drunk elephant protini polypeptide cream review

You know me, I’d never buy a cream just because it contains peptides. Marketing hype aside, there’s still not enough scientific evidence to convince me they’re the best thing for anti-aging. And yet, I wouldn’t hesitate to splurge on Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream.

WTH? Did I lose my marbles?

Nope. Peptides may be the stars of the show, but this moisturiser has plenty more to offer you – especially if you have oily skin. So don’t let the name (or high price tag, for that matter) put you off. Here’s why this is one of the best moisturisers at Sephora:

About The Brand: Drunk Elephant

Did you know that Drunk Elephant is named after an urban legend? Rumour has it, elephants get drunk on the fruits of the marula tree – marula oil is the star ingredients in Drunk Elephant products. It’s not really true, but it makes for a fun marketing story.

But who’s the founder? Tiffany Masterson. A stay-at-home mum whose skin was easily irritated, she got into the skincare world by selling an imported soap to boost her income during the 2008 recession. She then did some research to find out what was causing her skin issues and she became convinced what she called the “Suspicious 6” were to blame.

  • Essential oils: Agree with Masterson, they have fragrant components that can be very irritating for sensitive skin.
  • Drying alcohols: This is more controversial. Alcohol like Alcohol Denat are only drying when used alone. In a moisturising formulation, they won’t hurt skin. But, there are other ingredients that thin the formula and enhance penetration of active ingredients that are better for skin.
  • Silicones: They fill in fine lines and wrinkles so they look smaller and give skin a soft and smooth feel. Silicones don’t suffocate skin or cause breakouts like critics claim. But they have no real benefits for skin either. I mean, they can make it look better, but the effect is only temporary. It’s like putting a plaster on a wrinkle, if you know what I mean.
  • Chemical sunscreens: The old generation of chemical UV filters still used in the US provides adequate sun protection, but can be irritating for sensitive skin. There are newer chemical UV filters that are both effective and gentle, but for some reason the FDA hasn’t approved any of them yet.
  • Fragrances/dyes: They can cause irritations in sensitive skin. 
  • SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate): A cleansing agent that removes dirt, makeup, and other impurities. But it’s harsh, drying, and irritating.

Before you know it, she started creating a skincare line free of these 6 ingredients. The rest, as they say, is history.

What’s In Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream?


Peptides are the anomaly in the skincare matrix. In theory they shouldn’t work – they’re too big to penetrate skin. In practice, studies claim they do something even when left on the surface of the skin.

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream contains a lot of peptides:

Keep in mind that most of the studies are done by the manufacturers. This is why I don’t recommend you buy a cream only because it has peptides yet (but they make for an interesting bonus).

Related: Types Of Peptides In Skincare: Which One Works Best For You?

Need help creating an anti-aging routine that really works? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Anti-Aging Skincare Routine Cheatsheet” (it includes product recommendations, too!).


Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins. They make up 75% of the human body!

They’re essentials to almost all of its functions, including the synthesis of collagen. There is no way skin can function without them.

And yet, everyone ignores them. Go figure. 🙄 Well, almost everyone. This cream is loaded with them:

  • Alanine: It hydrates skin.
  • Arginine: May help wounds and skin cell damage heal faster.
  • Glycine: Helps repair damaged tissue.
  • Histidine: Antioxidant, fights the free radicals that cause wrinkles and soothes inflammation.
  • Isoleucine: It helps repair the skin’s protective barrier.
  • Phenylalanine: It helps treat vitiligo.
  • Proline: Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and restores collagen synthesis after UV exposure.
  • Serine: It helps bind water into the skin.
  • Threonine: One of the key building blocks of collagen and elastin. It hydrates skin, too.
  • Valine: It hydrates skin.
  • Acetyl Glucosamine: An amino acid that’s a precursors of hydrating hyaluronic acid.
  • Aspartic Acid: It hydrates skin and helps build collagen.

Related: Why You Need To Add Amino Acids To Your Skincare Routine


Marula oil is the star ingredient in all Drunk Elephant products – and this moisturiser is no exception.

Derived from the nuts of the fruits of the Marula trees (a.k.a. Sclerocarya birrea), Marula oil is loaded with moisturising fatty acids, including linoleic and oleic acid.

Fatty acids create a barrier on the skin that slows down water loss, helping to keep skin hydrated for longer. Plus, it has its fair share of antioxidants to help you fight premature wrinkles, too.

That’s not all. Studies show that Linoleic acid also soothes inflammation, one of the main causes of acne and premature aging.

