and believe that they are at the root of almost every skin issue we hear about—essential oils, silicones, drying alcohol, chemical screens, fragrances/dyes and SLS. Once I removed them, my skin was totally transformed and I’m hearing the same from my customers.

(Related: The ABCs of Beauty: Skincare Experts Explain Vitamin C)

What prompted you to develop a line of hair and body products?

TM It wasn’t that I wanted to move into the hair or body space… I’m still thinking of it as the skin space. The scalp is skin and our body is covered in skin. These two category additions are still about caring for the skin. There are many great brands out there. Nothing’s wrong. This is just me developing products based on my philosophy of avoiding certain categories of skin-disruptive ingredients.

(Related: The Best Tips To Calm Frizzy Asian Hair In Humid Weather)

Do you think there will be challenges in presenting hair products free from ingredients like fragrance or essential oils, as they're usually the draw for consumers?

TM There were some challenges in the development process. For example, it was difficult to formulate the hair collection without silicones, because they’re the industry-wide shortcut to getting smoother, shinier hair. Unfortunately, they’re also insoluble in water and have a tendency to build up on the hair and scalp. Finding alternatives that accomplished those benefits wasn’t easy, but we love a challenge and think we’ve cracked the code to haircare formulas that don’t rely on them, but still smooth, boost shine and help strengthen hair.

What has building Drunk Elephant taught you about resilience?

TM For me it was less about trial and error than it was about staying true to my convictions. There was a lot of outside pressure to conform to industry norms, but I didn’t see the point of starting a brand that did things the same way as all the other brands out there, and I knew I had a unique point of view and something different to offer. It’s fine to take advice and listen to opinions, but I never forgot why I started the brand to begin with. Keeping my eye on the goal of helping people with their skin helped me be resilient every step of the way.

How have you been practising self-care throughout the coronavirus pandemic?

TM To me, self-care is exercise, lighting candles, getting cosy. Self-care is to take a bath, get in soft pyjamas at the end of the day, light a candle and watch a murder mystery. Cooking is really good for me too. Spending time with my family has kept me optimistic during these times. 

(Related: The Ultimate List Of Stay-Home Activities To Do During The Covid-19 Crisis In Singapore)

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