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We're positive you've heard of The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant before; particularly their wide range of cult-favorite serums at the very least. But which one should you choose?

Today, we will be comparing The Ordinary vs Drunk Elephant to help you figure out which brand better suits you and your skin!

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> Marula Oil

> Peeling Solution

> Retinol

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About the brands

The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant have been compared on social media for as long as skincare influencers have been around, with The Ordinary often labeled as the dupe of Drunk Elephant.

In 2018, The Ordinary even started a feud with Drunk Elephant when it posted an advertisement for its popular Marula Oil product with the caption - "One would have to be drunk to overpay for Marula," causing a stir on Instagram.

Eventually, the founder of DECIEM apologized for the distasteful post, even going so far as to donate $25,000 to the elephant rescue charity that Drunk Elephant supports. So, lets see how these two brands compare when it comes to three of their much loved skincare products.

The Ordinary

The Ordinary is highly regarded as a no-fuss simple skincare line that is affordable and, most importantly, effective. The brand is owned by an umbrella company called DECIEM, The Abnormal Beauty Company.

The Ordinary has been certified vegan by PETA and cruelty-free by The Leaping Bunny. High-quality products at affordable prices is exactly what The Ordinary are out to achieve. With most of their best-selling products costing US $30.00 or less, the brand has put the active ingredients over luxurious packaging and the minimal look has done very well for DECIEM.

The Ordinary have only been around since 2006, but since the beginning, don’t let that turn you away. The sometimes scientific names can be confusing for those new to The Ordinary, but this is one of the brand’s notable efforts to be straightforward with the ingredients in each product.

Find the best The Ordinary prices on Amazon

Drunk Elephant

Biocompatible Skincare is founded on the Drunk Elephant myth, which tells of how elephants love to eat the fruit that has fallen from Marula trees and the natural alcohol content from the fermented marula fruit gets the elephants drunk. You will find Marula Oil in most Drunk Elephant products, including the cult favorite Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil.

Drunk Elephant was created to provide a skincare line that avoids the suspicious six ingredients known to irritate sensitive skin, including:

  • Essential oils
  • Drying alcohols
  • Silicones
  • Chemical Sunscreens
  • Fragrances/Dyes
  • SLS

According to Drunk Elephant, “there are six culprits that are at the root of almost all skin problems. If you take a break from the Suspicious 6, your skin can reset to its happiest, healthiest state.”

In 2019, Drunk Elephant was acquired by Shiseido for a staggering $845 million and the name frequently makes the top-10 skincare best-sellers list at Sephora.

Find the best Drunk Elephant prices on Amazon

The Ordinary vs Drunk Elephant Serums

When it comes to treating dull, dehydrated, tired skin conditions, there are many ways to use active ingredients that target specific concerns. In this section, we'll be comparing some of The Ordinary's and Drunk Elephant's best-selling treatments packed with premium active ingredients, side-by-side.

Best Marula Oil

Marula oil is a type of emollient that works wonders on the skin and has been hailed as a multitasker for a range of skin issues. Packed with vitamin C and vitamin E, Marula oil is fantastic at locking in moisture, softening the skin, and keeping it hydrated throughout the day. Marula oil is ideal for sensitive skin and suitable for daily use.

There are three key benefits that you might find work wonders in your skincare routine:

  1. Non-Comedogenic: Marula oil wont clog pores and is suitable for acne-prone skin.
  2. Fatty acids: Similar to the profile of our skin, Marula oil contains fatty acids that can offer an additional layer of protection.
  3. Oil Balancing: Marula oil works to help balance oil production due to the high amount of oleic acid.

Let's compare two of the most popular Marula Facial Oils side-by-side; Drunk Elephant Marula Oil vs The Ordinary Marula Oil.

The Ordinary is well known for the single ingredient formulas that provide a solution to sensitive skin types and those with hyper-reactive skin so there is no need to worry about decoding the ingredient list.

The Ordinary Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil formula uses 100% Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil - also known as Marula oil. It is vegan-friendly, cruelty-free, silicone-free, and gluten-free.

Apply the product to your face, neck, hands or work through damp hair as a treatment to add nourishment and hydration any time of the day.

Drunk Elephant have also gone with a single ingredient formula derived from 100% Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil. Free of essential oils, silicones, and fragrance, the Drunk Elephant Marula Luxury Facial Oil is suitable for sensitive skin.

