Is Drunk Elephant Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

March 7, 2022

Drunk Elephant wants you to have the best ingredients for healthy, radiant skin. It's all about making sure you know what will help your skin and why, but is it cruelty-free?

Drunk Elephant is cruelty-free. It doesn't conduct animal testing on its products, nor does it distribute its cosmetics where animal testing is required by law. While Drunk Elephant does offer a range of vegan cosmetics, it is not considered a vegan brand.

Drunk Elephant was founded in 2012 by Tiffany Masterson. Tiffany struggled for years to find a skincare product that consistently helped her care for her skin.

She decided to research the best ingredients and create a product that allowed her to take her skincare journey into her own hands.

When her methods worked, she became passionate about sharing them with others. 

Drunk Elephant was born and took the market by storm, selling to Shiseido Group for $845m in 2019. More impressively, the brand did this with a cruelty-free focus while offering a vegan range.

Before deciding on what to buy, here's what you need to know about Drunk Elephant's current animal testing policies, vegan ranges, formulation, and sustainability.

Is Drunk Elephant Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Drunk Elephant is 100% Cruelty-Free

It does not:

  • Test any of its products or ingredients on animals;
  • Purchase any ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain; or
  • Distribute its products to any countries that require animal testing by law.

Drunk Elephant has always been concerned with ensuring that its products and ingredients are not tested on animals. Masterson has often shared in interviews how important this is to her. 

However, since Shiseido acquired Drunk Elephant in 2019, the brand has started selling products to mainland China by selling directly to consumers online. 

This process allows them to forgo all animal testing. We explain why here

This decision seems to be a compromise to meet Shiseido's requirements while maintaining the original brand ethics.

As a parent company, Shiseido is not cruelty-free and also sells its products to mainland China where animal testing is mandatory for most imported cosmetics

This brings us to our next point:

Drunk Elephant is Not Vegan

Although the brand is not entirely vegan, Drunk Elephant has an extensive range of vegan products from which to choose.

If a product is vegan, you'll find the information beside its picture.

Drunk Elephant Vegan Product Claim

The two most common animal-derived ingredients that Drunk Elephant uses include:

  • Honey & beeswax – both these ingredients pose many health benefits to your skin and wellbeing. They have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and are loaded with essential vitamins.
  • Glucosamine – a natural compound found in cartilage (the tough tissue that cushions joints).

    In supplement form, glucosamine is harvested from shellfish shells or made in a lab. When produced synthetically, it is vegan. However, when sourced organically, it is animal-derived.

If you're interested in which products are vegan or finding vegan brand alternatives – keep reading or click on this link: Drunk Elephant vegan products.

Animal Testing Policy and History

Since its inception, Drunk Elephant has always been transparent regarding its cruelty-free policies. It aims to be cruelty-free while providing products made from the best ingredients for self-care.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2021

Here is a screenshot of Drunk Elephant's official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from their website:



Drunk Elephant is both Leaping Bunny, and PETA certified.

While you might know PETA very well – it surprisingly doesn't hold the strictest cruelty-free regulations out there. It seems to only require a brand's written consent that abides by the PETA code of conduct.

Certification from Leaping Bunny is ideal because it holds rigorous standards and does regular audits to ensure they are upheld.

Leaping Bunny certification proves that:

  • No animal testing is conducted on the ingredients, formulas, or final products they sell.
  • No animal testing is conducted by the brand suppliers or on their ingredients or formulas.
  • No animal testing is done by someone else that the company itself paid for.
  • Any other form of testing (beyond ingredient and consumer safety), such as worker safety and environmental health, are considered and evaluated.

If you see a bunny stamp at the back of your product bottle – that's an excellent sign. But don't be fooled by the image itself. A lot of brands are using fake logos to mislead consumers.

Do your homework and see which products are genuinely cruelty-free first. This article will help you: Which Cruelty-Free Logos Can You Trust?

Is Drunk Elephant Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

Drunk Elephant does sell its products to mainland China – but only  through online purchases as a business to consumer model. 

