At 44, This Woman "Found Her Thing." Here's Her Advice On How You Can Too
Tiffany Masterson, founder of cult "clean-clinical" beauty brand Drunk Elephant, has learned a lot about skin care, non-toxic ingredients, and what makes a modern beauty business successful in the last four years. But perhaps most important, she's learned to listen to her gut.
The company hasn't spent any money on advertising, but boasts nearly 200,000 followers on Instagram, has landed best-seller status at Sephora, and has accepted more than $8 million from venture capital firm VMG Partners and Man Repeller's Leandra Medine. "I didn't find my thing until I was 44 years old," Masterson said. "We don’t always find our thing right away. Everyone has their time to shine—some are still percolating. Some come early, you never know. For me, I guess I kind of felt it. It's exciting to find your passion."
Masterson started Drunk Elephant with very little experience in the beauty industry. She always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but once all of her kids were in school, she conquered boredom by selling bar soap facial cleansers. After using the bar herself, she noticed her skin problems faded—her pores looked smaller, rosacea subsided, and her skin was healthy. "It occurred to me that it wasn't what was in the bar, but what wasn't that made a difference."
Using this intel, Masterson looked for a skin care brand that didn't include irritants, endocrine disruptors, or sensitizers, but couldn't find one. "I used natural brands when I was pregnant, but now? I had brown spots. I don't care whats in it, I want my skin to look good," she said. In creating the vision for Drunk Elephant, Masterson looked to marry safety and efficacy—which may just be the future of "naturals."
"I knew in my gut and I felt very strongly that this brand would help people reconnect with their skin," she said. Even in spite of recent social media feuds and speculated mishaps, she's always stayed true to her vision. "If there's one thing I am, it's authentic. And that means I’m not scared of anything," she said.
Below, Masterson shares the four principles she believes helped her follow her gut, get comfortable in her own skin, and find success in a crowded market.
1. Follow your own intuition.
"Don’t compare yourself. Don't think of yourself as a competitor. When you do that, nobody can compete with you. Everything I do is from my gut. I chose the colors. I drew the logo myself. I name every product. I develop every product. It's cohesive because it’s only coming from one place. I have a lot of support, of course, but you have to believe in yourself."
2. Don't be afraid to be unconventional.
"People suggested plan Bs, they said, 'The industry does it this way,' 'We’ve never seen it done that way,' and 'No, we can’t do it.' Then I said 'OK, I'm going to go somewhere else and find a way.' It doesn’t feel conventional but let’s do it anyway—why not try it? You have to be so clear in your point of view and stay in your own lane."
3. Don't compromise.
"For Drunk Elephant, this means putting the product first. We don't advertise. We don't pay for sponsors. I believe if you have a good product, it will speak for itself. The products have to work! If it comes to cutting costs—don’t. If you’re gonna go full bore, go! You can have the very best packaging, very best ingredients, and very best products but the products you have to work or you have nothing."
4. Find projects that don't feel like work.
"[Drunk Elephant] didn’t feel like work to me. I could see with my own eyes and in my own skin that the products work. The philosophy makes sense to me. This is my thing, and I really believe this truly. If you don't really believe in your own stuff, that someone’s going to come along and see it."
In the same vein, check out these new, nontoxic fragrances you should know about.
Lindsay Kellner is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at New York University and earned a 200-hour yoga certification from Sky Ting. She is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” along with mbg’s Sustainability Editor, Emma Loewe.