Smartly crafted formulas that are clinically backed, non-toxic ingredients, beautiful graphic packaging, and clever brand names are just a few of the qualities that have earned skincare brand Sunday Riley its cult status. Consistently a Sephora best seller, the results-driven luxury line is always generating hype and flying off shelves. But are Sunday Riley’s buzzy moisturizers, serums, and oils (which aren’t exactly cheap, mind you) worth all the attention and dough?
My fellow Who What Wear Beauty editor Erin Jahns and I were skeptical (as we always are of skincare brands whose products have unabashed cult followings and high price tags). So we put 10 of its best sellers to the test. For context, Erin has sensitive acneic skin, and I’m a true combo skin type (I’ve got both congested pores and dryness to navigate). Keep scrolling for our in-depth beauty editor reviews of Sunday Riley’s Good Genes serum, C.E.O serum, Saturn mask, Luna oil, and more.
Ceramic Slip Cleanser
“Straight up, the only reason I’m not giving this cleanser a full five-star rating is the price. Since cleansers are the most fleeting part of our skincare routines, I just can’t warrant spending more than $20 tops on something I’m washing off after 10 seconds. That said, I’ve been impressed with this gentle but effective cleanser ever since it released last year. It never irritates my sensitive skin or exacerbates any breakouts I have. It has great ingredients that play well with all skin types, and the soothing gel to foam formula really delivers on that super-satisfying clean feeling you want from a face wash but without stripping your skin of necessary hydration.” — Erin
U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil
“A delicious, fast-absorbing oil that smells like a Jolly Rancher and also helps clear breakouts and clogged pores? Seems impossible. I was so skeptical of this exotic green elixir—the slippery texture and sweet scent seem like something that would break you out rather than clear you up. To my delight, the product sinks in quickly, and its gentle 1.5% salicylic acid visibly works to decongest the little clogged pores I get around my nose and chin. It’s not the strongest dose of BHA in the world, so it takes a couple nights to really produce results, but damn, when it does, my skin comes out so beautifully clear and glowy.” — Amanda
Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask
“I don’t know about you, but I have a separate stash of products for whenever my skin decides to be on especially bad behavior. And whenever I’m dealing with a frustrating deluge of zits, this mask is one of my favorite antidotes in said stash. I definitely notice that it helps dry out and banish my existing blemishes faster than when I forget to use it, and I’m convinced it slows the formation of new ones. (Breakouts are such a vicious cycle, ugh.) My one issue with this mask, however, is the smell. Since the star, and most strategic, ingredient is sulfur, I realize this is just par for the course and part of the formula’s efficacy, but even after I wash it off, the smell of sulfur lingers on my face, and it’s just not the most pleasant olfactory experience to go to sleep with at night.” — Erin
C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum
“Okay, this is so hard for me. Because if it was up to this product’s brightening and radiance-boosting power alone, I would literally give it 10 stars. But, for some reason, I have issues with it clogging my pores, and I have to be honest about that. I plan on asking my go-to esthetician what she thinks is the exact culprit in the ingredient list (my skin is insanely, insanely finicky and prone to congestions), but for most other people, I honestly think this is one of the best vitamin C and brightening serums on the market. It’s Dermstore’s top-selling brightening serum under $100, and I think that stat is well-warranted. I’m bummed I can’t use this serum anymore, because whenever I would, I’d always receive compliments on how glowy and healthy my skin looked.” — Erin
Auto Correct Brightening and Depuffing Eye Contour Cream
“I’m a fiend when it comes to eye cream. And since I have breakout-prone, easily irritated skin, it’s one of the only types of skincare products I feel like I can try with zero abandon or worry regarding how it will affect my skin. I’ve tried (and regularly use) so many eye creams, but I always find myself coming back to this one. It’s a cheaper dupe for this amazing, but very, very spendy one from Revive, and it’s the first one I recommend to friends and family if they’re complaining about puff, circles, or fine lines. It has a bit of a pearlescent tint to it, which helps instantly tighten and diffuse the look of darkness, and pretty much acts like IRL Facetune.” — Erin
