The Littles of Drunk Elephant Products
Brand Reviews

Drunk Elephant Creates the “Clean Clinical” Category and is Sephora’s Fastest Selling Line Ever

Drunk Elephant Brand Review Table of Contents

Drunk Elephant Brand Review Quick Facts | Company commitment to ingredients, the environment, ethics, and its Good Guide and EWG standing.

A Difficult Brand Philosophy | Drunk Elephants focus on safe and effective ingredients is “Clean-Clinical”

A Stay At Home Mom Picks Up A Chemical Habit | Ingredient research helps Tiffany Masterson identify problem chemicals

This Brand is not Afraid to Use Strong Levels of Everything and Has Some Really Interesting Formulations | Interesting Ingredients and High Formulations make this brand a customer and editor favorite

Best of Drunk Elephant | Products and Reviews

Drunk Elephant Brand Review Quick Facts

Ingredients | Silicones, Frangrances either synthetic or natural; Chemical screens; Sodium Lauryl Sulfate; Drying Alcohols; Dyes; Animal Fats/Oils/Musks, Benzalkonium Chloride, Benzophenone, Bisphenol A (BPA), Butoxyethanol, BHA, BHT, Chemical Sunscreens, Coal Tar Dyes, -Cones, Detergent, Essential Oils, Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA), Formaldehyde, Fragrance, Hydroquinone, Liquid Petrolatum, Methyl Cellosolve, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Mercury, Mercury Compounds, Mineral Oil, Oxybenzone, Parabens, Paraffin Oil, Phthalates, Polyethylene Glycol (PEGs), Resorcinol, Retinyl Palmitate, Retinol, Siloxanes, Sulfates, Thimerosal, Toluene, Triclosan, Triclocarban

Eco-Friendly | Recyclable and Non-BPA

Ethical | Supports the International Elephant Foundation; Cruelty Free

The Good Guide | Not Rated

EWG | 1-3

A Difficult Brand Philosophy

Elephant on a white background.
The Drunk Elephant name came from poll of friends and family.

I was intrigued by Drunk Elephant, which is not something that usually happens in the course of a brand review.

First, their packaging is neon. It sticks out and makes an immediate impression (I know it did for me; I couldn’t figure out what to make of it).

Second, their name is completely out there. Founder Tiffany took a poll of friends and family who said, “Cute, go for it,” or “Cute, but no way.” She figured that since they all said cute though, she was going to go for it. It’s barely linked to skincare, as it references the legend that elephants who eat too much Marula fruit get tispy-happy-drunk. (Perhaps because Drunk Elephant loves Marula, we’re all going to have a little too much? I’m not sure, I’m reaching here…)

Third and most problematic, Drunk Elephant occupies a unique niche which takes a bit of explaining.

It is not organic. It does not have fragrance from any sources, either from essential oils or from synthetics.

Instead, it focuses on something its dubbed “clean-clinical”, which is what they call a product that avoids suspicious ingredients and focuses on proven scientific actives.

This is a breath of fresh air.

I was immediately interested, since when I first started in this space I was looking for safer personal care for my family.

I had mistakenly linked that to natural and organic but soon found that sometimes brands didn’t live up to their promises. Also, I realized that natural didn’t really have a regulated definition and that it was not always non-irritating or effective.

I had a lot of hope for Drunk Elephant, and what I found was that this “clean-clinical” thing was totally surprising, and amazingly good.

A Stay At Home Mom Picks Up A Chemical Habit

Microscope over a specimen.
Tiffany took a close look at ingredients.

Tiffany Masterson never thought about becoming an entrepreneur.

She always wanted to be a stay at home mom. She had four kids and a loving husband, but she also had a hobby.

Any guesses?

Yup, you’ve got it.

This was one momma addicted to skin care, mainly because she problem skin. Oily patches, T-zone issues and some rosacea had her brand hopping, hoping to find a cure.

Not only was she a brand addict, she was also a science geek. Frustration led her to ingredient research, where she investigated those she believed were the root of her skin problems. Eventually, she narrowed it down to what she calls the “Suspicious Six”.

