Meet Tiffany Masterson: Skin Whisperer and Founder of Drunk Elephant
Tiffany Masterson makes creating one of today’s fastest growing skincare brands look easy.
Surely, creating your own skincare brand—and making it phenomenally successful—is the definition of stressful. Not for Tiffany Masterson, though. After founding Drunk Elephant five years ago, she casually admits, “If there were big challenges, I don’t remember them.” The remarkably calm, self-taught entrepreneur goes on to explain that, “It all seemed very fun and easy to do because I was enjoying myself so much and I truly believed in my product.”
If there were big challenges, I don’t remember them.
Masterson makes creating one of today’s fastest growing skincare brands look easy, but she started out with only one (picky) customer: herself. After years of struggling to balance her reactive complexion, the Houston native began researching ingredients, oils and molecules and discovered that most of her skin issues could be traced back to six problematic ingredients (silicones, essential oils and drying alcohols among others). Unable to find any well-performing products that eliminated these ingredients, Masterson decided to launch her own brand called Drunk Elephant.
Unlike many brands that aim to be as dug-up-from-the-earth and natural as possible, Masterson’s goal from the start has always been to nurture the skin’s ecosystem and natural barrier with botanicals— but also safe, lab-derived synthetics.
Masterson’s goal from the start has always been to nurture the skin’s ecosystem and natural barrier with botanicals— but also safe, lab-derived synthetics.
Drunk Elephant’s many fans—including Leandra Medine, who became an investor in the brand last year—have a cult-like devotion to the multi-tasking formulas: everything can be cocktailed, or swirled together in the palm of your hand and patted on all at once.
Here, Masterson shares her personal journey, beauty service must-haves, and skin care philosophies with Beauty and Well Being.
What was your moment of inspiration for starting Drunk Elephant?
I was talking to a consultant from a direct marketing company who told me that with my knowledge of ingredients and marketing abilities, I should just launch my own line. I had been selling a little bar cleanser they were interested in showcasing and when that didn’t work out, she suggested I do my own thing. I jumped at the idea because I had been looking for a line that didn’t contain the ingredients I had identified as disruptive to my skin and I couldn’t find it. It was the perfect timing for me to go for it, so I did.
Skincare has now become wildly popular. Did you have a sense of this before you launched Drunk Elephant?
I had a hunch that my philosophy on skin and how to care for it would resonate with a lot of people. Also, in the midst of this wellness craze we are seeing, and have been seeing for a few years, it’s a natural direction for people to take with their skin. That’s what I think is driving it. We all want to be healthy and youthful-looking. That means skincare inevitably will be a big priority. Also, bare skin is in and likely here to stay and that requires really good skincare.
What products have been the most popular in your line?
It’s hard to name just one…they have all been very popular. Babyfacial, C-Firma, TLC Framboos, Protini, C-Tango and Marula Oil have all taken turns at the top. I don’t have a hero product, which is not typical for a brand. However, I really think the most popular thing about my line is the philosophy. I look at skincare a little backwards. Skin is skin. The skin is an organ that functions a certain way. It has a protective barrier that guards and maintains its function. So, our first order of business is to respect and support the barrier.
How do you achieve this — what’s the secret?
If we feed the skin only biocompatible ingredients that is can accept, understand, recognize, process and benefit from, while avoiding disruptive ingredients—which we refer to as the Suspicious 6 (irritating essential oils, fragrance and dyes, silicones, chemical screens, SLS and drying alcohols)—then the skin can do what it’s supposed to do and our skin is happy and healthy. I credit the popularity of the line to one simple fact: it works.
What’s your personal beauty routine like? What products do you swear by (both from your line and other brands)?
AM: B-Hydra (water hydration), C-Firma, Protini (protein), Marula (healthy fat/oil) and a drop of D-Bronzi for warmth and vitamins…mix them all in the palm of your hand and apply, then top it off with Umbra (physical protection).
PM: Cleanse, then mix TLC Glycolic (exfoliation), Protini (protein), B-Hydra (water hydration), Lala (healthy fat/oil). Blend and apply…that’s it! Shaba and Lippe are for day and night and may be applied at the end of your routine! Babyfacial is once weekly deeper exfoliation. Customize based on your skin’s mood…some days are dryer than others so listen to your skin regarding how much and which moisturizer you choose.”
All skin needs the same vitamins, actives and nutrients, so forget about skin ‘types.’ As long as you avoid the Suspicious 6, your skin will understand and use what you give it and it will thrive and stay balanced.
What’s the biggest mistake women make when it comes to skincare? What do you see?
Cleansing their faces twice daily, it strips the protective barrier and chaos ensues. Wearing foundation and buffed-in powder: I think they age and disrupt the function of skin something terrible. Asking the simple question, do I need this on my face? Does it help or hurt? I see women owning their skin ‘type,’ like it can’t be changed or something, which is sad. I think they should be blaming their skin woes on bad ingredients because healthy skin will behave well if given the chance. I see people making the transition from foundation to bare face every day and it’s becoming a real movement.
Running your own brand involves a lot of travel. Do you take time for personal trips as well?
I travel for work a lot all over the world. In the summer I go to Florida every year with my entire family and then I spend time in California with my husband while my kids are at camp. This summer we might sneak off to the Bahamas or Mexico for three or four days…TBD. The summers are really hectic with four children going in four different directions.
What travel beauty tips you have?
What’s next for you: What are your personal and business goals?
My personal goal is to keep up with my exercise and spend more time with my precious babies, who aren’t babies anymore. They are turning into great people who I want to hang out with (the feeling is evidently not mutual!). My business goal is to continue building brand awareness, prove myself in some foreign countries like the UK and Singapore and continue educating on my philosophy that the skin must have biocompatible ingredients to function as it should. I think it could be a game-changer for so many people and that’s what truly excites me.
Beauty Blackbook: Please share your favorite…
Place to get a facial in the world (and what do you get specifically)
In my bathroom with Babyfacial. I swear it’s true, it’s the only place I can control what is being put on my skin.
Place to get a body treatment in the world (and what do you get specifically)
Well I never have but I hear it’s at Mila Moursi and it’s on my bucket list.
Place to get a mani/pedi
A place called Isle Pedispa in Houston Texas, I take my girls and I love my time with them.
Place to get a blow-out
Jennifer Segal in Houston, Texas. She knows her stuff…I love getting laser treatments for brown spots that I can’t handle with skincare alone.
Place to work out/relax/meditate
I workout at a place called the Next Level in Houston and I have an infrared sauna at home where I love to relax.
Place for a juice or refreshing/energizing beverage
The green juice at the Greenwich hotel is my favorite…I crave it all the time.
Kari Molvar is a beauty writer and backstage reporter who has covered everything from high-performance skincare to hands-on makeup applications. She started her career in beauty as a senior editor at Allure and has since written for Vogue, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country and the Wall Street Journal among other print and digital publications. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two (DIY-obsessed) young daughters. Follow her @Kari_Molvar