Drunk Elephant Skincare: B-Hydra & Lala Retro

Earlier this week, I reviewed two products by Drunk Elephant: the Lippe lip balm and the C-Firma antioxidant serum. Now, on to the B-Hydra gel for combo/oily skin and the Lala Retro cream for dry skin, which comprise the other half of my Drunk Elephant skincare collection. A reminder about my needs: my skin is combination, sensitive, and mildly rosaceous.

B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel

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My first bottle of B-Hydra was close to done, when I found out I hadn’t been using it 100% correctly. I purchased B-Hydra for use as a standalone moisturizer, the last step in my nightly routine or prep for sunscreen in the morning. Mind you, not like it was bad in those roles. A water-based gel, B-Hydra is very refreshing and sinks in quickly. It doesn’t have silicones, a welcome change from my previous moisturizer: CALM Redness Relief by Paula’s Choice. (I’m not against ‘cones, but CALM was so silicone-heavy it felt filmy and nasty.) B-Hydra also makes good on its “illuminating” claim, breaking with the “oily skin=needs mattifying” orthodoxy. It amplifies the dimensions of the face, creating an almost statuesque finish.

One problem, though: B-Hydra didn’t give skin much of a relaxing sensation, familiar from the use of richer moisturizers. After some research, I found out that B-Hydra might work better as a hydrating add-on to other products, rather than its own thing. Now, I am mixing it with an oilier and more nourishing Drunk Elephant product, the C-Firma day serum. That combo is recommended by the brand, and I agree that the two products are truly meant to be cocktailed. C-Firma is a little oily and tacky on its own, but the blend has an airy and refreshing quality. I use it in the morning underneath my daily sunscreen. As for the nighttime routine, I’m now playing with other products, such as CeraVe PM and rosehip oil. If I go back to B-Hydra, I’m planning to layer or mix it with oilier moisturizers.

Lala Retro Whipped Cream

Such is the life of someone with combination skin: it gets crazy in all different ways. Therefore, you end up trying products for oily, normal, AND dry skin types.

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Last fall, I suffered from massive allergies that bloated, irritated, and tattered the hell out of the skin around my eyes. Right after the allergies improved, my city of San Francisco got a bout of cold weather, uncharacteristic in these times of climate change. B-Hydra didn’t help me, of course; neither did the heavier creams by CeraVe and First Aid Beauty. A little sample of Lala Retro turned out to be the hero to stop the flaking. I had a $20 Sephora coupon burning a hole in my wallet, so I purchased a full size.

Most of the time, I use Lala Retro as an eye cream. I apply it all over my face whenever unsuccessful product experiments make my skin red and dry. The cream sinks in nicely, and I find its earthy, nutty scent intoxicating. I only have one issue: in keeping with the “retro” theme (I guess), Drunk Elephant originally released the cream in a classic tub. After multiple customer complaints about the less-than-sanitary packaging, the brand switched it up for an airless jar. The new container was revealed very soon after I bought my Lala Retro–daaaaamn.

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And that’s it for my Drunk Elephant collection. Here are some disjointed thoughts about the brand’s offerings that I’ve sampled or am curious about.

The T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum changed my mind about glycolic acid and AHAs in general. My face had been hurt by Paula’s Choice and Andalou Naturals’ glycolic acid products, so I avoided the world of AHAs for a while. But I’m nothing if not hella curious, which is why I couldn’t resist trying the much-hyped T.L.C. Framboos. And it turned out to be very gentle! After playing with the Sephora sample for two weeks, I saw that my skin got smoother. However, I’m not sure if I will purchase the full size, as I’m pretty satisfied with my new, much cheaper AHAs by Deciem.

I pawed a tester of the Umbra sunscreen at Sephora, and I was surprised with how insanely greasy it is. The brand only recommends applying a pea-sized amount, due to Umbra’s high zinc oxide content (20%). For those of us who are used to the “1/4 teaspoon of sunscreen” orthodoxy, “pea-sized” sounds a little weird, but I’m down for trying this method with an Umbra sample in the future.

I’m also interested in checking out the Pekee and Juju bar cleansers, since they both are touted as mild. So far, none of the Drunk Elephant products I’ve tried were irritating, so I have a fair amount of goodwill towards the brand in that regard.

In general, I commend Drunk Elephant for making pretty solid skincare and paying special attention to the needs of those with sensitive skin. However, I wouldn’t call their products “miracles” worth oooh-ing and aaah-ing about. Except for maybe Lala Retro, which I think is a boon for dry, flaking skin.