…remember that your routine is only as good as its worst product, and a product is only as good as its worst ingredient.

Tiffany Masterson

The Suspicious Six are a group of chemicals that may surprise you.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), chemical screens, and artificial fragrances and dyes are present and are par for course. Where it gets interesting is that she also bans Silicones, Drying Alcohols, and even essential oils.

Through her research, she believed that these ingredients are irritating to the skin. Banning them led to the founding Drunk Elephant, because there were no brands that didn’t exclude all of them.

And despite its different take on ingredients and its difficult to explain niche, it clearly resonates with customers, editors and experts.

People love it and consistently give positive feedback. Allure, Instyle, Into the Gloss have awarded it and beauty editors rave about it.

And Sephora just can’t keep it on their shelves.

Sephora storefront
Drunk Elephant is Sephora’s fastest selling line.

When the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial was introduced in Sephora, it became their number one skin care product in a week. In fact, the Drunk Elephant line is Sephora’s fastest selling line ever.

This Brand is not Afraid to Use Strong Levels of Everything and Has Some Really Interesting Formulations

When I review a new brand, I’ve learned to first look at products before getting into the brand story.

Drunk Elephant was already interesting to me because of all the hype around it but the formulations kind of pulled me in.

While I saw some familiar faces, these were mostly ingredients that I’d checked the safety profile of. There were also some very interesting unique additons. Still, what kind of knocked me down was how bold some of these formulations were.

The T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum has 12% AHA and the C-Firma Day Serum has 15% of difficult to stabilize Vitamin C. And the Sukari Babyfacial has 25% AHA and 2% BHA.

Chemicals in glass laboratory beakers
Drunk Elephant has very concentrated levels of actives.

That’s pretty strong.

As you know, a strong chemical peel can go awfully wrong. Red, splotchy faces and incorrectly formulated lotions can bring permanent discoloration (Yes, I have them too).

However, I checked and people love it.

This is surprising, but the treatment does include anti-inflammatory and wound healing ingredients such as prickly pear, green tea and licorice. These help remove the redness and soothe away inflammation. And surprisingly, many said that they didn’t have the usual after peel problems.

I am impressed. (But do stick to use instructions and test skin first to be sure).

The formulations of the sun product and the hydrating gel are no less interesting.

Marula Fuit on the ground.
Drunk Elephant’s star ingredient is Marula Oil.

Usually, moisturizers come in cream or lotion forms. This moisturizer is a gel. It has a surprisingly lovely texture and is light on the skin despite being silicone-free. And there are a mix of lovely hydrating ingredients added in.

Likewise, the sun protect lotion is a good non-chemical screen with strong performance. Although zinc oxide seems to be par for course for non-chemical sunscreens these days, I liked that it was not fragranced. I like that it was packed with antioxidants, and I can live with the slight white cast it gives my skin.

In general, Drunk Elephant products are interestingly formulated and well-conceived. Products really do deserve that in-depth look, and I’d happily spend hours just looking at them.

Best of Drunk Elephant | Products and Reviews

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Tata Harper products grouped together.
Brand Reviews

Tata Harper Makes Us Believe Living On a Farm Is Amazing and Doesn’t Include Any Dirt

Tata Harper Brand Review Table of Contents

Tata Harper Brand Review Quick Facts | Company commitment to ingredients, the environment, ethics, and its Good Guide and EWG standing.

