When I think “hip, but effective” skincare, I immediately think of Drunk Elephant. Emerging on the scene a few years ago with their ever-popular, yet effective Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Acid Serum, the brand that is the brainchild of ingredient-conscious founder and CEO Tiffany Masterson has struck gold again with their new Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask.
The Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask is a clever mix of 25% AHAs as glycolic acid, tartaric acid, lactic acid, and citric acid, plus 2% BHA. According to the company, the product is designed to work as a mask that “works as a “facial” to reveal greater clarity, improved skin texture and tone, and a more youthful-looking radiance.”
Glycolic Acid is a Cult Favorite for a Reason
Glycolic acid is probably one of the most oft misunderstood skincare ingredients out there.
Most people associate glycolic acid with chemical peels, where dermatologists and aestheticians apply concentrations of glycolic acid of about 30 percent to the skin to increase exfoliation, improve the look of fine lines and wrinkles, and reduce the look and formation of age spots (Skin Therapy Letter). Both in vitro and in vivo tests have shown it to increase collagen production, fibroblast proliferation, and cell turnover rates (Dermatologic Surgery).
However, as anyone who remembers Sex and the City knows from that episode where Samantha gets a “refreshing” chemical peel and ends up looking like a lobster, too much glycolic acid can be a bad thing. And if you’ve ever gotten or even considered a chemical peel, you remember all of the warnings about UV exposure. Highly concentrated glycolic acid does temporarily thin the skin, so it’s essential to use it with UV protection.
Typically, when you’re dealing with skin irritation or higher photosensitivity, you’re dealing only with clinical strength of glycolic acid (around 30-70%). But at concentrations of glycolic acid that are typically over the counter, you still get many of the skin-smoothing, exfoliating, wrinkle appearance-reducing effects of glycolic acid — but without many of the side effects. In fact, at concentrations of 10%, glycolic acid is typically moisturizing, because it increases the skin’s supply of hyaluronic acid, and hyaluronic acid can hold 1000 times its weight in water. This makes glycolic acid indirectly a humectant for the skin!
The clever part of Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask is that it is 25% glycolic + tartaric + lactic + citric acids, so you’re not getting all of the potency of just 25% glycolic acid. Instead, I estimate this is somewhere in the ballpark of 15% glycolic acid, which is still high, but not so high that you’ll burn off or damage your skin. Keep in mind that 25% glycolic acid would be more potent that 25% of an AHA mixture because glycolic acid is the smallest of the alpha hydroxy acids and would penetrate the skin more deeply than the others, hence having more potency.
Lactic Acid is Actually a Hydrating, Skin-Refining Ingredient
So, as long as you’re using glycolic acid in a reasonable, non-skin burning concentration, you’ll get hydrating effects from it, because it increases skin’s production of hyaluronic acid.
Similarly, lactic acid is actually a hydrating ingredient, so much that one of the only prescription formulations FDA approved for dry skin, LacHydrin, has lactic acid (12%) as the main ingredient. Pretty impressive!
I tend to think of lactic acid as glycolic acid’s gentler cousin. Both have been shown to increase cell turnover and improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots, but lactic acid does not penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid does (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology).
So why does Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask contain lactic acid at all, and not just glycolic acid? Or vice versa? Well, it’s not just to sound fancy (although I “T.C.” doesn’t sound nearly as cool as “T.L.C.,” I’ll admit). The truth of the matter is, lactic acid naturally increases skin’s hydration levels more than glycolic acid alone, whereas glycolic acid increases skin’s firmness and reduces skin sagging and lactic acid alone does not.
Gram/Chickpea Flour is a Kinda Cute, Kinda Hip Waste of Space — Except for Oily Skin
It is true, Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask would be complete with just the 25% concentration of four AHAs and nothing else. But it didn’t stop there. It includes hip Millennial ingredients like chickpea flour and pumpkin extract.
Look, I feel like I’m saying this everyday — most plant extracts do absolutely nothing for the skin because your skin is not capable of breaking the plant extract down into its beneficial constituent parts. A plant atop the skin is read as, well, simple protein, whereas in the digestive tract, it’s read and absorbed as vitamin, vitamin, micronutrient, anthocyanin, blah blah blah, good stuff, good stuff.
That said, at least gram/chickpea flour will absorb excess oil without looking dull on the skin. That said, it makes Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask less acceptable for those with ultra-dry skin, although somewhat more desirable of a product for those with oily/acne-prone skin. (Note: If I was formulating a product like this with my team for you, we wouldn’t have included the chickpea flour unless you said you had very oily/acne-prone skin!)
Personal Use and Opinions
This product honestly reminds me of an old favorite of mine from years ago, MaMa Lotion, which contained 20% AHAs as mandelic and malic acids. I swore by MaMa Lotion anytime it looked like my skin needed a little love, but since it has been discontinued years ago (and isn’t even available from third-party retailers anymore), I will depend on Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask when my skin needs some TLC (get it, TLC?! Ohhh…so bad!)
I definitely recommend Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™ Mask as a once per week facial mask for those who aren’t used to glycolic acid, and every other night for those who are.
Ingredients in Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial™
Water, Glycolic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Salicylic Acid, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract, Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract, Opuntia Ficus-Indica Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Silybum Marianum Seed Extract, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Powder, Cicer Arietinum Seed Powder, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium PCA, Allantoin, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Dextrin, Polydextrose, Sorbitan Isostearate, Amylopectin, Niacinamide, Phytosphingosine, Lactic Acid, Propanediol, Citric Acid, Titanium Dioxide, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Polysorbate 60, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol.
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