It’s official, Drunk Elephant knows a thing or two about what makes a great bar. Well, of the cleansing variety, that is, because their interesting and unique Pekee Bar has certainly redeemed this category of skincare products. Eschewing the negative qualities of most bar cleansers (wait for it), this mild, water-soluble formula works well for most skin types—including the sensitive and acne-prone.
Before we continue, we’ll explain why bar cleansers tend to be the wrong choice for keeping your skin healthy. The classic bar soap is formulated via a process that results in an alkaline (high) pH, which is irritating to naturally acidic skin. Bar cleansers also use fatty ingredients that keep it from rinsing easily, which can lead to dull-looking skin. The combined result is that such formulas are often damaging to skin over the long term, keeping your skin in a cycle of sensitivity and potentially making conditions like acne worse.
Happily, Pekee Bar avoids these faults by evolving beyond the standard soap-making process (using lye and solid fats). This formulary feat was so surprising that weren’t certain exactly how Drunk Elephant did it—so we reached out to the brand and founder Tiffany Masterson explained their approach.
“High pH, residue and irritation were among my must-not-have characteristics for these bars, so I opted for a mild syndet (‘synthetic detergent’) over a soap detergent. I combined the surfactants Sodium Coco-Sulfate and Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate with a natural binder, to make up the syndet formulation. We use wheat germ starch to bind the bar's ingredients together. [Drunk Elephant’s] bars are not what you would call a traditional "soap" product.”
The result is a fragrance-free bar cleanser that behaves like a liquid on skin—leaving no residue and contains no irritating ingredients. (We feel like there should be a mic drop right there, but we digress.)
Aside from the mild cleansing agents, there is also the inclusion of moisturizing ingredients and anti-irritant ingredients. As mentioned before, this works well for most skin types—the amount of moisture is slight, and rinses cleanly. (Those with very dry skin may prefer a more emollient cleanser.) We found that, despite it being a mild formula, it easily removed both sunscreen and makeup. For those Clarisonic users out there, this worked well with the cleansing tool (we would recommend lathering up you face before using the Clarisonic, rather than directly applying the bar to the brush head).
This reviewer had long since dismissed bar cleansers as a hopeless category of products due to their frustratingly common drawbacks and overall lack of advancement. However, Drunk Elephant’s Pekee Bar is a genuinely impressive innovation, and for that feat, earns our top recommendation. Though it seems pricey given its size, it goes a long way—you can expect one bar to last for 2-3 months of twice-daily use.
Drunk Elephant is one pachyderm that knows its way around your dermis. (Sorry.)
Uses mild cleansing agents, yet removes sunscreen + makeup easily.
Innovative formula that avoids the common skin-damaging issues of traditional bar cleansers.
Works well for most skin types.
The Pekee Bar clarifies, balances and moisturizes, while rinsing away pore-clogging surface debris, impurities and excess oil. Infused with a powerful blend of Blueberry Extract, Marula Oil and Honey, the Pekee Bar tones and promotes moisture retention and firmness. This bar is truly in a league of its own. The Pekee Bar™ is totally fragrance- and soap-free and only formulated with skin-friendly ingredients designed to cleanse and calm the skin.
Sodium Coco-Sulfate, Disodium Lauryl Sulfosuccinate, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat Germ) Starch, Cetearyl Alcohol, Paraffin, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Kernel Oil, Water, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Honey, Glycerin, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract
Drunk Elephant At-A-Glance
Drunk Elephant, based out of Los Angeles, California, was started in 2012 by former skincare executive Tiffany Masterson. As their website describes, Masterson developed the brand out of a desire to create natural-themed formulas that were truly effective. Beyond effectiveness, Masterson wanted leave out what wasn’t effective—primarily fragrance. We concur, because fragrance isn't skincare.
We were pleasantly surprised by this stance, as in our experience, the inclusion of an abundance of fragrance is where many natural-themed brands seem to go wrong—along with using too few beneficial ingredients or formulas. Fragrance, whether from essential oils or synthetic perfumes, is never helpful for skin because over the long term, it can cause damage that holds any skin type back from being its healthy best.
As for the brand’s unconventional name, “Drunk Elephant” is in reference to anecdotes that African wildlife, including elephants, partake on the fallen, fermented fruit of the marula tree—an indulgence that leads to intoxication. We don’t know how true that is, and it's not really related to skincare, but the brand’s name is certainly different.
Drunk Elephant avoids using ingredients like non-mineral sunscreen actives, silicones, and parabens, even though countless studies have indicated these ingredients are safe (Journal of the Academy of Dermatology, 2013 and Skin Therapy Letters, 2013). Regardless, we’re just happy that the line has made it a focal point to use what research has been shown improves skin concerns like sun damage, breakouts and signs of aging, and leave out everything else. They’re also using some novel yet potentially exciting ingredients in many of their formulas.
Drunk Elephant line is a small line, but tends to make each product count, or at least puts an unconventional twist on the norm. Overall, we came away impressed with most of its products and (usually) smart packaging.
Many of the formulas include the ingredient marula oil, which is an ingredient the brand favors due to the fact it contains an array of beneficial fatty acids, calming agents, and antioxidants (Journal of Food Lipids, 2004 and Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2014). It's a good ingredient, but there are many excellent non-fragrant plant oils, including coconut, jojoba, sunflower, and more, of which have similar benefits, meaning marula oil isn't the best out there, just one good oil among many.
Though the price tags are absolutely on the higher end, if you decide to to splurge on some key items, this is a good line to do so!
For more information, visit the brand at www.drunkelephant.com.
Strengths: A solid, though limited array of well-crafted skincare formulas; commitment to fragrance-free products.
Weaknesses:Their products are on the pricey side; limited options for those struggling with acne and discolorations.
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