Tata Harper Makes Me Want to Move to a Farm | How Tata Harper makes healthy farm living look effortless

One at a time, Tata Changes Her Products and Ends up Changing her Life |How Tata started making personal care products

Tata’s Vermont farm Julius Kingdom is her Personal Kingdom | How the company does it all from a 1,200 hectare farm

The Bottle is Green and Everything Else is Too | Certified organic ingredients and eco-friendly packaging

Marketing Can Get a Little Out of Hand | How I take some marketing claims with a grain of salt

Best of Tata Harper | Products and Reviews

Tata Harper Brand Review Quick Facts

Ingredients | Certified by Ecocert, GMO Free, Artificial Color Free, Artificial Fragrances Free, Synthetic Chemicals

Eco-Friendly | Glass bottles, and plastic resin from corn, 100% post-consumer materials, soy-ink for printing, some labeled with boxes labeled with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

Ethical | Cruelty Free

The Good Guide | 3.8 on 24 products

EWG | 1-4 Only Available Information is on Old Formulations

 

Tata Harper Makes Me Want to Move to a Farm

Tata Harper dressed in white beside a rustic wooden farm structure.
Tata Harper still looks good even on a farm.

We are the opposite of crunchy granola; we are about showing naturals in their total high-quality splendor, the ultimate luxury.

When I look at Tata Harper’s fabulously shot photos of sun-kissed fields, wind-blown hair, small children and cast of animals cute enough to be supporting characters in Babe, I want to move to Vermont.

That could be me.

No dirt will stick to my clothes, a white wooden house will be my home, and – oh yes, my skin will be perfect as I single-handedly run a skin care empire from my backyard.

Tata Harper on her farm with her kids.
Farm living looks effortless and amazing when Tata does it.

Tata Harper makes the simple life look good.

Tata is the face and brains behind the eponymous skin care brand, and green living seems effortless and beautiful in her hands (or at least her very well-edited photo ops).

Still, all this was a conscious decision.

As her stepfather battled cancer, Tata was often with him during consultations. She was shocked when his doctors started asking questions about his personal care routine.

The doctors were like, ‘We want you to use as many organic and natural products as possible. Don’t use this deodorant, try to use that natural deodorant,’ and I just sat back and was like, I can’t believe this. [My stepfather’s grooming] routine is so simplistic; imagine if the doctors had seen mine!”

She started to realize how daily decisions could have far-reaching consequences, and she began to evaluate her own daily choices.

One at a time, Tata Changes Her Products and Ends up Changing her Life

Tata Harper creates products that are exactly what she was looking for – naturally derived and high performance.

First, the diet was up for a revamp. Then, household cleaning products were replaced. Lastly, Tata tried to retool her extensive personal care regimen – and that was when she hit a brick wall.

I was really disappointed in what I was buying … It was either you bought raw coconut oil and jojoba oil — very basic — or when it had a little bit more going on, then it was full of all the same synthetics that I wanted to avoid in the first place.

Realizing that the products she wanted didn’t exist, she decided to create them herself. She envisioned a line made with cutting edge technology and packed with active ingredients, and all without a single synthetic.

As you can imagine, this took a bit of doing.

There were five years of development before products launched and in the meantime, she and her family moved to Vermont.

Tata’s Vermont farm Julius Kingdom is her Personal Kingdom

Have you been to Vermont?

If ever there were a place that was a poster child for all-natural, healthy living, it would be Vermont. Beautifully forested and sparsely populated, there are hiking and cross-country trails everywhere.

You’d absolutely want to be here if you were an all-natural skincare line, and that’s exactly where Tata HQ is.

Tata launched her brand from renovated, gutted barns after scouting manufacturing locations in Vermont’s Champlain valley and coming up empty. She already knew that they were going to produce the product themselves with their own employees. Bringing production on-site just made sense.

She worked on formulations with a few biologists and incorporated Ayurvedic, Chinese and homeopathic medicine in her products. She also consulted with herbalists to see what would rapidly grow on Vermont soil as she wanted to include them in the line.

Today, everything produced in the line is formulated, mixed, packaged and shipped from Julius Kingdom. Forty herbs are grown on site and used in the line, and Tata oversees it all from within a white 1820’s vintage farmhouse set amidst rolling hills.

The Bottle is Green and Everything Else is Too

Tata Harper Green Box with Yellow Ribbon.
Tata Harper’s Boxes are from 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

The bottles lovingly enveloping Tata’s products are green and her accent color is yellow. Still, the fresh, natural colors are more than decoration.

You’ll find a lot of eco cred here.

