When you think of skin-care lines with serious cult followings, Sunday Riley is right up there with #shelfie stalwarts like Glossier and Drunk Elephant. The brand's best-selling products, including Luna and Good Genes, can be spotted in the Instagram feeds of practically every in-the-know beauty lover.
But it isn't all about good looks. Riley's carefully-crafted formulas really work — and I should know. Good Genes has always been there for me and my troublesome skin, and the recently reformulated Ceramic Slip cleanser has well over 30,000 "loves" on Sephora. So when I got the opportunity to grill Sunday Riley herself (yes, the actual expert behind the beloved products) on the skin-care tips and tricks we should all be following, I couldn't turn it down. Here's what I learned from an hour with one of the most recognizable, well-respected names in the beauty industry.
You can't have a good skin-care routine without a good cleanser.
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, but as long as people are washing their face, I’m happy," Riley says. "We deal a lot with people who come in and say they don’t wash their face and that's problematic. Pollution micro-particles stick to your skin and cause inflammation, sensitivity, redness, and collagen degradation. Dislodging pollution is quite difficult because it really does stick to your skin, so the longer you massage a cleanser in, the better. Oil and balm cleansers are particularly good at removing this, but just a splash of water won’t remove anything."
Your skin might not actually be sensitive.
"Most people aren’t born with sensitive skin — it’s what they’re doing to their skin that can sometimes cause this sensitivity," says 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?"
If your skin feels congested, start with a blank slate.
"People with acne-prone skin always come to me using 20 products, so we need to fix that first," says Riley. "I knew a woman who was applying three or four moisturizing products every day and she had severe cystic acne — it just wasn’t working for her. I'd suggest just switching to a gentle cleanser like Ceramic Slip and using nothing else for just three days, then beginning 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."
Riley extols the virtues of vitamins C and E for protecting skin against pollution and other environmental aggressors, which can cause skin damage like hyper-pigmentation, fine lines, and dullness. Lutein might be a little under-the-radar, but it's just as good to keep in your arsenal. "You might find antioxidant lutein inside food supplements, and we use marigold-derived lutein in the Auto Correct Brightening Eye Contour Cream," Riley says. "It’s a very good antioxidant for protecting against blue light especially, something that I'm quite concerned about."
This popular tool might be wreaking havoc on your skin.
"Cleansing brushes can dry your skin out more and disrupt the skin barrier even further," says Riley. "They can be great if they’re used well and are being cleaned regularly. If they are dirty, then they’re horrible. I know a lot of people with acne who use facial brushes and makeup brushes and don't clean them properly, and all of these factors can contribute to problem skin."
A quick "flash mask" makes your makeup routine easier.
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 said, 'Oh, we just used the cleanser,' and she said the makeup went on so much smoother and faster," she says. Because the Ceramic Slip formula is packed with French green clay, it can double up as a mask when left on skin for a few minutes. Riley suggests applying makeup immediately afterwards to feel the full benefits.
You're being too careful when applying eye cream.
We tend to be overly cautious when it comes to using eye cream, tapping in product with the lightest hand possible to avoid rubbing or pulling the sensitive area. But Riley says 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," she explains. "If you use your ring finger, it’ll provide the least pressure. Really tap it in and go all the way round your eye." And yes, that even includes your eyelids.