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Drunk Elephant Skincare: Lippe & C-Firma

Drunk Elephant is enjoying something akin to cult status in the beauty world. It boasts photogenic packaging, instantly memorable product names, and a slew of “best skin of my life!!” reviews. The elephant in the room (hahaha PUN) is that the goodies are quite expensive. Fortunately, Sephora and Dermstore have sales and coupons sometimes, which is pretty much how I assembled my four-strong collection.

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In this post, I will be covering two items: the Lippe balm and the C-Firma antioxidant serum. For context, here are my skincare concerns: mild rosacea, sensitivity, and general combination skin issues, such as oiliness in my T-zone and dryness around my eyes.

Drunk Elephant first caught my attention thanks to high ratings on Beautypedia, a site famous for bashing skincare with potentially irritating ingredients. I use its ratings as a predictor to see if a product would make my face redder than normal. (Ironically, the most aggravating products I have ever tried were two masks by Beautypedia’s house brand, Paula’s Choice–but that’s another story.) Drunk Elephant touts its gentleness to skin using the “no toxins” language, a berserk button for those who prefer nerdy skincare philosophies to hippie ones. However,  the company promotes beneficial synthetic ingredients in addition to natural stuff, and the “toxins” it avoids include natural irritants such as essential oils.

The core product in the line is the 100% Virgin Marula Oil, which ties into a story behind the brand name. The marula trees grow in Africa and their fruits indeed make elephants drunk. (The fruit are also used for the Amarula cream liqueur, which has an elephant on the bottle.) Marula oil is an ingredient in all of the currently available Drunk Elephant products. A representative told me on Instagram that the brand uses fair trade oils, however I haven’t been able to verify that claim.

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Lippe Lip Balm

Lippe is the only product in my Drunk Elephant collection that I know I won’t repurchase. Lip balms as expensive as this one ($22) better be miracle workers… Lippe isn’t.

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To be fair, my lips are extremely dry and prone to shriveling, and lip balms either do nothing at all or offer a short-term improvement. Lippe is a decent enough oily balm, similar in feel to Hurraw! and Yes to Coconuts. This is actually my favorite kind of lip moisturizer, but Lippe’s effect is not much different from the aforementioned under-$5 options. If one’s particular about ethically sourced ingredients, Fair Trade USA has partner companies that sell lip balms for $3. In short, even though I don’t regret purchasing Lippe, I remain unconvinced about the whole genre of fancy lip balms.

C-Firma Day Serum

Hey you! You’re losing, you’re losing, you’re losing, you’re losing your Vitamin C. 

A few years ago, I went to a cosmetic dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente for advice on a general skincare routine. She recommended retinol, resveratrol, and antioxidants, all of which I’ve been dutifully using since then.

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Of the antioxidant serums I’ve tried, C-Firma is as good as any. Some use Vitamin C products to banish dark spots, but I don’t have many, and those serums are more like maintenance workers than problem-solvers for me. I view them as building blocks in a regimen for mitigating general signs of aging. So far, I can testify that since I started using antioxidants (along with retinol and resveratrol), my face didn’t slide off, I didn’t erupt in boils, and my skin has been generally looking softer and, ummmm, glowier. And yes, it’s still firm. I might be able to produce more authoritative conclusions in a few years, when I get closer to 40 (I’m 31.) Of course, if I still have this beauty hobby of mine.

I’m on my second bottle of C-Firma now. Drunk Elephant has recently reformulated the serum for a more convenient application experience, and the change is for the better. The first iteration of C-Firma was too runny, similar to Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster, and the new formula is more viscous, feeling oily and gel-like at the same time. Lately, I’ve been mixing the serum in the morning with Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra, a gel hydrator for oily skin. The resulting mega-serum sinks in quickly, and feels refreshing and nourishing. I consider it decent prep for my dry-ish daily sunscreen, the Paula’s Choice tinted moisturizer. Dayum, a lot of mentions of Paula’s Choice in this post dedicated to a different brand… But it is what it is. I know Paula’s Choice skincare pretty well.

Back to Drunk Elephant, this Sunday I’m planning to post about B-Hydra as well as the Lala Retro cream for dry skin. I will also include some random thoughts about the brand’s products that I’ve sampled or am curious about. Til Sunday.