Japanese cosmetic giant Shiseido inks $845M deal to buy this American-made skincare brand

Japanese multinational cosmetics company Shiseido just boosted its portfolio with an American skincare brand that’s coveted by millennials and hip beauty lovers. The brand’s name? It’s Drunk Elephant, and it cost the foreign business a whopping $845 million.

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For those who aren’t familiar, Drunk Elephant is a skincare line that was founded in 2013 by Texan entrepreneur Tiffany Masterson. The brand is centered around clean, nontoxic ingredients and uses marula oil in many of its products, which is also how it received a fun name rooted in the myth that elephants eat the fruit in African marula trees and get drunk.

Masterson likes to call Drunk Elephant “clean-clinical,” meaning it is formulated with potent active ingredients that are absorbable and pH balanced, according to the brand’s website. That philosophy landed the startup in Sephora stores in January of 2015.

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“We sold out of several of the products really, really fast. The original forecast for the year we did right away, and that was exciting and challenging. I had to learn how to get things more organized. Sephora has been an unbelievable partner, and I've been a good partner to them from the beginning, but I didn't have an interest in exploding. I didn't want to put the product everywhere.”

- Tiffany Masterson told fashion industry news website Fashionista in 2018.

The brand did blow up, however, once it hit the popular beauty retailer’s shelves. Since joining Sephora, Drunk Elephant has been a consistent best seller in the skincare category and has amassed a dedicated following of over 757,000 Instagram followers – even with a premium price point that can cost up to $134 for a single serum.

In 2018, Drunk Elephant was estimated to have earned more than $150 million in revenue from the sale of its 20 products – both online and in-store, according to industry news site Business of Fashion.

When it comes down to the multimillion-dollar acquisition, Masterson views the sale of Drunk Elephant to the $10.082 billion-dollar (¥1.095 trillion-yen) Shiseido as a positive.

“Every time we enter a new market we want to do it well. One of the reasons I wanted to partner with Shiseido, or even be acquired, is because there are so many regions that have been asking for the brand. A big company like Shiseido have been there and done that,” Masterson said in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

Drunk Elephant joins the ranks of Nars, Clé de Peau Beauté and Laura Mercier, all of which have been acquired to bolster Shiseido’s list of prestige brands and attract young shoppers in the U.S.

Here is a look at five best-selling Drunk Elephant products and how they have performed with consumers based off of online reviews.

1. T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask

This exfoliating mask removes dead skin for a brightened, even complexion, which has earned it an averaged rating of four and a half stars from reviewers on Sephora. It has also received awards from beauty publications like Allure Magazine.

2. Virgin Marula Antioxidant Face Oil

This luxury facial oil is made with an antioxidant-rich blend that is meant to moisturize skin and deliver a restorative glow. The oil has received an averaged rating of four and a half stars from reviewers on Sephora.

3. Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer

This hydrating moisturizer is formulated to address the signs of mature skin with rejuvenating ingredients. Specifically, it is said to help improve skin’s tone, texure and appearance. The cream has earned an averaged rating of four stars from Sephora reviewers.

4. C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum

This serum is a highly concentrated Vitamin C topical that is derived from fruit enzymes, which is meant for evening out skin tone, texture and elasticity. The potent liquid has received an averaged rating of four stars from the reviewers on Sephora.

5. D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops

This tinted moisturizer blurs the lines of makeup and skincare with its combined blend of hydration and hue. It creates a sunkissed glow that has impressed Sephora reviewers enough to earn the product an averaged rating of four and a half stars.