When you think of cult skincare brands, Sunday Riley is up there with the likes of Glossier, Drunk Elephant and Herbivore. You'll find products like the unmistakable C.E.O. C + E antiOXIDANT moisturiser, Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream and pretty Luna Sleeping Night Oil in #shelfies all over Instagram, but it isn't just about good looks; their carefully crafted formulas are both efficacious and dependable.
I'd know. Good Genes (previously formulated with lactic acid, now glycolic acid) has always been there for me and my troublesome skin, while the Ceramic Slip cleanser is said to be adored by some of the biggest models and celebrities in the industry. So when the brand offered me an opportunity to meet Sunday Riley herself (yep, the actual expert behind all these products), I couldn't turn it down. I mean, who knows more about skin than the founder of one of the most popular brands both here and across the pond?
Here's everything I learned in an hour.
Glycolic acid is your best bet for beating acne, but make sure the pH is right
"Very simply, lactic acid is a larger molecule, so it doesn’t sink in as deeply as glycolic acid," said Riley. Typically, lactic acid is much gentler, but if those under-the-skin bumps just won't budge, it might pay to switch over to glycolic instead. And remember, it's all in the formulation. "If acids aren’t formulated well, they can really disrupt the moisture barrier of your skin, resulting in flaking and peeling," she continued. "Most acids are not in an emollient base, but the new Good Genes is in a slightly emollient base – not like Vaseline or petroleum jelly, but it helps protect the barrier of the skin. The glycolic acid is at 7% and the pH is 4.5. If an acidic product isn’t within an acidic pH [close to the skin’s pH of 5] then it isn’t going to work. This has the same backbone of how the original Good Genes is made, but it’s also cleaner for 2018, as we've changed the preservatives, while cactus extract reduces the stinging sensation. Someone with sensitive or acne-prone skin could just cleanse, put it on and then go to bed, no problem."
Stop layering products if your skin feels congested
"People with acne-prone skin always come to me using 20 products, so we need to fix that first," said Riley. "I knew a woman who was applying three or four moisturising products every day and she had severe cystic acne – it just wasn’t working for her. I'd suggest just switching to our cleanser and using nothing else for just three days, then begin to layer on something like Good Genes. You can use it in the morning with a vitamin C serum and in the evening with a retinoid."
Cleansing is the lynchpin of a good skincare routine
And no, we don't mean a splash of water, but a proper, product-based cleanse – even in the morning, as your skin will have produced oil overnight.
"Cleansing for one minute is amazing," said Riley, "but as long as people are washing their face, I’m happy. We deal a lot with people who come in and say they don’t wash their face and that's problematic. Pollution micro-particles, like PM 2.5, is what’s in car exhausts and that’s the stuff that’s in the air. I would describe it as a sticky substance with spiky edges – it sticks to your skin and causes inflammation, sensitivity, redness and collagen degradation – essentially ageing. In a nutshell, it’s bad for you. To dislodge pollution is quite difficult because it does stick to your skin, so the longer you massage a cleanser in, the more you help dislodge the pollution and grime from the surface. Oil and balm cleansers are specifically good at removing this. Just a splash of water won’t remove anything."
...and that could be why your skin is reacting
"Most people aren’t born with sensitive skin, it’s what they’re doing to their skin that can sometimes cause this sensitivity," said Riley. "For example if you live in polluted environments, barely wash your face and simply splash it with hard water. Think about it – do you have sensitive skin or do you have reactive skin which is a result of what you’re putting it through?"
Lutein is the new antioxidant you need to know about
Sunday Riley extols the virtues of vitamins C and E for protecting skin against pollution and other environmental aggressors which can cause skin damage like hyperpigmentation, fine lines and dullness, and even though lutein is a little under the radar, it's just as interesting. "You might find antioxidant lutein inside food supplements. We use marigold-derived lutein in the Auto Correct Brightening Eye Contour Cream. It’s a very good antioxidant for protecting against blue light especially, something which I'm quite concerned about."
Avoid this popular tool if you have dry skin
"Cleansing brushes can dry your skin out more and disrupt the skin barrier even further," said Riley. "It depends how you do it. They can be great if they’re used well and they are being cleaned regularly. If they are dirty, then they’re horrible. Think of them like you do your toothbrush. I know a lot of people with acne who use brushes and who don’t clean their facial brushes, also makeup brushes. All of these factors can contribute to problem skin."
This skin trick will cut your makeup application time in half
If you want your makeup to sit better throughout the day or before a big event, Sunday suggests a flash mask. "We were doing a show and the makeup artist asked what we did to the skin, and I was like, oh we used this product [the Ceramic Slip Cleanser with French Green Clay], and she said that the makeup went on so much smoother and faster." The French green clay means it can double up as a mask when left on skin for a few minutes, and Riley suggests applying makeup immediately afterwards to feel the full benefits.
You can be too careful when applying eye cream
We're overly cautious when it comes to applying eye cream, with most of us tapping in product super lightly, but according to Riley, this might not be the best application technique. "If you have under-eye circles, really massaging your eyes will help circulation flow and the more you massage, the more this will help. If you use your ring finger, it’ll provide the least pressure. Really tap it in and go all the way round your eye." That includes your eyelids.