Sunday Riley is one of those rare brands that debuted with plenty of fanfare, and quickly became a cult favorite. Named after its founder, Sunday Riley is one of the buzziest brands around. It has devoted fans, breathless write ups and shelf space in some of the world’s best department stores, including Selfridges and Barneys. Here’s a closer look at Sunday Riley, some of its most popular products, and is it worth a try?
What Is Sunday Riley?
Sunday Riley was famous almost before it launched. In 2009 its founder, Sunday Riley, pitched the fledgling line to Barneys with just a few prototypes, including Good Genes, an exfoliator. According to Allure, the Barneys buyer suggested Riley name the collection after herself. The rest, as they say, is history. Riley used social media to spread the word and her skincare products quickly caught on. Today Sunday Riley sells skincare products as well as a scalp treatment and scented candles.
While the brand is certainly a cult favorite, it is not without controversy. In October 2019 Sunday Riley agreed to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that charged them writing fake product reviews. The FTC claimed the company was “misleading consumers by posting fake reviews of the company’s products on a major retailer’s website, at the CEO’s direction, and by failing to disclose that the reviewers were company employees.”
What is the Sunday Riley Philosophy?
The Sunday Riley motto is “Powered by science, backed by botanicals.” The brand states it uses “advanced, clinically proven ingredients blended with balancing botanicals, for non-irritating, fast-acting formulas.” Sunday Riley products are made in small batches and the company has “a commitment to produce clean formulas.” Sunday Riley products are scented with flower and plant extracts and oils, instead of artificial fragrances, and do not contain mineral oil and sulfate cleansers.
What Are The 7 Most Popular Sunday Riley Products?
Sunday Riley sells a wide range of skincare products, including moisturizers, exfoliators, eye creams and cleansers, along with a scalp treatment and candles.
Arguably the best known product is the Sunday Riley Good Genes With Lactic Acid. Billing itself as an “all in one lactic acid treatment,” the product is designed to exfoliate the skin. It can be used as a mask or left on the skin overnight. The Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Oil contains the vitamin A derived retinol, which helps to encourage cell turnover and soften the look of fine lines. The addition of blue tansy and German chamomile are meant to help soothe the skin. THD ascorbate, a type of vitamin C that is meant to be stable and oil-soluble is the key ingredient in the Sunday Riley C.E.O 15% Vitamin C Serum. The serum is designed to help brighten the look of skin and help to fade dark spots.
Retinol is also the key ingredient in the Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum. It contains a 6.5% solution of a stabilized retinol blend along with CoQ10 and Hawaiian white honey. Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser is a foaming gel cleanser made with rice, olive oil, and multiple types of clay. The oil free Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream contains two types of hyaluronic acid as well as papaya enzymes to help exfoliate the skin and zero in on dark spots. An oil based acne fighting product may sound like an oxymoron, but that is the concept behind the Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil. The key ingredient is acne zapping salicylic acid, along with the antibacterial tea tree oil. Licorice helps to brighten the appearance of skin.
How Much Do Sunday Riley Products Cost?
Sunday Riley products range from a mid-price point to luxury. The Good Genes Lactic Acid treatment retails for $85 for one ounce, and $122 for 1.7 ounces. Luna Sleeping Night Oil is $55 for a half ounce jar, while the CEO Vitamin C Brightening Serum is $85. The Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum is $48, and the U.F.O. Ultra Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil is $40.
Is Sunday Riley Cruelty Free?
Yes. The company says it is cruelty-free, certified by PETA and Leaping Bunny. Most of the formulas are vegan (with the exception of those that use honey or beeswax), and all are vegetarian.
What Ingredients Are in Sunday Riley?
Sunday Riley products are formulated with a mix of botanicals as well as tried and true skincare ingredients, or as the company puts it, “Science-based formulations, backed by research and balanced by botanicals.” Sunday Riley states that its products create “positive and noticeable changes in the appearance of your skin” and the formulas are free from parabens, sulfate cleansers, phthalates, synthetic fragrance, mineral oil and petrolatum.
Some of the more commonly found ingredients in the Sunday Riley line include ceramides, which are lipids (fats), hyaluronic acid (a moisture magnet) and retinols. Ceramides are found in the Sunday Riley Ice Ceramide Moisturizing Cream, which is meant to deliver a big dose of moisture. As Sunday Riley herself explains in a video, the key ingredients are ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol. Hyaluronic acid, which occurs naturally in the body, is famed for holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Two types of it are found in the Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream, which also contains alpha arbutin (a plant extract) to help fade the look of dark spots, as well as papaya enzymes to help exfoliate the skin. The Water Cream formula also contains triglycerides (fatty acids), jojoba esters (an emollient) and several plant extracts, including turmeric, eggplant and basil.