Online sales from business to consumer is an ethical way to distribute to mainland China because it bypasses the mandatory animal testing. 

This law is purely enforced on international cosmetic products distributed to China for retail purposes. 

So a single package going to someone's house will never be open or tested at customs.

China has a shocking track record. It is the country with the most amount of animal testing globally, with over 20 million animals used per year.

However, if you live in China or are concerned about its cruel beauty policies, there are a couple of loopholes to be aware of. Here's how to find cruelty-free cosmetics in China: Are Cosmetics Made in China Cruelty-Free?

What Drunk Elephant Products Are Vegan?

Drunk Elephant offers 35 vegan products, most of which are part of their skincare range. They prove that using the perfect ingredients for your beauty regime doesn't have to mean compromising your ethics.

To save you some time, here are some of Drunk Elephant's most popular and award-winning products to choose from:

  • Lala Retro™ Whipped Cream 
  • T.L.C. Framboos™ Glycolic Night Serum
  • D-Bronzi™ Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops
  • TLC Sakura Babyfacial™
  • Slaai™ Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser

For a full list of Drunk Elephant's vegan products, you can visit their website

Vegan Alternatives to Drunk Elephant 

Overall, Drunk Elephant has noteworthy transparency with its consumers. For a multi-million dollar brand – it's commendable.

It also offers vegan products that other brands have not yet matched. However, there are a few concerns that will raise a few eyebrows. 

  • They are extremely pricey. 
  • They are not 100% vegan. 
  • They are owned by Shiseido, who are not cruelty-free. 

If you're looking for 100% vegan cosmetics that are in the same price range or lower, here are some similar alternatives within the same price range:

  • Pai Skincare,
  • Saint Jane Beauty, 
  • Biossance Beauty,
  • Summer Fridays Skincare and Body Care, and 
  • Acure Beauty and Haircare (much more affordable) 

Is Drunk Elephant Natural and Organic? 

Drunk Elephant is not a natural or organic brand, but they do claim to use safe ingredients.

The brand focuses on using biocompatible ingredients, regardless of whether they are synthetic or natural.

Its whole ethos is to make products that use the best ingredients for skin care and avoid the 'suspicious six' irritants identified as skincare no-goes.

These ingredients include essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, and SLS.

If natural and organic ingredients are important to you, then it is safe to say that Drunk Elephant is not the brand for you.

Clean vs Natural Ingredients

The term "natural" is not regulated for cosmetics and skincare. In other words, it doesn't hold one specific meaning.

Usually, it means a product is free of certain more toxic synthetic ingredients, including parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and more. But people also interpret "natural" to mean ingredients of immediate plant origin.

Here's the thing – "natural" is not necessarily a good thing. Just because an ingredient is natural (take chilli peppers, for example) doesn't mean you should rub it on your skin.

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas, and Drunk Elephant is no exception – but it can choose to use better or clean synthetics.

If a synthetic ingredient is "clean," it means it is safe and non-toxic for us. Its purpose is to preserve the stability of a beauty formulation.

The main naturally-derived ingredient that Drunk Elephant uses to enhance its cosmetics:

Virgin Marula Oil - Marula oil is a relative newcomer to the beauty scene. Its light texture and rich moisture content properties have made it a popular treatment for skin, hair, and nails. It offers:

  • The amino acids L-arginine and glutamic acid with hydrating, anti-ageing properties;
  • Fatty acids, that have emollient and moisturising benefits; and
  • Antioxidants, such as vitamins E and C, which fight free radicals and may stave off skin damage caused by the sun's ultraviolet rays and pollution.

Does Drunk Elephant Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, Drunk Elephant has an 82-91% allergen-free ranking for each product, but many products rank as high as 100%. 

All of Drunk Elephants products are free of essential oils (yes, these irritate your skin), drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, SLS, and parabens. 

Many of the brand's products are free of allergens such as gluten, dye, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. 

However, they are not completely fragrance free or free of common preservatives and propylene glycol.

Reading Drunk Elephant's ingredient list is crucial. While the brand is largely hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic, they encourage all their consumers to pay attention to their ingredient labels and always make sure they are purchasing what is best for them and their skin.