Related: 3 Little Known Ingredients That Can Help You Fight Acne

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Water/Aqua/Eau: The main solvent, it helps other ingredients dissolve in the formula.
  • Dicaprylyl Carbonate: An emollient that makes skin softer and smoother. It also helps to enhance the penetration of other ingredients, so they work better and faster.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that attracts and binds water to the skin to keep it hydrated.
  • Cetearyl Alcohol: An emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a product from separating.
  • Cetearyl Olivate: An oily ester of cetearyl alcohol and the fatty acids from olive oil. It’s an emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Sorbitan Olivate: Another emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Bacillus/Soybean/ Folic Acid Ferment Extract: It’s a skin-conditioning agent that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Nymphaea Alba Root Extract: Another skin-conditioning agent that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Coconut Alkanes: An alternative to silicones, it makes skin softer and smoother. It’s also a solvent that helps dissolve other ingredients.
  • Coco-Caprylate/Caprate: A lightweight emollient that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Sodium Hyaluronate: A form of Hyaluronic Acid, a moisture magnet that attracts and binds up to 1000 times its weight in water. All that moisture plumps up and softens skin.
  • Linoleic Acid: The most abundant fatty acid found in skin’s upper layers, it makes skin softer and smoother and has soothing properties, too.
  • Linolenic Acid: A skin-conditioning agent that makes skin softer and smoother. It also has some anti-inflammatory properties that soothe redness and irritations.
  • Lecithin: A versatile ingredient that functions as an emollient to make skin soft, a water-binding agent to boost hydration, and emulsifying agent to help water and oily blend together in a formula.
  • Butylene Glycol: A humectant that attracts and binds moisture to the skin to boost hydration. It also acts as a solvent to dissolve other ingredients in the formula.
  • Polyvinyl Alcohol: A gel-based thickener, film-forming, and binding agent. 
  • Sodium Lactate: It boosts hydration. It also helps to adjust the pH of a product.
  • Sodium PCA: It helps the upper layers of your skin retain moisture and stay hydrated.
  • PCA: An amino acid-derived ingredient that functions as a humectant that boosts hydration in the skin.
  • Sorbitan Isostearate: An emulsifier that helps stabilise oil-in-water formulations.
  • Carbomer: A thickening agent that also acts as an emulsfier to help oily and watery ingredients to blend together.
  • Polysorbate 20: An emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Polysorbate 60: Another emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Lactic Acid/Glycolic Acid Copolymer: It helps deliver active ingredients deeper into your skin, so they work better and faster.
  • Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer: It helps create beautiful, pleasant-to-use textures.
  • Xanthan Gum: It thickens the texture of skincare products.
  • Isomalt: A humectant that boosts skin hydration.
  • 1,2-Hexanediol: It’s a solvent for other ingredients that also hydrates skin and gives the formula a pleasant feel.
  • Caprylyl Glycol: It moisturises skin and has preservatives-like properties that helps extend the shelf life of your skincare products.
  • Chlorphenesin: It’s a preservative that prevents bacteria contamination, extends the shelf life of your skincare products, and neutralises bad smells.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that kills the germs and bacteria that can spoil your skincare products.
  • Tocopherol: A form of Vitamin E, this antioxidants also helps extend the shelf life of the moisturiser.
  • Sodium Benzoate: A preservative that prevents bacteria contamination.
  • Phenylpropanol: It has a floral scent that makes skincare products smell nice.
  • Glyceryl Caprylate: A 100% plant derived ingredient that moisturises skin, helps water and oil mix together beautifully and has strong antimicrobial activity
  • Symphytum Officinale Callus Culture Extract: It makes skin softer and smoother.


This cream has one of the best textures I’ve ever come across. It’s lightweight, almost gel-like and feels silky smooth between your fingers. It sinks in instantly without leaving a tacky residue behind. It’s just a pleasure to use.


It’s fragrance-free. I’m happy with this decision. I know products that smell like a bouquet of flowers are more pleasant to use, but fragrance is the most irritating ingredient used in skincare. It often causes irritations in sensitive skin. Leaving it out is always a good idea.

How To Use It

It’s a moisturiser, so you can use it both in the morning and at night. In the morning, apply it in between serum and sunscreen. At night, it’s the last step of your skincare routine. Unless you’re using an oil. Then, you either mix the oil with this or on top of moisturiser.


The moisturiser comes in a sleek, white jar with a green cap. It’s not just pretty to look at, it’s practical, too. The jar is airless, so you need to press down on the lid to pump out the product. This is genius: the ingredients are never exposed to light and air, keeping them safe and effective for longer. If only all jars were like this!

Performance & Personal Opinion

I’m in love with the texture of Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream. It’s so incredibly lightweight you’d think it’d be runny but nope. It just sinks into your skin instantly and spreads like a dream.