Bottles are glass to be recyclable. Boxes are approved by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative or are 100% recycled paper. Soy ink is used for printing.

It’s three times as expensive but I just feel better about it.

Tata Harper how her decision to use recycled paper for packaging makes sense.

You’ll find that being green also extends to what’s inside.

The company avoids GMOs, artificial colors and fragrances, and synthetics. In addition, they are certified organic by French-based Ecocert, who evaluates total company processes for sustainability.

Marketing Can Get a Little Out of Hand

The look, smell and skin feel of Tata Harper products are perfect.

You’ll want to smear them on your face, rub them on your body and eat them if you could. The smell does something to your brain and light pink colors speak to the little girl grown up who still secretly loves things pink, pastel, and shiny.

Tata Harper's beautiful products with a flower and shadows.
Tata Harper has products with an incredible look, smell and skin feel.

Still, I’ve looked at a lot of products. And what I’ve found is that while a product may look good, it may not exactly live up to the marketing.

For instance, naturally derived ingredients.

If you think about it, everything is all-natural since everything comes from nature. It can essentially be meaningless as manufacturing processes can contaminate or can completely change the ingredient. Naturally derived doesn’t necessarily mean good.

Claims of results are also often overblown. There are some proven results from some very specific ingredients, but the rest are usually promising fields without real proof.

So, I feel that sometimes marketing for Tata Harper products do sometimes get out of hand, because no, I really don’t know what she means when she says:

As for anti-aging results, our products have some really advanced technology, including muscle relaxing extracts … that topically deliver the effect of an injectable, to minimize and prevent wrinkles…

Nutrition Stripped

I take this with a grain of salt.

Tata Harper products have excellent skin feel and appearance, and I do find some ingredients interesting. Despite the fact that I occasionally think there is too much fragrance and that the term “from natural origin” is misleading, the company is incredible at what they do.

You’ll really want to try to live differently. You’ll be convinced that small changes can impact you and your health in the long term, and you’ll start to scrutinize products to see if they are the safest choices for yourself.

In this, the company is stellar. So, while the value of labels such as “naturally derived” may differ from person to person, the fact that cosmetic ingredient safety and efficacy is now a topic of conversation is a step in the right direction.

Best of Tata Harper | Products and Reviews

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Note: Pictures care of official brand site and instagram.

Aesop's organized and beautiful product display
Brand Reviews

Aesop’s Meticulously Made Products

Aesop Beauty Quick Facts

Ingredients | No colourants, mineral oils, silicones, parabens or pearlising agents; No Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Parabens; No animal derived ingredients

Eco-Friendly | None specified

Ethical | Cruelty Free

Good Guide | Not Rated

EWG | Not Rated

Aesop is like finding buried treasure

Aesop is a brand that is often introduced through a personal recommendation.

I found out about it through my brother who instantly exclaimed, “I love Aesop!” He in turn found out about it from a friend while countless others discovered it from a mother, brother, sister, acquaintance.

Why?

Well, Aesop doesn’t advertise.

Yes, it’s true. A beauty brand actually exists that doesn’t use celebrity endorsers, self-promote in magazines or any of the traditional forms of advertising.

Instead, how people discover Aesop is akin to stumbling upon buried treasure: there it is, perfect and amazing, a discovery all your own.

At least, that’s how I felt when I walked into their Houston branch in the wake of my brother, spellbound and mesmerized and half in love already.

Aesop’s meticulously made products marry the best of science and nature

For you to understand why Aesop inspires such a feeling among their clients, you’ve got to understand the absolute meticulousness of their product development and design.

There’s such precision.

Products are conceived for a need, and not to keep up with a trend, a launch schedule or competitors. There’s a lot of research and testing. There’s a lot of prototyping and reformulating. It sometimes comes to the point where, “…I’m sure we’re charged with the accusation of being obsessive about it,” says employee number one and general manager Suzanne Santos wryly.

Aesop’s carefully formulated products come with a distinct perspective, and it occupies a difficult to explain niche in the industry. It is a brand that believes both in science and nature.

