Tatcha and Drunk Elephant are both major players in the luxury skincare market, and while Tatcha may win out on sustainability and ethics, Drunk Elephant attempt to win you over with their fragrance-free, biocompatible formulas.
Below, we discuss all the major considerations when deciding between these two brands.
Bold, bright colors; think a preschooler’s super-chic building blocks. Crisp white bodies with punchy, colorfullids, clean bold type and geometric shapes. Fun and eye-catching, they look like a rainbow lined up side-by-side. You want to collect them all.
These products look like they belong to Jasmine in Aladdin. Beautiful lilacs and jades or pearly whites, soft curves, gold accents, and hidden flowers that emerge from beneath the gauzy material as you look closer. Inspired by Japanese tradition, including geishas – that is most obvious when looking at the packaging.
DE doesn’t use the ingredients it refers to as the ‘suspicious 6’: essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, and sodium lauryl sulfate. With the exception of their zinc sunscreens (which work as a physical barrier), they blend their skincare products to be ‘biocompatible’, meaning that all the ingredients will absorb into your skin and work as they’re intended without causing harm to your living tissue.
However, proving biocompatibility isn’t easy, we all have different skin types and reactions to ingredients that may even be widely seen as harmless to our skin. just because a brand claims biocompatibility doesn’t mean you can avoid testing a small sample of the product on your skin before applying it more widely.
Tatcha describe their ingredients as ‘natural Japanese ingredients’, and say that each product contains a combination of superfoods, amino acids, and AHAs called Hadasai-3, which comprises twice-fermented rice, green tea and algae.
Superfoods like these are becoming widely used in skin care as well as in our diet because they are believed to have a number of beneficial properties. Superfoods often have anti-inflammatory qualities, antioxidants, amino acids and healthy oils. It’s not really possible to prove how effective skin care products are in allowing your skin to soak up and make use of these ingredients but it’s nice to think that the more superfood, healthy natural ingredients has, the better it’s likely to be than skin care full of chemicals or toxins.
Aside from these, Tatcha uses more industry-standard ingredients such as squalane, glycerine and various botanical extracts. They do contain some synthetic ingredients where it aids the efficacy of the products, and their products mostly contain fragrance.
Cult Products Comparison
Drunk Elephant’s cult product is the Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil. Marula oil is the ingredient that gave this brand its logo and name (elephants get drunk on fermented Marula fruit, apparently!); dermatologists rave about its anti-aging and microbial properties.
Click the product image above to view on Amazon
For Tatcha, it’s either the Aburatorigami blotting papers inspired by the ones used by geishas, or The Water Cream. The Water Cream is a lightweight moisturiser boasting Tatcha’s Hadasei-3 anti-ageing complex, and beauty editors love that it’s weightless and fast-absorbing. Just look at The water cream container and you’ll feel like you are on a refreshing feminine spa day.
Click the image above to view on Amazon
Sustainability – Which brand are better for the environment
DE is somewhat opaque on their sustainability practices and don’t say a whole lot about it on their website. According to ethicalelephant.com, they don’t claim to be a sustainable company. DE say their packaging is recyclable unless it has a pump.
Tatcha engages in carbon offsetting for the transport of all customer orders and shipments of their products; they claim their goal is ‘100% reusable, refillable or compostable by 2023.’ They use plastic but are aiming to reduce virgin plastics, and already only use FSC papers. Tatcha have a large amount of information about their sustainability practices, goals and impact available on their website.
Price – Do tatcha or Drunk Elephant offer better value
Tatcha products range from around $200 for the Ageless Enriching Renewal Cream to around $12 for a sheet mask or Aburatorigami papers. The brands average product is around the $50-70 range for a full size bottle (30-50ml).
Drunk Elephant’s products range from around $90 for 30ml of their TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum (although most products are also available in 50ml) to around $18 for their Lippe Balme. $35-$65 for 30ml of product is about average.
Ethics and controversies
Drunk Elephant have found themselves at the centre of a few controversies, including what many considered to be a substandard contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement. They were acquired by a parent company (Shiseido) that tests on animals, and also endured a maelstrom around their social media and customer service practices that included deletion of negative comments and black-listing of influencers that reported negative comments about their products.
Tatcha supports Room to Read, a fund designed to help girls stay in school in Asia and Africa, and also supports RTR’s initiative to bring diverse books to underserved communities in the US. They report that purchases of Tatcha products have thus far contributed almost 6 million days of school for girls in the RTR program.
However, Tatcha is now also owned by a parent company (Unilever) that tests on animals. There has also been some criticism around what some see as Tatcha’s ‘fetishizing’ of Japanese culture and tradition as part of their origin story; the founder, Vicky Tsai, is American of Taiwanese descent.
Final comparison of Tatcha and Drunk Elephant
If a products appearance matters to you then you’ll be choosing between the bold, bright and eccentric colours of Drunk elephant and the more feminine, oriental tones of Tatcha. In the brands eye makeup collections and makeup products these differences matter most because as you know makeup is all about matching your own style with the colours on offer in a collection.
Both Tatcha and Drunk elephant claim some level of clean beauty in their ingredients list, which is one of the factors that leads us to compare the brands in the first place. Tatcha promote their asian inspired superfoods ingredients list that even includes a really unfamiliar ingredient, fermented algae!
Drunk elephant offer no opportunity for getting drunk in their ingredients list but they do claim to be biocompatible and in my opinion offer the more natural ingredients list when compared with Tatcha’s oriental inspired ingredients list. Although it’s a close call, with both brands experimenting and looking to use unique ingredients.
We recently compared Mad hippie with Drunk elephant and found that those brands offer a really interesting comparison with their approach to beauty closely aligned in many ways, even more so than Tatcha.