Sunday Riley: The Name For Fast Results

She works fast, thinks fast and even speaks fast. And her eponymous beauty brand is taking its cue from its founder by delivering products that deliver quick results.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

She works fast, thinks fast and even speaks fast. And her eponymous beauty brand is taking its cue from its founder by delivering products that deliver quick results.

Sunday Riley is a self-professed impatient woman. Judging from her machine-gun speech and barely-there pauses – not to think, but to catch her breath before she rat-tat-tats away again – we’d agree. “I’m impatient even when texting. I don’t like waiting for replies; I want to see the message immediately!” she says.

Living in Houston in the United States, Riley is welladapted to the fast, whirlwind pace of living to “get things done”. Because of how quickly her life moves, she expects her skincare to reflect that same speed and efficiency.

“I’m a now person. When I want change, I want it tomorrow. And it’s human nature to want things instantly. I have four kids, so I’m very aware of that,” she says.

Which is why her products are based on the idea of instant gratification. It’s also why she uses acids for instant results.

Riley only uses purified acids in her formulas. She explains that because they contain less filler material, they’re better absorbed by the skin. The result: quick improvements you can see.

That said, the brand’s high performance products aren’t harsh on sensitive skin. Riley’s found the sweet spot, expertly mixing in botanicals to balance the potency of the acids.

This merging of botanicals and acids is a form of green technology, Riley says. “It’s about the 360-degree approach to our skin. Botanicals don’t show results instantly, but they’re great on skin. The combination of acids and botanicals gives this now-andlater change, which we’re about.”

Take, for example, Good Genes, the brand’s bestseller. It’s a lactic acid serum that sloughs off dead skin cells and plumps fine lines for instant radiance. It’s infused with liquorice and lemongrass, which both help to boost long-term radiance. It also has soothing aloe.

While consumers may be more aware of the benefits of acids in skincare today, Riley says the sentiment was vastly different when the brand launched in late 2008. Good Genes sold poorly. It was tough convincing people to put acids on their faces.

“People were afraid to try, because our products seemed very advanced. So we made our names fun and relatable to modern life, to convince them that Sunday Riley would fit right into their everyday skincare regime.”

The strategy worked – and still works. Good Genes sold purely through word of mouth first, then Riley discovered social media marketing. Word spread even faster, which matched the Sunday Riley philosophy well.

But despite the brand’s speedy nature, Riley doesn’t rush to churn out new products. After a decade, her brand has just 14 items. Why? All the formulas are created by her, from scratch, at her in-house lab in Houston. And crafting each one takes time.

She works on at least eight formulas every day, but most of them “hit a dead end”. The products have to work well on her skin first before she distributes them to her team to test.

“Sometimes, you have to wait for the technology to evolve,” she says. “They’re done only when they’re done right.” 
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Sunday Riley says you must try:
1 Juno Essential Face Oil – a cold-pressed oil packed with antioxidants and vitamins. It’s especially hydrating for dry skin, and can be used on the cuticles and hair to strengthen them. From $65 
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2 Good Genes All-in-one Lactic Acid Treatment – a serum that sloughs off dead skin cells and fills in fine lines. It smells like lemongrass and tingles gently when applied. From $148
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3 Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream – a multitasking gel moisturiser that hydrates and brightens with papaya enzymes and two types of hyaluronic acid. From $32
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4 Auto Correct Brightening and Depuffing Eye Contour Cream – this has caffeine and Brazilian ginseng to de-puff eye bags and make dark eye circles less obvious. Use it cold in the morning to jolt your skin awake. $92
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5 U.F.O. Ultra clarifying Face Oil– a dry cold-pressed oil that skin absorbs quickly. The salicylic acid in it is gentle yet effective on stubborn blemishes like cystic acne and blackheads. From $56