It's also important to note that not all common allergens are harmful ingredients overall.

A typical example is lanolin, which has many benefits to your skin too. Find out more here: Can Lanolin Be Cruelty-Free?

The EU/UK Have Stricter Ingredient Regulations

As a conscientious shopper, you must read up on any brand's ingredient list before you make a purchase – especially if you live within the United States.

This is because the FDA has only banned or restricted 11 harmful chemicals from cosmetics within the country. Europe and the UK, on the other hand, has banned 1,328!

Given Drunk Elephant is a US-based brand with good ingredient policies – you don't need to worry too much.

For good measure, here are some of the ingredients you really want to avoid with skincare:

  • DEA, MEA, and TEA
  • DMDM Hydantoin and urea (that often release formaldehyde)
  • PEG (Polyethylene glycol)
  • Phthalates
  • Propylene glycol (pg) & butylene glycol
  • Triclosan

Are Cruelty-Free Ingredients Safe?

If you're worried about how safe it is to use cosmetics that are not tested on animals – please relax and take a sigh of relief.

There is no reason why cruelty-free products shouldn't be just as safe, if not safer, than anything tested on an animal.

Not only is it easy to test ingredients without using animals altogether, but there are so many pre-approved ingredients you can use to make cosmetics that there really is no need.

Here's more on the subject if you're interested: Are Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Safe?

Is Drunk Elephant Sustainable and Ethical? 

Drunk Elephant wants to do its part in taking care of the environment.

As with all ethical inquiries, the brand goes out of its way to remind consumers that its priority is creating effective skincare products from the best ingredients.

Drunk Elephant does what it can to be sustainable while focusing on the efficacy of its formulas.

In 2020, they launched their first fully recyclable packaging and every launch since then has used recyclable materials. 

Now, their entire Hair and Body line comes in recyclable packaging, as well as A-Passioni™, Beste No.9™, E-Rase™ and Virgin Marula Oil.

It claims that its current pumps are not recyclable because the materials used to make pumps are reinforced – this means they are difficult to recycle. 

Drunk Elephant does emphasise that as soon as a sustainable option becomes available, it will be the first brand in line. Some of the ways Drunk Elephant is taking environmental accountability is by:

  • Using little to no toxic or allergen-triggering ingredients that could harm your overall health. 
  • Making all of its products released after 2020 with a percentage of recyclable materials. 
  • Prioritising sustainably sourced ingredients.
  • Having responsible MICA mining policies.

In saying this, Drunk Elephant has not jumped on the sustainability bandwagon altogether yet.

It's no secret that the world has a huge waste problem, and cosmetic brands are only making it worse by using unsustainable packaging and harmful ingredients.

So while the brand is cruelty-free, has vegan options, and uses some sustainable materials – it does not really go the extra mile to be a sustainable and ethical brand. 

Certain factors like developing refillable products, recycling programs, having biodegradable formulas or even have a net-zero gas emission policy would help make sustainability a main feature to this brand.  

Final Thoughts

Drunk Elephant is undoubtedly a brand with quality self-care at the heart of its business.

When it comes to offering a product that empowers you to take optimal care of yourself,  Drunk Elephant's ethics are beyond reproach. It is cruelty-free and provides a wide range of high-quality vegan products.

It has also made efforts to ensure that most of its packaging is recyclable, and it focuses on using sustainably sourced ingredients.

We would also like to see more environmental initiatives from this brand.

While we applaud its current efforts and love the dedication to providing a quality product, there are many unexplored avenues where Drunk Elephant could find the perfect ingredients for earth-care without compromising self-care.

There are many things to recommend this brand, but Drunk Elephant is a mixed bag. You may find that their well-formulated products and their current ethics are a perfect match for you. If so, fantastic! Get shopping.

However, if the activities of their parent brand Shiseido, their entry-level environmentalism, and their non-vegan products concern you - don't stress!

Many brands cater for your requirements, and we guarantee that you will find all the details on Cruelty Free Soul.

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