Sunday Riley is a brand that has captured the attention of many with its seductive mix of high-priced, luxury-positioned skin-care products and its ties to today’s top fashion designers. This coupling, plus the brand’s cult-like status among beauty editors, has led many of our readers to ask us whether Sunday Riley products are deserving of the hype and worth the cost. The answer: yes and no, but regardless of the product, good skincare doesn’t have to be expensive.
Often noted in Sunday Riley’s products is the NV-5 Ageless Complex. Despite the number “5” in this trade name, the complex contains a mix of seven plant ingredients: prickly pear extract, blue agave, lady’s slipper orchid extract, opuntia tuna fruit, cactus extract, aloe, and a type of yeast extract (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).
We explored the research on each of the ingredients in the NV-5 Ageless Complex. While all of them have some benefit for skin, they’re not ingredients that have comparative benefit to long established ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C and niacinamide, for example. They’re also not expensive to include in formulas, and there’s no compelling reason to seek out products that contain them; they’re just some of the dozens of beneficial plant extracts.
Breaking them down, we found that the research shows prickly pear extract (also listed on the labels as Opuntia fruit and cactus extract) is the most beneficial ingredient in the NV-5 Ageless Complex because it has antioxidant properties and can also stimulate collagen production on sun-damaged skin, thanks to its ferulic acid content.
The lady’s slipper orchid and blue agave extracts have zero research pertaining to any benefit for the skin, but, like all plant extracts (even the fragrant ones), each likely functions as an antioxidant. The cactus extract has documented antioxidant ability when consumed orally, but there’s no research regarding topical application.
Aloe is a decent water-binding agent and a minor source of numerous beneficial compounds for the skin, but it’s certainly not unique to Sunday Riley. Finally, the form of yeast (Latin name Saccharomyces cerevisiae) isn’t all that exciting for skin as there is little in the way of research showing otherwise.
Obtaining accurate ingredient lists for Sunday Riley products proved more challenging than for most products. Not only were we dealing with ingredient lists on their packaging statements that did not fully comply with FDA regulations for ingredient disclosure (for example, “NV5 Ageless Complex” is a trade mix, not an individual ingredient), but also many of the sites that sell this brand do not include accurate ingredient lists. Very frustrating for us, as well as for consumers, who are entitled to the truth about what a product contains, no matter where they shop.
Another wall we ran into: Just when we thought we had stumbled upon accurate lists on a reputable website that retails the brand, we found another trusted online retailer that had completely different lists! Adding all those issues up, and as you might expect, we were thoroughly confused. Emails to the company were ignored when we inquired about the ingredients, but, not surprisingly, we got near-instant replies when we asked about product prices. Despite all this, we’re reasonably confident that the ingredient lists we have assembled (and on which we base our reviews) are as accurate as they can be based on what Sunday Riley has divulged and what is printed on the products themselves.
The bottom line: This brand has some intriguing products and many of them contain beneficial ingredients that are packaged to maintain their effectiveness, but there are a few missteps in terms of highly fragrant formulas (noted in their respective reviews). Even the highly rated products are on the pricey side for what you get, but at least if you choose to indulge you’ll know which products are worth buying.
Strengths: All of the moisturizers are packaged to protect the effectiveness of their air-sensitive ingredients; the serums and moisturizers are rich sources of plant-based antioxidants; the sunscreen provides broad-spectrum protection; good body-care products.
Weaknesses: Many highly fragrant products, and fragrance is a strong source of irritation for the skin; very expensive; disappointing cleansers; questionable claims.
For more information about Sunday Riley, visit www.sundayriley.com. The company currently does not provide a Customer Service phone number.