In addition, Marula oil works wonders for oily skin because it is non-greasy and fast-absorbing.

Drunk Elephant is significantly more expensive (almost 7x the price!) than the seemingly identical product from The Ordinary. One notable difference; the packaging. Skincare brands are often priced higher due to the expectation of luxurious packaging so if you aren’t bothered by the no frills glass dropper bottle, The Ordinary Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil should do the job!

100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil, daily support formula for hair and skin.

100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil by The Ordinary

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Daily support formula for hair and skin.

What makes it special? Referred to as a "luxury" oil by some, this antioxidant-rich oil is obtained from the kernels of the fruits of Marula tree. It's mostly composed of oleic acid and linoleic acid but also contains procyanidin, catechins and flavanoids. Marula oil offers antioxidants, hydrates the skin and is claimed to help restore a radiant tone. This formula contains only cold-pressed virgin African Marula oil that is 100% unrefined.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

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Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil by Drunk Elephant, nourishes and balances while restoring a youthful glow.

Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil by Drunk Elephant

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Nourishes and balances while restoring a youthful glow.

What makes it special? Straight from the pip of the marula fruit, Drunk Elephant's pure, unrefined oil is virtually untouched by any chemical or fragrance, natural or synthetic. This super-absorbable oil will quickly sink in and diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles. Appropriate for all skin, including the most sensitive. This marula oil contains greater concentrations of polyphenols than dark chocolate or green or black teas, which means a powerful antioxidant defense against pollution and damaging environmental free radicals.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

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Best Peeling Solution

Peeling solutions are a great way to exfoliate and reveal glowing skin. Still, this combination may not work for everyone; remember, it is often trial and error when introducing active ingredients to your beauty routine.

Two of the best peeling solutions available on the market are The Ordinary Peeling Solution vs Drunk Elephant Babyfacial.

Formulated with 30% alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic/lactic/tartaric/citric) and 2% beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid), The Ordinary solution contains many serious ingredients that exfoliate the skin. A peeling solution offers a deeper exfoliation to remove blocked pores and reduce the appearance of fine lines.

  • Hyaluronic acid crosspolymer (comforting to the skin)
  • Vitamin B5 (assists with healing)
  • Black carrot (antioxidant properties)
  • Tasmanian pepper berry (reduces irritation)

The Ordinary does not recommend this product for sensitive skin or skin that does not react well to acid peels. In addition, compromised skin is not ideal for acid exfoliation. The pH of this formula is approximately 3.6.

Formulated with 25% AHA and 2% BHA plus a unique blend of glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acid; Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial offers effective yet gentle exfoliation.

As if it were made for dull skin, this 20-minute at-home facial by Drunk Elephant works to unclog blocked pores, reduce the look of fine lines, revealing brighter skin.

  • Chickpea flour (brightens skin tone)
  • Pumpkin ferment extract (gently exfoliates)
  • Matcha tea (antioxidant properties)
  • Milk thistle (soothing to the skin)
  • Pomegranate extract (fights against pollution)

Although this product has been made with all skin types in mind, it is still an acid and is not ideal for compromised skin, hyper-reactive skin, or sunburn. The pH of this formula is 3.5.

Suppose you have sensitive skin or are new to exfoliating acids. In that case, the Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial may be the better choice over The Ordinary Peeling Solution, which is intended for deep exfoliation.

AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution by The Ordinary, a very high concentration of free acids for exfoliation.

AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution by The Ordinary

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

A very high concentration of free acids for exfoliation.

What makes it special? Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) exfoliate the skin's topmost surface for a brighter and more even appearance. Beta hydroxy acids (BHA) also exfoliate the skin with an extended function to help clear pore congestion. This combined 30% AHA and 2% BHA solution offers deeper exfoliation to help fight visible blemishes and for improved skin radiance. The formula also improves the appearance of skin texture and reduces the look of fine lines with continued use.

Which skin types? This formula should NOT be used on sensitive, peeling or compromised skin.

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TLC Sukari Babyfacial by Drunk Elephant, an extra nudge for stubborn, dull skin.

TLC Sukari Babyfacial by Drunk Elephant

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

An extra nudge for stubborn, dull skin.

