E.l.f. Cosmetics (which stands for Eyes, Lips, Face) is known for its affordable line of makeup products, but many don’t know that the brand also has a pretty extensive collection of skin care products. Elf skincare products can address concerns like dryness, blemishes, uneven skin tone, aging, and more.
Nearly all of the Elf skincare products cost less than $20, so you may be wondering if these products really work. In order to answer this question, we’re going to review the top 8 Elf skincare products with a scientific lens. That means we’ve evaluated the research that supports (or doesn’t support) the ingredients that you’ll find in these products. We’ll also share some Elf skincare reviews so you can get a better idea of what customers really think about these products.
What Are The Top 10 Best Elf Skincare Products?
Elf Holy Hydration Face Cream
- A lightweight face cream that absorbs quickly without feeling greasy
- Key ingredients include hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, squalane, peptides, and provitamin B5
- Claimed to help brighten and even out skin tone, lock in moisture and promote a plumped up, bouncy complexion
- Voted Best Face Moisturizer of 2020 by Healthline.com
Elf Holy Hydration Eye Cream
- A rich eye cream that absorbs quickly without feeling greasy
- Key ingredients include hyaluronic acid and peptides
- Claimed to moisturize the eye area while minimizing dark circles
Elf Acne Fighting Spot Gel
- Contains a very high concentration of denatured alcohol (it’s the highest concentration ingredient after water)
- Denatured alcohol will dry out a blemish, but it can also cause excessive dryness, irritation, and even disruption of the skin barrier
- Also contains a high concentration of witch hazel, an astringent with the potential to cause sensitization due to high tannin content
- A moisturizing face cream with hemp-derived cannabis sativa seed oil as the key ingredient
- Additional key ingredients include niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and peptides
- Claimed to lock in moisture and hydrate the skin, soothe skin, and help skin look more revived
Elf Gentle Peeling Exfoliant
- A physical exfoliant that uses microcrystalline cellulose to slough off dead skin cells
- Claimed to reveal a glowing, younger-looking complexion
- Contains a synthetic fragrance blend
Elf Bounce Back Jelly Cleanser
- A coconut-infused cleansing jelly that conditions the skin and removes makeup for skin that’s clean without feeling stripped
- Key ingredients include coconut fruit juice, sugar maple extract, aloe vera, cucumber fruit extract, and provitamin B5
Elf Hydrating Water Essence
- A lightweight, slightly milky toner that absorbs into the skin quickly
- Claimed to hydrate skin, leaving it feeling refreshed and smooth
- Key ingredients include niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, coconut water, algae, and coffee extract
Elf Charcoal Hydrogel Under Eye Masks
- Charcoal infused hydrogel under eye masks
- Key ingredients include charcoal powder, soybean seed extract, green tea extract, and lavender extract
- Claimed to nourish and brighten the skin
What Are The Key Ingredients in Elf Skincare Products?
After evaluating the top 8 best Elf skincare products, we noticed that the brand likes to use a few of the same key ingredients throughout their collection of products. These ingredients include hyaluronic acid, panthenol (provitamin B5), niacinamide, and peptides. Let’s take a closer look at the science that supports the use of these ingredients in skin care.
We mentioned that hyaluronic acid is a key ingredient in several Elf skincare products, such as Elf Holy Hydration Face Cream, Holy Hydration Eye Cream, Happy Hydration Cream, and Hydrating Water Essence. But the brand actually doesn’t use hyaluronic acid, they use sodium hyaluronate (the sodium salt form). Sodium hyaluronate and hyaluronic acid are basically the same and the two names are used interchangeably in the skin care industry. The main differences are that sodium hyaluronate is more stable, easier to formulate, and cheaper.
Sodium hyaluronate is a beneficial skin care ingredient because its structure allows it to attract and hold a lot of water. Therefore, this ingredient can help to improve skin hydration while also giving the skin a plump, youthful look.