The top ingredients in the Luna Sleeping Night Oil are oils- from avocado, grape, blackberry, chia, chamomile, blue tansy and neroli along with blood orange oil and ylang ylang. The last two ingredients are the color additives CI 61565 (GREEN 6) and CI 60725 (VIOLET 2).
The first three ingredients in the U.F.O. Ultra Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil are oils- including milk thistle, black cumin seed and cucumber seed. The formula contains 1.5% salicylic acid which is a commonly used ingredient to help tackle acne. It is derived from willow bark and is oil soluble, which means it can penetrate deeper into the skin and help to unclog pores. The Good Genes exfoliator comes in two versions- one with lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid, and one with glycolic acid. While both help to dissolve dead skin cells, the main difference is that glycolic acid is stronger than lactic acid; as Sunday Riley explains, glycolic Acid is the smallest AHA, which means that it penetrates deeper into the skin than other AHAs.
Where Can I Buy Sunday Riley ?
Sunday Riley is sold on its website and at retailers including Sephora, TheSkinStore, Ulta, and department stores including Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s.
Does Sunday Riley Work?
It’s easy to be swayed by the latest cult favorite product – but beauty is never a one size fits all approach. One person’s hero product may do nothing for you. One place to start when deciding whether to try something is with editorial reviews and awards. Sunday Riley products have scooped up plenty of awards. The Zoe Report named the Clarifying Scalp Serum an Editor Approved product in 2020, and the A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum won a 2020 New Beauty award. The cult-favorite Good Genes Lactic Acid was the winner of the best chemical exfoliator in the 2019 Byrdie Skincare Awards. The serum has also racked up mentions in Glamour, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar.
Sunday Riley products do not use artificial fragrance but some users find the scent to be off putting. Refinery29 notes that the Sleeping Oil “smells uncannily like beef jerky” and asks this about the Good Genes Lactic Acid: “Does it smell like sour milk that someone squeezed a lemon into? It does indeed, thanks to the high concentration of lactic acid.”
What do real people think? The Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment gets a 4.2 out of 5 star rating on Sephora, based on more than 3,000 reviews, and a 4.2 out of 5 star rating on Amazon. On Influenster, the product gets 4.4 out of 5 stars based on more than 9,000 reviews. Comments range from “It’s an amazing acid treatment that doesn’t sting or burn my sensitive skin, and I saw a difference!” and “My skin changed for the better when I started using this. Tighter skin, smaller looking pores, and more youthful overall” to “I really wanted to like this product, but it did not work for me. I did not see any positive results.” Several users commented on its high price.
The Luna Sleeping Night Oil gets 4.1 out of 5 stars on Sephora; 3.9 out of 5 on Amazon and 4.3 out of 5 stars on Influenster. Customers who loved it wrote “My skin looked more even and dark spots were lighter” and “You’ll wake up looking more radiant and luminous than ever.” Some reviewers didn’t love the addition of blue dye, and others felt their skin looked better before they used it, or that it caused them to break out. “I am not a fan of this oil. The smell is very strong. My face hurt and looked red (like a sunburn) the next morning and most of the day. This will be returned.”
Another cult favorite product, the C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum, gets 3.8 stars on Sephora; 4.3 on Amazon and 4.3 stars on Influenster. Many reviewers note its high price but for many people it is their “holy grail” and their “go to product and “This is the best C serum I’ve ever tried.” For some users, it made them break out or it did nothing for them. “This product, however, not only burned and irritated my skin but I saw zero improvement in brightness.”
What Are Some Alternatives to Sunday Riley ?
Although Sunday Riley is a buzzy brand, it may not work for everyone. Perhaps it did nothing for your skin or you’re looking for products that can do more. There are a few other brands to consider.
Formulyst makes it easy to create your own skincare routine. Each skincare concern is assigned a number, and your personal combination will be just as unique as you (and your skin) are. All you have to do is find your formula, and follow the numbers.
Arbutin is a common alternative to skin lightening hydroquinone, and is the star ingredient in Formulyst’s Luminous Skin Serum, which zeroes in on skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation. The serum is powered by Triple Brightening Technology, a powerful blend of naturally derived alpha arbutin, rumex extract (a plant that helps stop the production of melanin) and a biomimetic peptide.
Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Night Cream contains the all-star of any anti-aging regimen, retinol. It does a little bit of everything, from addressing fine lines, crow’s feet as well as dark spots. The night cream contains a high dose of retinol along with skin soothing safflower seed oil and jojoba.
Formulyst’s Active Serum is packed with good for you ingredients, such as nourishing vitamins B and E, and vitamin C, which helps skin look brighter. Rounding out the all-star list are ferulic acid and niacinamide which help stabilize the formula and boost the potency of vitamin C.