What makes it special? This next-generation mask is an at-home “facial” that effectively yet gently exfoliates the pore lining and resurfaces by getting rid of built-up dead skin cells. With a whopping 25% AHA / 2% BHA blend of the dream team glycolic, tartaric, lactic, citric, and salicylic acids, this pro-quality formula dramatically smooths texture while minimizing the look of pores, fine lines, and wrinkles. Uniquely formulated with chickpea flour, pumpkin ferment, and a soothing antioxidant blend of matcha tea, milk thistle, and apple, Babyfacial™ delivers incredible brightening and enzymatic action, improves skin’s elastic feel, and reveals the look of a more even, radiant, baby-soft complexion.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

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Best Retinol

Retinol comes from two sources; animal sources called retinoids and carotenoids from plants. A range of prescription medications used to treat various skin conditions, including acne, contain retinoids (synthetic Vitamin A) such as Isotretinoin (Accutane). Vitamin A supplements are also available over the counter.

Retinol is, in fact, an antioxidant that encourages the skin to produce collagen. As a cosmetic ingredient, Retinol (Vitamin A) will be found in the ingredient list as retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, or retinaldehyde.

Retinol is typically found in a range of acne/blemish-prone or anti-aging products in skincare. Retinol works to treat both of these conditions by increasing cell renewal and exfoliating the skin. In addition, Retinol can be used to treat age spots, soften rough patches, reduce blemishes, and stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin.

Let's compare two of the most popular retinol products side-by-side; Drunk Elephant Retinol vs The Ordinary Retinol in Squalane.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane solution contains 1% pure retinol. If you are new to using retinol in your skincare routine, do not start with the 1% solution. Instead, it is best to start with the 0.2% or 0.5% version before graduating to the 1% solution.

Retinol can cause skin sensitivity, redness, tingling, irritation, and your skin may need to build its tolerance.

The Ordinary offers a range of Retinol Solutions so you can start where you feel your skin can tolerate the active ingredients and stay with the same brand as your skin requires an upgrade.

Containing 1.0% retinol, the Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol (which is suitable for vegans) offers a way to revitalize dull skin. The difference between The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant is the ingredient list. The Ordinary has fewer ingredients when compared to the lengthy ingredient list in the Drunk Elephant formula. In addition to the retinol, Drunk Elephant includes additional plant-based ingredients:

  • Passionfruit (soothing)
  • Apricot (soothing)
  • Marula oil (hydrating)
  • Jojoba oils (soothing)
  • Kale (antioxidant properties)
  • Winter cherry (antioxidant properties)

This is definitely value for money in our opinion, making the Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol our preference out of the two, but too many ingredients can make it difficult for those with sensitive skin to know which ingredient is irritating. So, if you have sensitive skin, you may prefer to try The Ordinary retinol range that starts at just 0.2%.

Retinol 1% In Squalane by The Ordinary, highly-stable, water-free solution of 1% direct retinol.

Retinol 1% In Squalane by The Ordinary

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Highly-stable, water-free solution of 1% direct retinol.

What makes it special? This water-free solution contains 1% pure Retinol, an ingredient that can reduce the appearances of fine lines, of photo damage and of general skin aging. While Retinol has been studied extensively, it is irritating to the skin and newer technologies exist that mimic the visible effects of Retinol without causing skin irritation. For this reason, we generally recommend using Granactive Retinoid 2% or Granactive Retinoid 5% instead of this formula.

Which skin types? For all skin types except sensitive skin types.

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A-Passioni Retinol by Drunk Elephant, like a reboot of your skin back to its healthiest, most youthful state.

A-Passioni Retinol by Drunk Elephant

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Our rating: ★★★★★

Price: $$$$

Like a reboot of your skin back to its healthiest, most youthful state.

What makes it special? Retinol and supportive peptides restore bounce, resilience, and a brighter clarity to skin while helping to even skin tone and texture—without the associated redness and irritation. Vitamin F and a blend of comforting passionfruit, apricot, marula, and jojoba oils replenish essential lipids and moisture, while antioxidant-packed kale, winter cherry, and xanthophylls help defend against environmental stressors.

Which skin types? For all skin types.

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The Ordinary vs Drunk Elephant Conclusion

In summary, both The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant offer a great range of products to treat dull, tired, dehydrated skin, so this will come down to two things; price tag and skin type.

The Ordinary offers simple, no-fuss, solutions for a range of skin conditions at very affordable prices.

Find the best The Ordinary prices on Amazon

Drunk Elephant offers a range of luxurious skincare products at a higher price point, but the quality is highly reviewed and is constantly rated as a must-try skincare line.

Find the best Drunk Elephant prices on Amazon

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