When Drunk Elephant, the "clean" skin-care brand with the brightly-colored packaging that's taken over Sephora aisles and Instagram feeds with impressive speed over the past few years, launches a new product, you can sure as hell bet people want to know about it. But just because the brand is riding a wave of buzz and has amassed a devoted fandom doesn't mean its founder, Tiffany Masterson, is ready to make any sudden or impulsive moves.
"I don't look at trends and I don't wait, so I've already developed my products through the end of 2019," Masterson told me in an interview back in March. And nothing in the line is superfluous. "I look at ingredients like food — like ingredients I make a smoothie with — so I'm coming at it from a different angle and I think that keeps the formulations from being run-of-the-mill," she said of the product development process at the time. The latest example of this careful, intentional approach to brand growth will debut later this month with Drunk Elephant's forthcoming D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Serum.
The thin, gel-like serum is essentially a hybrid skin-care and makeup product; not only does it offer treatment benefits like protection against pollution, but it also washes skin in a glowy bronze tint that mimics a tan (hence the "sunshine" part of the name). Spiked with the brand's signature marula oil, D-Bronzi also contains cocoa powder (which is rich in polyphenols), platinum peptides to bolster skin's defenses and something called a "chronopeptide" which, according to the brand, "provides the benefits of vitamin D" without having to risk the dangers of sun exposure.
The recommended use for the product, which is housed in a tube with a pump dispenser, is to mix one pump of it into any of the other skin-care products you typically use for daytime — serum, sunscreen, oil or moisturizer — for a dose of color and skin protection. It can also be used on the body as a makeshift, temporary self-tanner when mixed into a body oil, cream or lotion. It'll retail for $36 and will be sold exclusively at Sephora and on DrunkElephant.com.
I caught up with Masterson ahead of the product's June 14 launch to find out how D-Bronzi came to be — and why it made the cut as the newest addition to the carefully edited Drunk Elephant product lineup. Read on for the highlights.
How would you describe this new product?
D-Bronzi is made of vitamins, antioxidants, platinum peptides and barrier-supportive fatty acids that defend skin from environmental free radicals. It's a gorgeous, sheer bronzer that I formulated with skin health top-of-mind; it's like sunshine in a bottle without the damage. D-Bronzi is a mixer and is way too concentrated to be used alone, so add a drop or more to any of your serums, moisturizers, sunscreens or our Virgin Marula Oil for an all-over, sunshine-y glow on face and body.
Why is this product something you wanted to add to the range?
I'm inside most days. I don't wear foundation, but I really wanted a little something I could mix into my other products to give my skin some color. The problem was, I didn't want to risk a breakout and I couldn't find one that fit my suspicious six-free criteria. I usually add products to the range for only one reason: I'm personally missing them from my life. I don't look at product trends or other brands ever. I do listen to my consumers' feedback, but only because it usually reflects what I'm already thinking, so it's just more confirmation that I'm on the right path.
I know you have a lot of intention with each new product you introduce to the line — how long was this in the works? What was the development process like for it?
It was in the works for a while, and it's been completed for around a year and a half. After several attempts, we landed on a silky, natural-looking bronzing concentrate. It looks real. My chemist told me later that they were high-fiving each other in the lab because they had never before been able to create a formulation like this that was silicone-free.
Since approving the formulation, I've been using the product religiously and I've allowed friends and family and a group of testers we hand-picked to use and review both the formulation and the packaging. We've gotten solid feedback across the board. When you have people asking for more and you personally feel like you can't live without [a product], you know it's time to launch.
We were originally only going to launch this on our own website because it is, in a way, a bit of a different direction for us. However, we were convinced after the Sephora team fell in love with it to launch there, too. It makes sense and I'm glad things happened that way.
I'm curious about the anti-pollution aspect of the product. Why was that something you wanted to include and what is the mechanism of how it works?
It took far too long for us to understand and accept as a society the damage that unprotected sun exposure does to skin. Can you imagine, in 2018, making the same kind of claims (like a "healthy" tan is possible) that we made even 10 or 15 years ago? Because of that, we are more quickly coming around to realizing the role environment plays in the health of skin, which is a good thing.
Pollution is an enormous problem for the health of skin because it attacks and weakens two major areas of skin's natural defenses: antioxidants and lipids. Unfortunately, antioxidants and lipids also play a major role in keeping your skin soothed, soft and acting healthy. We can't avoid pollution; it's there even in rural areas, so we need to be smarter and exploit the 'weak spots' that pollution does have in how it attacks skin — namely by sending in the reinforcements to fortify skin's natural defenses against environmental free radical damage.
D-Bronzi is a concentrated mix of antioxidants and replenishing lipids, which are designed to replace what is lost to environmental pollution (like smog, exhaust, cigarette smoke, dirt and so on) and harmful blue light from electronics.
What's the best method for incorporating this into your summer routine?
It's super simple: Add a drop or more to anything and everything that goes on your skin. What I love is that it's not a waste of space. In other words, you're adding it to the mix and can feel good that it's making a solid contribution loaded with skin-health benefits, without any unnecessary silicones and fillers which tend to get in the way.
Does this product work on all skin tones? Who is it best for?
Well, a bronzer is not realistically for all skin tones because not all people want more color or need more color. It's for anyone who wants more warmth or the sun-kissed look to their skin. You can customize the result by adding as few or as many drops [as you want] to your other products.
I do have a couple of darker-toned girls in my office who actually just use it for its benefits and the healthy, glow-y finish it gives.
How would you describe your ideal go-to summer beauty look, and how does this new product factor in?
My ideal look is a healthy, bare, just-got-back-from-somewhere face. I use eyeliner, mascara and lip balm, but that's it. This product has now become something I'm not sure how I lived without, and I'm not talking about just for summer. I use this year-round. It's so hard to describe how real it looks and since I work inside most days, I do appreciate the vacation face it instantly gives me.
The concept of products that protect skin against pollution has been fairly trendy lately. How is this formula different from what's already out there?
We were really surprised to find that many of the products today marketing themselves as 'anti-pollution' were actually only referring to their ability to defend skin against dirt. They work by creating a physical barrier against soot, grime and bacteria. That's great, but environmental pollution is more complex than dirt and a barrier isn't enough to defend skin against the damage that the many forms of pollution can cause. Actively defending skin is one of the driving factors behind D-Bronzi.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
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