Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream

What type of vitamin A and % is it?
Retinol at 1%

What skin is it best suited to?
A skin either already adjusted to strong retinols or a skin on the face of an owner willing to massively buffer it.

Where does it sit in the retinoid scale?*
*it belongs between these two*

Potential irritation level? (Out of 10)
10. Unless buffered.

What’s in it?
Water/Aqua/Eau, Glycerin, Coco-Caprylate, Stearic Acid, Coconut Alkanes, Glyceryl Stearate, Niacinamide, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Alcohol, Pentylene Glycol, Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil, Retinol, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Brassica Oleracea Acephala Leaf Extract, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Extract, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Chrysin, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Ceramide NP, Xanthophylls, Phytosphingosine, Phytosterols, Jojoba Esters, Physalis Pubescens Fruit Juice, Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate, Oryza Sativa (Rice Bran) Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Carthamus Tinctorium (Safflower) Seed Oil, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12, Cetyl Palmitate, Trehalose, Lauric Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Glucosamine HCL, Tocopheryl Acetate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Pisum Sativum (Pea) Extract, Tocopherol, Bambusa Vulgaris Leaf/Stem Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Trideceth-6 Phosphate, N-Hydroxysuccinimide, Ceteareth-20, Sodium Hydroxide, Laureth-23, Steareth-20, Propanediol, Chlorhexidine Digluconate, Polysorbate 20, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Chlorphenesin, Potassium Sorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin



Contraindications (other than pregnancy/breastfeeding) ?
Not suitable for sensitive skin, unless massively buffered.. read on.

Do you need to buffer it?
God yes.

What gives? Other ingredients etc?
Here’s the thing: There is a much longer story behind this product, one that is far too long to go into here, but suffice to say, as always, it’s easier in bullet-points:

  • All retinol, as an ingredient, is vegan. It’s man-made. This formula is vegan, which is great, but the marketing puts the word ‘vegan’ before the retinol ingredient, as if to send the message that other ‘retinol’ ingredients on the market are potentially made from animal derivatives. They are not.
  • The ingredient list is too long. I literally have nothing to add to that. OK I do. Vitamin A works brilliantly on its own. To my knowledge (and the knowledge of all the doctors, cosmetic scientists and bio engineers that I know), all the scientific, clinical testing done on vitamin A over the years was done on the ingredient. So we know it works. That’s a given. Adding niacinamide and hyaluronic acid is a nice touch and definitely beneficial. Throwing in a salad is unnecessary. The vitamin A is the dominant ingredient, let it do its thing without fighting for attention.
  • The usage instructions on their social media are, and I am not over-stating this, horrific.
    To quote the website/packaging: ‘Morning or night, apply a pea-size amount or less to clean, dry face, avoiding the eye area. May be mixed with any Drunk Elephant cream or oil. Limit initial use to once or twice a week, gradually increasing frequency to every other night, and then every night as tolerated. Always use a broad spectrum sunscreen. Avoid eye area.’
    Sounds fair enough right? (Except the morning part) That is until you go to Instagram where the shit really hits the fan.
    Nathan Rivas, Drunk Elephant’s Director of R&D (Research and Development), has a ‘how-to’ on how to use the DE retinol that I and many others have long taken issue with, namely thus:
  • Make your mind up mate (Nate).

    It's not about blocking your pores mate (Nate), it's about not getting vitamin A in your eye, you know, like your usage instructions say? And why would someone pay £50 and £54 for your targeted-concerns eye creams, to then have them all mushed up with an acid and a retinol that will absolutely affect their performance and potentially end up on their chin? Also, all silicones aren't occlusives. Scientifically proven not to be, despite being one of your 'Suspicious 6'.

    This makes no sense. That is all. If they are all designed to do the same thing and not challenge the skin's PH, why not have one product? Are you saying that your moisturisers have the same PH as your Framboos and BabyFacial? Because you know they don't. Unless of course, you want to share your clinical trials proving that using the different variations recommended does not alter the efficacy of the products, in which case, cushty. My bad.

    • I have had mixed reviews from readers on this. Some people absolutely love it, others have said, and I quote: ‘my f’ing face fell off’ (I have the pictures, this is not hyperbole.) I think if you are used to strong retinols and can easily access DE products, and are a fan of the brand (as am I), then go for it. However, if you are new to retinol, I would advise starting on a much ‘cleaner’ inci list (the irony of me saying this in a blog post about DE is not lost on me), such as a Medik8 or a SkinCeuticals for instance, and using it as literally all vitamin A products are recommended to be used, after cleansing, on dry skin, at night.
      Do not, under any circumstances, use any other retinol in your cabinet in the way DE advise you to use theirs. Just do not. Use it at night. Do not mix it with an acid. Do not mix it with an eye cream. And despite the marketing, DE do not have a special recipe that makes their’s different from the others. Vitamin A is one of the most researched and tested ingredients on the market, so advising different ways of using something as potent as a 1% retinol does not make you cool, trendy or forward-thinking, just a tad (ok a lot) irresponsible, in my humble (but correct) opinion.
      Which, by the way, is what the entire DE range is based on: opinion**. Normally totally cool, a lot of ranges are, but on this one, I will stick to the proven scientific facts. Retinol/vitamin A application was not broken, it did not need fixing.
    • And know that if you are experiencing great results from this, and using it the way they recommend, that’s great. I only want you to have great skin. But I would politely suggest that you are not getting the full benefits of either their retinol or their acids, vitamin c etc when you make a ‘cocktail’ and mix them all together.*

    You Need This IF:
    You don’t give a shit about my opinion (fair), or you love love love Drunk Elephant (also fair), want vegan and want a strong retinol, or have used a strong retinol in the past and are past the retinization stage. Fantastic. Crack on.

    You don’t need this if:
    You want a simpler formula, a more affordable formula, or you want to start easy. Plenty of other options in the link below.

    DRUNK ELEPHANT A-PASSIONI is £62.00 and available from (no affiliate DE links):

    Cult Beauty.com
    Drunk Elephant

    And Sephora US but we can’t see that in the UK, or link to them and give them business. Muppets.

    Nathan Rivas’ Instagram is here: instagram/rivas_nathan

    *Somewhere, Albert Kligman is spinning like a Tasmanian devil in his grave.

    **Tiffany Masterson says this in her interview with me here.

    *** Dr Dray’s review is here, if you want a second opinion.

    All of my previous retinol posts can be found here: CH/retinol

    And finally, yes I am catching up on the long-promised retinol individual reviews. This was one of the most-requested.

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