(Cult Status)

Skin Care Fanatics Take Note — Drunk Elephant’s Vitamin C Got An Upgrade

It’s better than ever.

by Natasha Marsh
Originally Published: 
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Cult Status is our series that highlights an iconic item from brands both established and buzz-worthy. In these features, you'll discover the fascinating history of how one extra-special piece exceeded expectations and became a forever product. This time, the focus is on Drunk Elephant Vitamin C-Firma Serum.

Prior to launching her cult-favorite skin care brand Drunk Elephant and it’s hero product, the Vitamin C-Firma Serum, founder Tiffany Masterson was a busy mom raising four kids while simultaneously dealing with skin issues like mild rosacea, redness, oiliness in the T-zone, and large pores. “I searched for a solution to my combination, sensitive skin, but nothing ever seemed to solve the problem for long,” Masterson shares. “I began to research the ingredients in the products I was using and noted what role each played, and more importantly, how my skin reacted to it. I realized it was the marketing ingredients (the ones in a formula that make it look, smell, or feel better that have no benefits for the skin) that had to go.”

With this in mind, Masterson started dreaming up an alternative to the products currently on the market, and eventually Drunk Elephant was born. “My vision for Drunk Elephant was to build the brand based totally on avoiding the suspicious six — essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) — and only use biocompatible ingredients that have a direct benefit to the skin itself,” says the founder. “So many people think that their skin issues are permanent, but many times they are simply induced by the very ingredients we are using on a daily basis.”

The brand's buzz-worthy vitamin C serum was one of the original six products that launched with the debut of Drunk Elephant in 2013. Formulated with 15% L-ascorbic acid (a highly potent form of vitamin C), 0.5% ferulic acid, and 1% vitamin E, the serum can be used daily to reverse and prevent free radical damage — revealing a brighter, firmer, and more even-looking complexion. The high potency was quite unheard of at the time, and is still one of the leading options for vitamin C’s over 10% on the market. But it was the airtight packaging (which kept the chronically unstable vitamin C derivative shelf stable) that sealed the deal for many beauty consumers and editors alike.

Drunk Elephant

Eight years later, in August 2021, C-Firma received a face lift with the same benefits as before, but with a deconstructed formula now known as C-Firma Fresh. “When we started selling globally, I had a feeling our customers weren’t getting the freshest possible C-Firma (it takes longer to ship overseas),” Masterson tells TZR. “For L-ascorbic acid to diminish signs of sun damage, fight free radicals, and really brighten the skin, it has to be the right pH, be surrounded by the right ingredients, and be stable. That’s not easy. So we had the idea to deconstruct it.”

To make this possible, the new C-Firma Fresh formula comes in two vials — a powder that the user mixes with the liquid solution prior to applying to the skin. Essentially, the consumer is the mixologist. Although the packaging hasn’t changed from the original C-Firma to C-Firma Fresh, the difference is in the two vials. When you receive the product, you simply mix both once to receive the full benefits.

“We separated out the vitamin C in powdered form to maximize its potency and keep this notoriously delicate ingredient in its most fresh and stable form,” says Masterson. “[The] two vials preserve the freshness of the L-ascorbic acid, allowing the consumer to control the shelf life of the product. You make it yourself, one time only — and it never touches the air [prior to that], so it’s as fresh as can be.” The pump then eliminates all of the oxygen from the formula after a few uses. As Masterson says, “The airless, vacuum-pump packaging technology adds an extra layer of security that a traditional dropper cannot provide.”

Drunk Elephant

The serum — which has a six month shelf life and does not need to be refrigerated — also contains pumpkin ferment extract and sodium hyaluronate to help enzymatically dissolve surface dead skin cells as it hydrates and soothes. Other beneficial ingredients include “Pomegranate extract for additional exfoliation benefits, vitis vinifera (grape juice) extract, which has vitamin E and polyphenols, and Indian gooseberry for additional antioxidant benefits. The new formulation results to a noticeably diminished appearance of signs of aging and photodamage—replaced by radiance and luminosity,” says Masterson.

Other upgrades to the beloved serum include a lower pH level (from 3.3 to 2.5) to increase the penetration and potency of the vitamin C and changing the formula to vegan, whereas the original formula had a seashell extract. Paired with the added stability of the powdered formula, the new and improved C-Firma Fresh is poised to remain one of the most trusted and revered vitamin C products on the market.

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