Luna Retinol Sleeping Night Oil
“Retinol is one of the most powerful breakout- and wrinkle-fighting ingredients, which almost all skin health experts recommend, but certain forms of it can make your face peel. This luxurious oil provides all the same benefits without the risk of irritation using an ingredient called Trans-Retinol Ester (plus blue tansy, which is really soothing and feels amazing on the skin). This product would be really well suited to sensitive skin types prone to acne and redness looking to treat their skin for signs of aging without making it angry. After a few nights of use, I did notice more radiant, youthful-looking skin. I wouldn’t call the product a holy grail for my particular combo skin type, and it’s definitely a little pricier than I’d like, but it certainly produces results with consistent use.” — Amanda
High-Dose Retinol Serum
“So here’s a fun fact: This is actually the first-ever retinol I’ve used regularly. (I know, bad beauty editor.) In all honesty, I thought I would hate it but disgruntledly agreed to test it since Amanda asked me to review all the Sunday Riley products I have in my possession, and I still hadn’t tried this relatively new launch. In hindsight, I’m SO sad I didn’t start using it sooner. I’ve been applying it a couple of nights a week after I cleanse and without layering anything underneath or on top. (As is the standard protocol for retinol.) Every morning I wake up with what seems like a brighter, smoother, and far more even complexion. I’ve been struggling with some stubborn acne scarring around my mouth, and I’m completely dumbstruck by its efficacy in helping to li4ghten my areas of pigmentation. This serum hasn’t irritated my skin at all which has always been one of my main fears surrounding retinol, and the consistency is so soft and dreamy. It’s not sticky, and my skin feels really happy and comfortable post-application.” — Erin
Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment
“As Sunday Riley’s priciest formula, and perhaps the buzziest, I had high expectations for this all-in-one AHA serum. According to the fine print, it’s specifically targeted to deal with dark spots, pores, and wrinkles by utilizing a high-potency form of lactic acid to exfoliate way the dead skin cells that make our complexion look dull or congested. As the brand recommends, I’ve been alternating this with the A+ Retinol every other night so that I’m lifting away the debris the night after the retinol has worked its turnover magic. This product is great on its own, but combined with the retinol, it’s the ultimate power couple. I’ve gotten a few facials recently, which could be a contributing factor, but my skin hasn’t felt so soft, smooth, clear, and naturally luminous since I started using this serum regularly at night. My only qualm is that I’m not used to using an exfoliating agent like this as a last step before bed, and it can feel a bit prickly and stingy. I know that’s part of the deal and the formula, but if you’re not a fan of feeling your products working, tread carefully. (Though I promise, the end result is worth it!)” — Erin
C.E.O. C+ E Antioxidant Protect Repair Moisturizer
“There’s a lot to like about this brightening moisturizer: the rich (but not greasy) formula, which is super hydrating and great for dry or winter weather; the 5% dose of vitamin C; the energizing citrus scent; the gently exfoliating and calming plant extracts, which help the actives absorb while keeping the skin protected and non-irritated. My three-star rating is simply because I personally prefer to get higher doses of my active ingredients in serum form, rather than cream form, and then use a more affordable moisturizer on top. And I also have a preference for moisturizers that come in a tube, rather than a jar. But I can’t knock the formula, which I would especially recommend to dry skin types dealing with dark spots or dullness.” — Amanda
Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream
“I’ll start by saying there isn’t anything wrong with this cream, and I do actually think it’s really nice and has a great formula. BUT, only if you have super hydration-starved skin. Technically, it’s supposed to be agreeable for all skin types, but my combination skin found it entirely too heavy on the moisture quotient. (Although for what it’s worth, the luxe, whipped like texture is surprisingly lightweight.) It boasts two different kinds of hyaluronic acid alongside tamarind extract, which is the hard-hitting coupling behind the water-surge of hydration. So, again, if you have super dry skin or will be traveling to the desert anytime soon, I think this is a great option. But it just left my complexion feeling slick, greasy, and over-watered.” — Erin.