I Tried the $7 Trader Joe’s Drunk Elephant Dupe — And I’ve Bought It 3 Times

published Jan 15, 2024
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Skincare section/shelves at Trader Joe's store
Credit: Debra Rivera

If you typically skip right past the skincare aisle on your regular Trader Joe’s visit, you’re making a big mistake. Huge! The hallowed cases of frozen dinners and delectable dips are worth your time, of course, but I would argue that the self-care section offers reason enough to make a trip to the grocery store. 

Don’t believe me? Take it from a skincare pro. Celebrity aesthetician Joshua Ross highly recommends two TJ’s concoctions in particular: The Ultra Hydrating Gel Moisturizer and the Marula Facial Oil. When I first read these recommendations, I was thrilled, as I’d already been purchasing both of these products faithfully. I’ve reviewed the gel moisturizer, which is said to be a much cheaper alternative to Clinique’s Moisture Surge, and provides the perfect amount of lightweight, nongreasy hydration for daytime wear. And now, it is time to offer my thoughts on the marula oil — but if you read the headline, you already know I love it.

For those unfamiliar with the benefits of facial oils or worried they’ll wreak havoc on your complexion, fret not. “Marula oil is from the seed of the marula tree and is rich in fatty acids and amino acids, as well as antioxidants,” Ross told Apartment Therapy. “Seed oils mimic the natural oils of your skin, so they won’t break you out.”

Ross recommends using the Trader Joe’s marula oil as either a replacement for your moisturizer, or layering it over your face lotion for an extra layer of hydration. I opt for the latter method to cap off my nighttime skincare routine. After washing my face and applying moisturizer, I squeeze a few drops of the oil into my hands and gently pat it onto my skin, locking all the hydration in place and leaving me satisfyingly shiny. If you’re going for the “glazed donut” look, though, this would be a great way to prep your skin in the morning.

For some context, I have somewhat sensitive combination skin that isn’t prone to acne, and although it’s hard to attribute any effects to just one product, I love how soft it makes my skin feel so much that I’ve bought it three times now. It comes in a sleek black glass bottle with a dropper, which looks great in my medicine cabinet. I’m squeezing out the last few drops this week, so I’ll be picking up another bottle any day now. Although it goes for just $7 in store, if you can’t make it to a Trader Joe’s, you can pick it up on Amazon for about $14. 

What’s more, many skincare aficionados have pointed to the Trader Joe’s Marula Facial Oil as a dupe for Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil. I have yet to try the luxury version, but in a multi-day wear test of the two products by PureWow creator Matthew Boyd (in an episode of What the Dupe) he concludes: “The Trader Joe’s Marula Facial Oil is an exact dupe for the Drunk Elephant marula oil. I live in New York City — every dollar counts.” At $6.99 for 0.85 fluid ounces for the Trader Joe’s version versus $68 for one fluid ounce of the Drunk Elephant option, the savings are striking. 

On top of the hydration it brings to my skin, I enjoy that the marula oil has no real scent — although in his review, Boyd notes, “It smells like blueberries,” but I don’t pick up on that! — which is always off-putting to me in a skincare product. And despite being an oil, it doesn’t feel like I’m shellacking my face in a thick emollient. It feels more like adding another layer of oil that my own skin would produce, balancing out my complexion.

For $7 a bottle, I’ll be popping another bottle of Trader Joe’s Marula Facial Oil in my basket on my next grocery run, and pocketing the savings for a facial somewhere down the line.