[Aesop] fit[s] into a category that is really comfortable for us and really uncomfortable for other brands. We celebrate science, and understand that you need a blend of well-chosen man-made ingredients with exceptional botanical ingredients to make remarkable products.

Suzanne Santos, Aesop GM

Try having that as a tagline.

Compared to, “Fuller lips in one week!” or “Because you’re worth it,” this is a perspective that requires a few paragraphs to communicate.

And still, despite the difficulties of explanation, Aesop makes it work because wouldn’t you know it – their products are excellent.

I’ve tried their Camellia Nut Facial Cream.

It was amazing.

Light and weightless, it lingered on my skin for a fraction of a second before sinking into my pores like sunlight. My skin was hydrated for hours and oh-my-God, I smelt fabulous.

Is Aesop all-natural or organic?

Let’s get this out the way: Aesop is not all-natural or organic.

Why isn’t Aesop completely organic or all-natural?

They point out that no standards are set for these labels and that these are words that should be used with “great caution”.

They state it well:

We recognize the benefits that organic and biodynamic farming have for the land and for our health, but we are practical about how realistic it would be for us to use only organic ingredients. Sometimes they are not available, sometimes there is not enough of a particular ingredient, sometimes the air miles required to import it would generate an environmental concern of its own.

And yet for a company that doesn’t carry any of the popular labels of the cosmetics world today, they ban a surprising number of ingredients.

They avoid colourants, mineral oils, silicones, parabens, and pearlising agents. They use Sodium Laureth Sulphate instead of the harsher Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and have non-synthetic fragrance compounds in all but three products.

And yes, they avoid animal derived products and are completely cruelty free.

Unusual scents in unique settings

One thing you’ll notice is that Aesop has a variety of unusual scents.

Aesop’s Tacit perfume has a little basil in it and their Herbal Deodorant is woodsy with a hint of coriander. Some people even use it as a fragrance.

Aesop is well known for our use of essential oils whose evocative aromas form the essence of our products. During formulation, essential oils are selected primarily for the benefits they deliver to the skin and hair; their aromas are merely an incidental outcome.

Marsha Meredith, Aesop Head of Creative

And while many of their products do perform absolutely excellently, a lot of what I remember about Aesop are the distinct and rather surprising aromas.

Peppery lotion, and vevetier. Coriander and Hiba. Smoky and musky. About as far away from simple and sweet as it is possible to get, this might not be for everyone.

But for those who seek the unique, it just might fit the bill.

Collaborations with local architects create distinct stores

Aesop’s founder Dennis Paphitis comes across as an obsessive, driven, really focused man.

In a large part, he’s responsible for why the products are so precise, the products so focused and the message so complex. That’s his attention to detail in every bottle, and the stores are no exception.

Pictures explain it better:

Beautiful, yes.

Unique? Absolutely.

They’ve been the topic of many editorials and selfies (yes, I took some of my own) and people often wonder how each store can be so distinct but still so decidedly Aesop.

It’s clear that these stores come from Dennis Paphitis’ desire to unique customer experiences. He says Aesop wants to:

… [avoid] the kind of assault on the streetscape that retailers inflict through the ordinary course of mindless business, the idea that one size would so often be forced to fit all. It wasn’t so hard to respectfully consider each space individually, consider the customer, the context and to bring a little joy into the conversation.

Dennis Paphitis, Aesop founder

Essentially, this is why Aesop is uniquely special among all the brands that I know.

They are about precision, uniqueness and difficult but important perspectives on product and design. There’s rigor and care in their ingredient choices and beautiful and often unique design choices throughout it all.

And yes, their products really are that good.

I come across a lot of brands in my search for the perfect products, but Aesop occupies a particular place in my heart.

They make you feel special and treasured, as though each item is a conversation between you and some treasured confident. They exude luxury and are one of the only brands that I would just totally go broke for.

 

Best of Aesop

I can’t recommend the whole line, but God I’d want to. Below are some of my absolute favorites.

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