Once in, it makes my skin softer than a baby’s. It has all the velvety feel of silk, but without the greasiness of oils or the plastic feel of silicones. I honestly can’t stop touching my face.

It makes it plumper, too. It’s a trick that makes fine lines and wrinkles look smaller. Plus, the extra hydration gives skin that as-if-lit-from-within glow.

It basically does everything a good moisturiser should do – but better. You have to try it to believe it. But only try it if you can afford the splurge – you’ll want to get the full size, trust me on this!

I can’t say it firmed my skin, but honestly I wasn’t expecting that. As I mentioned, the studies on peptides aren’t solid yet. But combined with amino acids, they do help skin behave like it naturally should – you know, if we weren’t exposed every day to pollution, unhealthy foods, smoking and all the other things that hurt it.

If you have oily skin, this is perfect for you. It gives you all the moisture your skin needs without too much extra oil. Very dry skin? You may want to try something richer.

Is your skin type in between? You’ll dig this, too.

drunk elephant protini polypeptide cream

How Does Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream Compare To The Other Drunk Elephant Moisturisers?

Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream is my fave moisturiser from the brand. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the best option for YOUR skin. Here’s what else is available from Drunk Elephant:

  • Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream ($60.00): A super rich cream loaded with natural oils, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid to make even the driest of skin types softer and smoother. If you have dry skin or a compromised skin barrier, this will heal it quickly. Oily skin? This may cause breakouts. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, and Ulta.
  • Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil ($68.00): 100% unrefined marula oil, this oil strengthens your skin’s protective barrier, deeply moisturises skin, and plumps up fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also loaded with antioxidants to fight premature aging. If you have dry skin, and prefer an oil to a moisturiser, this is a great option for you. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK and Ulta.

What I Like About Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream

  • Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin.
  • Silky, lightweight texture – no greasy finish.
  • Moisturising, makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Makes a great base for makeup.
  • Plumps up skin, so fine lines and wrinkles look smaller.
  • Gives skin a subtle glow.
  • Fragrance-free.
  • Beautiful and airless jar packaging.

What I DON’T Like About Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream

  • Some of the peptides here haven’t been proven to do much.
  • The price.

Who Should Use This?

Everyone can use it, but it’s best suitable for oily skin. The lightweight texture is great for your skin and plumps it up without adding more oil. Only for very dry skin, this isn’t moisturising enough for you.

Does Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream Live Up To Its Claims?

This breakthrough protein moisturizer combines an unprecedented array and concentration of signal peptides, growth factors, supportive amino acids and pygmy waterlily for visible and immediate improvement in the appearance of skin’s tone, texture and firmness.Mostly true. It can improve skin’s texture, but I didn’t see a different in firmness. But, pleas note that anything that moisturises skin can immediately improve the appearance of skin.
Lines, wrinkles and signs of sun-damage appear reduced and skin feels strengthened and moisturized. Pay close attention to the words “appear” and “feels”. Drunk Elephant doesn’t claim the cream can reduce sun damage etc, but only that it looks and feels like it can. And that’s true.

Is Drunk Elephant Cruelty-Free?

Yes, Drunk Elephant is cruelty-free. They don’t test on animals, neither themselves or through a third-party.

Price & Availability

$68.00/£57.00at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

I hesitate to call it a must-have, but it’s one of my top moisturiser picks for oily and combination skin. If you get it, you won’t be disappointed.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Acure Radically Rejuvenating Whipped Night Cream ($19.99): This cream contains a lot of the same peptides as Drunk Elephant, plus antioxidants to fight premature aging. The texture is creamier and richer, so better for dry skin. Available at iHerb and UIta.


Water/Aqua/Eau, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Bacillus/Soybean/ Folic Acid Ferment Extract, Nymphaea Alba Root Extract, sh-Oligopeptide-1, sh-Oligopeptide-2, sh-Polypeptide-1, sh-Polypeptide-9, sh-Polypeptide-11, Copper Palmitoyl Heptapeptide-14, Heptapeptide-15 Palmitate, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Alanine, Arginine, Glycine, Histidine, Isoleucine, Phenylalanine, Proline, Serine, Threonine, Valine, Acetyl Glutamine, Coconut Alkanes, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Aspartic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Lecithin, Butylene Glycol, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Sodium Lactate, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sorbitan Isostearate, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 60, Lactic Acid/Glycolic Acid Copolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Isomalt, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopherol, Sodium Benzoate, Phenylpropanol, Glyceryl Caprylate, Symphytum Officinale Callus Culture Extract