Famed for their transformative skincare products packed with efficacious actives, both Kiehl's and Drunk Elephant are more than worthy of occupying some shelf space in your bathroom.
Come with us as we compare their best-selling moisturizers and serums side-by-side to help you decide which is best for you and your skincare routine. Enjoy!
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Kiehl's vs Drunk Elephant
A Vitamin C serum is only as good as the moisturizer that follows it, as they say. (No one actually says this, FYI. But it’s true!) Thus, it’s critical to find two quality formulas to get the most out of your skincare routine.
Luckily, there are myriad brands that now have their own stellar Vitamin C and hydrating cream formulas to thwart skin aging and correct issues like dryness and uneven texture. So, we wanted to highlight two pairings of our choice that we think you’ll like: Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Vitamin C Serum and Ultra Facial Cream in addition to Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Fresh Day Serum and Protini Polypeptide Cream.
Now, let’s find your new daily duo, shall we?
Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum is safe for all skin types and aims to diminish fine lines and wrinkles. It’s made with 12.5% Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to promote cell turnover while plumping the skin. (Hot tip: wait five to seven minutes before applying other products so the serum can be fully absorbed.)
Their Ultra Facial Cream is an extra thick solution that’s formulated with 4.5% squalene and glacial glycoprotein. Also ideal for all skin types, it provides 24-hour hydration to the dermis and strengthens skin’s moisture barrier for softer, smoother skin.
Drunk Elephant also has a Vitamin C potion—their C-Firma Fresh Day Serum—which is created with 15% Vitamin C, 0.5% ferulic acid, 1% Vitamin E, fruit enzymes, and nutrients to firm, brighten, and improve signs of aging. What’s more is that it’s designed with two bottles to be mixed by the consumer to maximize the potency of its ingredients while keeping the formula fresh.
Further, the Protini Polypeptide Cream complements the serum by providing growth factors, supportive amino acids, and pygmy waterlily for immediate overall improvement in skin’s tone, texture, and overall appearance.
Both pairings sound promising, but let’s see what the reviews have to say. Kiehl’s Vitamin C serum has 4.5 stars with 1,350 reviews and their facial cream has earned a 4.7-star rating after 6,142 reviews. Drunk Elephant’s serum has a 4.5-star rating and 1,397 reviews, while the cream has 4.6 stars and 196 reviews.
Also, we’d be remiss to not discuss pricing. 2.5 oz of Kiehl’s serum is $100 and 4.2oz of the cream is $67, while Drunk Elephant’s two-part Vitamin C serum is $78 and their Protini cream is $68 for 1.7oz.
The (small) difference in ratings makes this a close race, but the pricing has a bit more influence over where we’re leaning. Before we make any purchases, though, we’re curious about each brand’s business ethics.
We wanted to note that Kiehl’s is not a vegan brand, and according to Cruelty Free Kitty, they may test their products on animals either themselves or through a supplier or third-party. However, their dedication to eco-friendly manufacturing and generous philanthropic efforts are impressive. They’ve begun creating their formulas with at least three renewable ingredients (which means they can be replenished or regrown), and their raw ingredients are sourced from responsible farms in over 600 communities globally.
Over 80% of their packaging is made from post-consumer recycled materials and 73% of our products don’t use secondary packaging. Kiehl’s also has a slew of refillable formulas to reduce the consumption of plastic bottles. Not to mention, they use 100% renewable electricity in manufacturing their products.
Regarding giving back, Kiehl’s partners with amazing non-profits such as Gyrl Wonder, The Trevor Project, and Feeding America. In working with these charities, they’ve offered cross-cultural mentorship to young women; offered funding to a LGBTQ youth suicide hotline; and provide more than 8 million meals to people in need.
In terms of clean beauty approaches, Drunk Elephant omits the “Suspicious 6” from all their formulas. This means their products are made without essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, or sodium lauryl sulfate. Moreover, we couldn’t find much about their sustainability initiatives on their site, but according to a report from BeautyPackaging.com, Drunk Elephant launched the first fully recyclable packaging in April 2020. Ethical Elephant also shared that the company is certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny and PETA, but they’re not 100% vegan. While this is all well and good, it’s unclear if Drunk Elephant is tied to any charitable causes.
TBH, it sucks that Kiehl’s isn’t yet cruelty-free, but at least they’ve made strides in other areas that matter. Drunk Elephant are less public about their own ethics, but what we’ve found is still admirable. And since we loathe animal testing, we’re going to side with the latter brand on this one.
Calum Torrington is the founder of FemmeNordic. He has worked as a beauty editor since 2020 and employs his analytical background in mathematics to thoroughly scrutinize complex INCI lists. Now, he helps over 1 million people per year to find the best beauty products.