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There’s perhaps no other beauty company that better epitomizes the term “cult-favorite” than Sunday Riley. The Texas-based brand has been around for a decade, initially amassing devoted followers quietly and flying somewhat under the radar. But their popularity has skyrocketed in recent years, and this once niche brand is now a major force to be reckoned with. Credit their curated and relatively limited collection of products—currently less than 20—all of which use tried-and-true ingredients to make a noticeable difference in how your skin looks and feels. (Not to mention that the formulas are also free of parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances, too.) They also recently announced a partnership with United Airlines, providing their first- and business-class amenities, and are now available at Ulta. The bottom line: If you haven’t yet heard of the brand, mark our words, you will soon.
Jump aboard the bandwagon with any—or all—of these Sunday Riley products we think are true stand-outs.
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment
If we absolutely, positively had to recommend just one Sunday Riley product, it would likely be this often buzzed about treatment. The Byrdie team is fully obsessed; it's the winner of the best chemical exfoliator award in the 2019 Byrdie Skincare Awards.
The star of the show is, no surprise, purified lactic acid. It gently yet effectively exfoliates to even out and smooth your complexion, and is coupled with other plant-based brighteners to boot. New York City dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman says that combo of lactic acid, along with the brightening and soothing ingredients, make it a great product for combating fine lines and wrinkles, diminishing the look of dark spots, plumping the skin, and even getting rid of redness. (FYI, that lactic acid does give this a, let’s call it distinct, sour milk scent, but it’s a small price to pay for how well it works.) If your skin is sensitive, use it as a mask and rinse off after three minutes—it works that fast. Otherwise, leave it on overnight and prepare to be amazed when you look in the mirror come morning.
Sunday Riley Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment
Look carefully, because the packaging and the name of this and the above product are nearly identical. The brand first launched this variant back in 2018; it too is an overnight exfoliant, though slightly more potent, both with a higher concentration of acid and a stronger acid at that. Glycolic acid is a smaller molecule than lactic acid, increasing penetration and efficacy. (Though yes, this can come with an increased likelihood of side effects, so this formula is best for those with oily or non-easily irritated skin.)
Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser
This strikes the perfect face wash balance, cleansing without ever over-drying your skin. Credit four plant-based, ultra-gentle soaps plus French clay that acts like a magnet to pull out dirt, oil, and other unwanted gunk. At the same time, rice oil esters pull in moisture, leaving your complexion perfectly balanced. While they call it a foaming cleanser, we find it veers more toward the creamy side of the spectrum, though never leaves behind a residue. Also nice: A little bit goes a long way, so one tube lasts quite a while.
Sunday Riley Auto Correct Eye Cream
No matter whether you’re trying to combat the effects of a late night, an early morning, or the dreaded combo of both, reach for this formula. Caffeine and ginseng root take down puffiness almost instantly—try our trick and keep it in the fridge to further up the ante—while antioxidants and hydrating ingredients moisturize and smooth out the look of crow’s feet over time.
Sunday Riley A+High-Dose Retinoid Serum
There’s no denying that retinoids are the undisputed champions of the skincare world, and this formula, one of the brand’s latest launches, relies on a combination of different ones. We’re talking a six-and-a-half percent combo of stabilized retinoids and botanicals (a blue-green algae) that act like a retinoid. Soothing ingredients are added to mitigate the potential for any unwanted side effects (read: irritation and redness). Still, as with other retinoids, it’s a good move to start using this gradually to give your skin time to acclimate.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum
Breaking news: Not all forms of Vitamin C are created equal. This rich serum uses a powerful form known as THD ascorbate; it’s stable and oil-soluble, quickly soaking into the skin so that it can reap the benefits, namely brightening (Dr. Jaliman says it works well to combat both discolorations from sun damage and leftover acne marks), line-smoothing, and antioxidant protection. Consider it the perfect base layer to apply under sunscreen daily. The intense orangey scent is also a nice pick-me-up on sleepy mornings.
Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil
Infused with blue tansy essential oils, this retinol oil does, in fact, go on blue, though blends in clear when rubbed in. A retinoid complex knocks out fine lines and plumps skin, while that blue tansy and German chamomile essential oil combat sensitivity and redness. “It’s very hydrating, so I’d recommend this for someone with mature skin, or for those with normal to dry skin,” says Dr. Jaliman, who is a fan. You may notice some positive changes the next day, though for best results give it a good four weeks.
Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream
Sure, this does the job of a good moisturizer, using two types of hyaluronic acid to attract water to the skin (and the oil-free, bouncy gel texture that’s innately cooling and refreshing is nice, too). But it doesn’t stop there. Infused with both exfoliating papaya extracts and brightening alpha-arbutin, it also goes to town targeting unwanted spots and hyperpigmentation. And how pretty is the pastel turquoise hue?
Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil
We know, we know, oil and acne treatment sound like an oxymoronic pairing, but trust us, it’s not. This treatment relies on salicylic acid, not a new acne fighter by any means, but mixes things up by combating its potentially drying side effects with milk thistle and cucumber seed oil. Tea tree oil also helps decongest pores and brightening licorice is an added boon, helping to fade those annoying dark marks pimples can leave behind.
Sunday Riley ICE Ceramide Moisturizing Cream
Like a big ol’ glass of water for thirsty skin, this is a choice hydrator for anyone whose complexion skews on the normal to dry side. It works two ways, first pulling in moisture, then locking it in, thanks to ceramides that keep your skin barrier strong and healthy. The results? Plumped skin that’s as soft as a baby’s booty. Rich and creamy, it’s a great pick to use in the dead of winter or pre-bedtime.
Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream
If you love the C.E.O serum, you’ll appreciate that this heavy-hitting hydrator has that same potent version of vitamin C. But here it comes in a lower concentration, making it a good pick if your skin is slightly more sensitive. Unless your complexion is crazy dry, save this for bedtime use; it’s definitely heavy and can be a bit too much under makeup.
Sunday Riley Blue Moon Clean Rinse Cleansing Balm
For those whose skin is ultra-dry, or for those who wear a lot of makeup and are too lazy to use a separate makeup remover (insert hand-raising emoji here), this is choice. Thick and luscious, the base is made of hydrating cocoa and moringa butter and uses sugar-based cleansers to remove impurities. The vanilla and orange scent coupled with the luxe texture will make you feel like you’re in a spa, transforming run-of-the-mill face washing into the ultimate self-care moment.
Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask
Dealing with a galaxy-sized pimple? Dab on this mask, packed with 10% sulfur to dry up blemishes, plus anti-inflammatory niacinamide to reduce redness and anti-bacterial tea tree oil, among other ingredients. (Plus, the green hue makes for a great Insta’ masking content.) It contains sulfur, so fair warning, it is going to be smelly, but the benefits are worth it.
Sunday Riley Pink Drink Firming Resurfacing Essence
While many of the products in the line are focused on the texture of the skin, this serum focuses on elasticity instead, thanks to the addition of firming peptides. Probiotics help improve the overall health (and look of your skin) and this also touts a green tea-derived antioxidant, one of the most potent ones out there.
Sunday Riley Clean Rinse Clarifying Scalp Serum
Let’s not forget that your scalp is skin, too, and as such deserves equal time and attention. Enter this treatment, unlike any we’ve ever seen. An AHA/BHA combo (glycolic and salicylic acids, to be exact) deeply exfoliates the scalp, removing excess oil, product build-up, and other grime. Leave it on for anywhere from three to 30 minutes before washing hair as usual, up to a few times per week.
Sunday Riley Charcoal Smoothie Body Scrub
The brand’s only product meant for your body, this scrub combines both mechanical and chemical exfoliants, namely exfoliating powders plus salicylic acid and lactic acid, along with detoxifying charcoal. It’s effective yet never over-drying, thanks to the addition of hydrating coconut water and avocado oil, and is especially ideal for combatting KP, or so-called chicken skin, on the backs of your arms.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. While she was admittedly late to start using Sunday Riley products, she’s now a total convert.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Debra Jaliman is a New York City board-certified dermatologist. She’s an Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai and the author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist.