Sephora can't keep this 'protein powder for your face' on its shelves — here's why people love it

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  • Drunk Elephant has taken skincare by storm, securing the top three best-selling spots on Sephora in an unusually short amount of time.
  • Customers love Drunk Elephant’s mix of natural superfoods like Virgin Marula Oil and ‘clean actives.’ Instead of being entirely natural, Drunk Elephant uses safe synthetics combined with the best natural ingredients to make effective, non-irritating skincare.
  • Their newest lotion, The Protini, was designed to act like your skin’s very own protein powder, facilitating healthy cell production without disrupting your body’s natural processes.
  • I’ve been using The Protini for the last couple months, and I love it. It absorbs quickly, effectively moisturizes, and doesn’t irritate my sensitive combination skin.

If you don’t regularly skulk around Sephora online, you might have missed the buzz that skincare wunderkind Drunk Elephant has generated in the past few years — almost entirely infiltrating the site’s top five best-sellers. And if you do regularly skulk online for emerging beauty trends, you’ll probably already know them for their famous Allure Best of Beauty-winning 20-minute at-home facial

The company makes non-toxic, clinically effective skincare that’s infused with ingredients like Virgin Marula Oil, ‘clean actives’, and healthy superfood extracts. They’ll only use clean ingredients, and they’ll only add what either makes your skin objectively healthier or supports the integrity and effectiveness of the formula. 

If you took the company’s messaging and customer reviews and melted them down into what you could call a summary, it would be that Drunk Elephant is trying to make smarter skincare products that marry Mother Nature’s best helpers with science’s best clinically-proven ingredients. Instead of trying to reinvent themselves to be all one thing (think “all organic” products that are maybe a little underwhelming), they choose each ingredient based on its safety and biocompatibility rather than its synthetic or natural status. They’ll never use any controversial or iffy synthetics, or the “suspicious 6” (silicones, chemical screens, perfumes, sodium lauryl sulfate, essential oils, or drying alcohols), but they do focus on pH and toxicity and make sure that any active ingredients are at levels that mean they will actually work. 

Using the best of both scientific and natural worlds sounds logical, and not using any questionable fragrances/dyes and drying alcohols or chemicals sounds nice, but all that wouldn’t really matter if the products themselves weren’t great — especially at a price point that comes in well under super-luxe names like La Mer but is by no means cheap.

Their newest lotion — The Protini ($68) — was founder Tiffany Masterson’s response to her mother’s request to address “every collagen concern she’d ever had”. As a self-described health and wellness nut, Masterson’s first thought was of the protein powder she uses in smoothies to increase muscle support. As Masterson told Allure, she wanted to create a product that would do basically the same thing for skin: “maintain, create more, and prevent the breakdown of skin’s existing collagen.” This sort of analogy isn’t so far off for the skincare line at large, or for Masterson, who said she thinks of skincare products as “food for skin” — explaining that she likes to mix together products from her line like ingredients in that aforementioned daily smoothie for different ‘meals’. The Protini, the newest lotion, is Masterson’s ‘pump of protein’ morning and night.

After only a few months, it’s become the #1 best-seller in skincare on Sephora, followed by two other Drunk Elephant products (the famous 20-minute facial that put them on the map, and the C-Firma Day Serum) before the $170 La Mer, Crème de la Mer, which takes fourth place. 

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So what’s in The Protini, and how does it work? 

The Protini lotion is made of nine plant-derived peptide growth factors and is designed with the help of parent 1: Nature and parent 2: Science, in order to mimic human peptides. The end result is a cocktail of amino acids, signal peptides, and (safe) synthetic growth factors, plus enough emollient ingredients to give it all a creamy texture that “melts right into your skin to make it hydrated, bouncy, and balanced.” Or, in other words, the natural and synthetic ingredients in Protini help encourage your skin’s own healthy cell turnover without disrupting your body’s natural system, so even as we lose collagen with age, the superfood Masterson has mixed up will support your skin’s collagen production. It’s protein- and nutrient-rich, and it’s kept at a pH level of 4.0 so the formula remains effective. 

Like previous Drunk Elephant products, The Protini comes in an airtight container with a pump that dispenses a dime-size amount of lotion at a time, which is especially helpful for portioning (this stuff isn’t cheap, don’t use it all at once) and keeping the rest of the product from being contaminated. 

I can only speak for my personal experience with Protini (though I found Allure’s breakdown of the science and Sephora customer reviews helpful in my own research), but I have loved using this lotion. My skincare routine is diverse and regularly changing thanks to my job, but alongside Cerave and H2O+, Drunk Elephant is a company I keep returning to, and (thus far) I have not let been down by. My home cabinet has more from their line than any other, and I recommend it more than any other to my friends when they ask for help shopping. I’ve never heard anything but positive feedback, usually in the form of a “this stuff is so great” text a few weeks later. My older sister, (who has similar skin, of course), is the most recent person to send me this message.

For reference, my combination skin is sensitive and irritable, and one of the main things that I so love about Drunk Elephant products is that they can actually be effective (moisturizing and clearing) without upsetting my skin’s precarious balance. Thick moisturizers may take care of dryness for me, but they ultimately look greasy after a few hours sitting on top of my skin, clog pores, and, more than likely, act like a sticky pad for all the gross stuff floating around in the New York City air. Thinner moisturizers don’t have those issues, but they don’t really address dryness, so what’s the point? The Protini, on the other hand, feels like my skin but better, rather than my skin plus a layer of lotion on top. I love it because it moisturizes my skin well, but I might love it more for how quickly and totally it’s absorbed. I can wake up after my alarm clock and still afford to put on moisturizer because in a few minutes it will have been completely absorbed, and I don’t need to wait around and fan my face for 20 minutes.

I wish the Drunk Elephant products were less expensive (which goes for the industry at large), but I truly love using them, and (if it came down to it) would probably rather pay more than risk any scary ingredients or questionable synthetics in something I regularly let my skin absorb. If you’re mainly just looking for a fast-absorbing and super-hydrating lotion, I’d also recommend you check out H20+ Oasis Hydrating Treatment. I use this one regularly, too, and it’s about the same size (1.7 Fl oz instead of 1.69 Fl oz for Protini) for less money ($38 instead of $68), but it’s definitely less creamy. It feels almost like aloe for a sunburn rather than a lotion.

If you’re looking to spend a little extra for better skincare, then it’s nice to know that Drunk Elephant exists. Their products are consistently good, and the combination of natural ingredients and clean actives means they’re effective without being irritating, which makes the line an easy favorite for a wide variety of skin types. The Protini acts like a protein powder for your face, improving the appearance of tone, texture, and firmness visibly, and also absorbs quickly and completely. If you’ve been looking for something safe, effective, and fast-absorbing, I highly recommend taking a look to see if it might work as well for you, too. 

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream, available at Sephora, $68

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Source: Essential oils

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