Panthenol, also known as provitamin B5, is a key ingredient throughout the Elf skincare collection. Similar to sodium hyaluronate, panthenol is a very hydrating ingredient. Panthenol is a humectant, a hygroscopic substance that has a molecular structure with several hydrophilic (water loving) groups, such as hydroxyl groups (OH) and/or amine groups (NH2). Panthenol is composed of three hydroxyl groups and one amino group. The OH and NH2 groups hydrogen bond with water, essentially “grabbing” it and holding it on the skin
The next key ingredient that you’ll find in Elf Hydrating Water Essence, Holy Hydration Face Cream, and Happy Hydration Cream is niacinamide. Niacinamide is the amide form of vitamin B3 (niacin) that provides many benefits to the skin. For instance, a publication in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, states that niacinamide can repair the skin barrier and improve skin moisture, as well as reduce inflammation, blotchiness, hyperpigmentation, acne, and wrinkling.
The final key ingredient that you’ll find in a few Elf skincare products — including Elf Holy Hydration Face Cream and Happy Hydration Cream — is Matrixyl 3000. This is the trade name for the combination of two peptides: palmitoyl tripeptide-1 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. These two peptides work synergistically to restore and maintain the skin’s youthful appearance through cell signaling. Specifically, these peptides mimic the same peptides that you’d find when collagen is broken down. As collagen deteriorates due to age and environmental factors, it produces peptides that signal skin cells to generate more collagen. By mimicking these naturally occurring peptides, synthetic peptides cause your skin to “think” collagen is deteriorating and therefore it needs to produce new collagen. The result? Firmer, more youthful-looking skin.
Where are Elf Skincare Products Sold?
Elf Skincare products are sold on the brand’s website, as well as many third party online retailers, such as Target, Walmart, Amazon, and more.
What is The Elf Return Policy?
The Elf return policy states, “We apologize, but due to the low cost nature of our products, we are unable to offer any returns (except as noted below) or exchanges.” Therefore, if you aren’t satisfied with Elf Happy Hydration Cream or any other Elf skin care products, you will not be able to return it.
Is Elf Cruelty Free?
Yes, Elf is cruelty free. The brand does not test their ingredients or finished products on animals, and neither do their suppliers. In addition, Elf skincare products are not sold in places where animal testing is required by law.
Elf Skincare Reviews
Elf skincare reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive, with the products receiving mostly four and five star ratings. The product with the most reviews is the Elf Holy Hydration Face Cream, which has earned an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars after more than 700 customer reviews.
Positive reviews for the Holy Hydration Face Cream mention that it moisturizes well, leaving the skin feeling soft and smooth without feeling greasy.
For example, one review says, “My first impression is that I’m very, highly impressed. A little, and I mean a tiny bit, goes a long way. I went in with a very small swipe, as I would with most facial creams, and had to rub it down my neck as well. Even with using too much, this product absorbed into the skin very nicely and is 100% non-greasy. My skin feels so soft but doesn’t feel, to the touch, like I put a moisturizer on. Everything absorbs so nicely. There is zero greasiness, it’s not tacky in the slightest. It just feels amazing. For the price, it’s 100% worth it.”
While there aren’t many negative reviews for the Holy Hydration Face Cream, we did read some from customers who actually experienced dryness after using this Elf Moisturizer. For example, one review says, “I bought this product a month ago and for me it made my skin so dry and definitely did not moisturise it but in fact made it feel stripped. I don’t recommend this at all!”
Overall, we think that Elf skincare products are a good option if you’re on a budget and want to get the most bang for your buck. Most of the products are formulated with evidence-based ingredients, although keep in mind that some products contain synthetic fragrance blends and denatured alcohol.
- Evidence-based ingredients
- Low cost (majority of products are under $20)
- Some products contain synthetic fragrance blend and denatured alcohol
What Are Some Alternatives to Elf Skincare?
If you’ve tried Elf skincare products and didn’t see the results you were looking for, we have a couple alternatives for you to consider. Looking for a lightweight moisturizer? Try Formulyst’s Super Hyaluronic Water Moisturizer. The hyaluronic acid in this moisturizer helps keep skin plumped, hydrated, and dewy looking.
There’s no need to compromise when it comes to finding skincare that is effective and safe. Carrot & Stick takes a tough love approach to skincare, perfectly balancing the power of plants with cutting edge science. Not only is Carrot & Stick good for your skin, it is also good for the environment as the formulas skip harmful chemicals as well as the preservatives, emulsifiers and thickeners commonly found in skincare products.
J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010 Feb; 3(2): 22–41