I don't think I would've been daring enough to try out Drunk Elephant's T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial for review had I not been FaceTiming my brother. 500 miles away in his gorgeous Washington D.C. kitchen, he'd just walked my boyfriend and I through his "go-to" dinner — salmon and baked kale, of course. Perpetually a younger sibling, the need to flex anything in return was too irresistible to ignore. "I'll show you my skincare routine!" I found myself saying, before positioning my phone precariously in my bathroom cabinet.
After opening his mind to the wonders of double-cleansing, I felt bold. Reckless, even. I grabbed the Drunk Elephant Dopp Kit stuffed with products the brand had graciously sent me months prior, and pulled out the pink-lidded T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask. I halfheartedly warned my brother I'd never tried it before — 25 percent AHA is no joke — before applying it to my squeaky clean face, setting a timer for 20 minutes as per the box.
That's when the tingling began. "Oh, hmm, this is intense," quickly turned into "I gotta go, I'll text you later." I knew what was happening; I've both used and written about face-tingling chemical exfoliators in the past. Still, the lower-percentage toners or overnight formulas I'd slapped on in the past simply didn't compare. The T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial feels less like an $80 bottle from Sephora and more like an exfoliating acid treatment you'd get at a spa.
Which is kind of the point. "As a consumer, I loved the idea of getting a professional peel! The promise of glowing, smoother, and more even-toned skin always sounded wonderful," says Drunk Elephant's Founder, Tiffany Masterson, via email. "Unfortunately, the reality was less attractive — irritation, flaking skin and sensitivity for days followed by a breakout. This post-peel phase is so common it has its own nickname: 'downtime.' That’s shorthand for 'you’ll have to suffer through it.'"
This stems from two potential problems: how the treatment delivers ingredients to your skin, and the ingredients themselves found in the peel's base. "Traditional peels have no buffer system, which means you’re getting hit with their full strength as soon at they’re applied to skin — your face has no time to adjust — and many are alcohol based. Alcohol helps keep the high concentration of acids stable and works as a delivery system, but that alcohol also dissolves the lipids and other protective substances which keep your skin barrier intact, moisturized, and healthy," says Masterson. "I set out to create Babyfacial because I wanted that post-peel glow without any of the downtime or any of the unnecessary and disruptive ingredients."
But back to the tingling. Though I'd almost washed it off early, the eye-opening, not-quite-painful sensation died down after around five minutes. "You’re feeling the built-up, dead skin cells being dissolved and broken down off your face!" explains Masterson. "Tingling isn’t always something to be expected, though. It really depends on how sensitive your skin is to glycolic acid — some experience tingling and some do not."
After rinsing it away, I skimmed my fingers over the surface of my face, just to check in on it — and was met with skin so smooth it was like someone had taken a floor polisher to my forehead. A 20-minute at-home facial achieved what my entire skincare regime hadn't before. I was floored, to say the least. "Babyfacial’s 25% AHA/2% BHA exfoliating blend was designed to work rapidly, dissolving dead skin cells and helping to unclog pores in just 20 minutes," Masterson notes (after I explained my magical results and asked how it could work so quickly).
It's been close to two weeks since that fateful FaceTime, and my skin is only just now starting to feel slightly less "fresh snow on a ski slope" smooth. I did experience redness around my nose and cheeks and skin purging around my mouth after — which "can happen when you start to use a new skincare product with active ingredients that increase skin cell turnover like AHAs or BHA," says Masterson. Both went away in a matter of days.
You're in luck if you want to try out the facial, too. Drunk Elephant now offers a limited-edition midi-sized T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial for $28 on its website; shop both small and regular versions below.
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