Every once in a blue moon you come across a skin care line that makes you feel like you can take on the Universe. The unparalleled results you see in your skin knows no price tag too high, and you end up skyrocketing into VIB Rouge as a result. You annoy the crap out of your friends by singing it's praises in attempts to convert them. After all, you want them to share in the magic and take on the Universe with you.
That has been my experience with Sunday Riley, the eponymous luxury skin care brand developed in 2009 by the Houston native. With a love of beauty and a background in chemistry, Sunday Riley set out to achieve a simpler, more direct and effective approach to skin care by utilizing high quality ingredients to expertly craft formulas like no other skincare line – and man, did she deliver.
Sunday Riley has gained a massive cult-like following of which I am a card-carrying member. Her products have been featured in every magazine you could possibly think of, more blogs and vlogs than you can count, and her products receive rave reviews globally.
I have used a slew of Sunday Riley products, but her trio of products targeted to acne-prone and oily skin types has impressed me the most.
With out-of-this-world names like Martian, U.F.O. and Saturn, these products will send your acne packing for the next solar system.
“Instantly transforms from a cooling gel to a water toner as it clarifies, removes oil, and visibly tightens pores for clear, matte skin”
“Formulated to target oily and acne-prone skin concerns. Bentonite clay instantly mattifies the skin while visibly minimizing pore size. Marshmallow and green tea soothe and cool the skin for a calmer looking complexion, while cucumber and witch hazel extracts tone and tighten. Manuka (a stronger relative of tea tree oil), in conjunction with black cumin, and magnolia bark extract provides natural antibacterial properties to balance oily and problem skin conditions, promoting a visibly improved, clearer, smoother, shine-free complexion. Skin is instantly cooled, mattified, and prepped for further skincare or color application.”
U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil, ($40 - $80)
I sincerely apologize for having to use the travel sample size of U.F.O. for photos in this review. My bottle suffered an unfortunate demise on my bathroom floor earlier this week. Yes, many tears were shed. And yes, I do have a new one on the way.
“For the management and prevention of acne and blackheads, this 1.5% Salicylic Acid medicated dry oil clears congested pores.”
“With fast acting 1.5% salicylic acid, this quick-dry medicated oil clears acne and blackheads causing buildup and debris from congested pores for smoother blemish-free skin. Tea tree oil and black cumin seed oil support clear skin, while hexylresorcinol and licorice naturally brighten the appearance of old acne discolorations for a visibly more even-toned complexion. Milk thistle and cucumber seed oils combat the drying effects of salicylic acid and nourish the skin with lost hydration.”
“Medicated mask dries and clears up acne, while preventing new blemishes from forming.”
“10% sulfur penetrates pores to dry and clear up existing acne while preventing new blemishes from forming. Treats multiple forms of acne, including blocked congested pores, inflammatory acne, hormonal acne, and acne rosacea.
4% niacinamide promotes clear skin, while boosting skin's healthy-looking radiance. Zinc PCA and bentonite help to clear impurities, reduce excess oil, and soothe the appearance of redness, without overdrying.
Highly potent tea tree oil standardized for high levels of terpinen-4-ol, partnered with manuka oil, purifies the skin. Complexion looks and feels smoother and clearer with each use.”
Sunday Riley's packaging is modern, simplistic, and elegant. They don't scream high-end from the rooftops or anything, but they're nice. They're relatively functional for their intended purposes and they do get the job done.
Sunday Riley is not a brand that is pricey due to ornate packaging – the ingredients and formulas contained within are the stars of the show.
Be that as it may, they're not cheap products and though I feel that you get an ample amount of product for the price point, I do take some issue with the dispensing methods of the toner and the mask.
The $55 Martian toner comes in a 4.4 oz hard plastic, vacuum pump, green bottle. The pump mechanism on this bottle dispenses more product with one full pump than what is needed or necessary for one application. There have been many times where I have accidentally dispensed WAY too much product and ended up struggling with the excess, both physically and mentally (knowing I had just wasted money by using 3 applications worth in one fell swoop).
The packaging for the U.F.O. oil is what you'd come to expect with any facial oil – dark glass bottle with glass dropper. It's pretty simple and straightforward and if you've ever used an oil with similar packaging you'll be a U.F.O. pro.
U.F.O. Face Oil is available in two sizes which I'm totally here for. Not only does it make reordering less of a sting (especially on the off-chance it shatters all over the bathroom floor), but I prefer to purchase smaller amounts of facial oils to ensure I use them before they turn or become unstable.
The 0.5 oz bottle of U.F.O. is $40 and the full 1.18 oz size retails for $80. I do realize that you end up saving on the full size, but honestly the 0.5 oz lasts such a long time as it is (even with daily use) that I prefer to buy it in this size. Because so little is needed the 0.5 oz bottle lasts me 3 months.
Saturn – the latest Sunday Riley product and the first mask to enter the brand's lineup – comes in a 2 fl oz squeeze tube made complete with a screw top cap. Yep, it's basic AF. The tube also makes it difficult to dispense the mask. I'll get into why in a sec.
Application and results
Now that we've finally gotten to the good stuff, I'm just going to lay this out there so it's not a surprise...
You guys...Sunday Riley products do not smell fantastic. In fact, they're pretty stinky. They are. It's a fact and something I have learned to deal with. You will too should you choose to take a journey with Sunday Riley's products.
Spoiler: it's skincare. Not perfume. I for one appreciate the fact that Sunday Riley products are not chocked full of fragrance. I honestly don't care if a product doesn't smell pretty as long as it works. I mean, that's what we're shelling out the bucks for.
Though the scents of Sunday Riley products may be an issue for some, I'm SO down with a brand that is secure enough in their formulas and in the effectiveness of their products that they don't feel the need to hide behind added fragrances!
When Martian is dispensed it comes shooting out of the pump, so watch out. I apply minimal pressure to dispense a nickel size of the opaque mint-green liquid into the palm of my hand.
It smells a little bit like licorice, a little bit like cumin, and a little bit like clay. It's incredibly bizarre and it is stinky, but it's not so horrendous that I'd ever abandon it.
As soon as you start applying the gel to your skin (you can use a cotton pad or your fingers; I prefer the latter) it becomes a watery fluid that begins absorbing within 15 seconds. At first your skin feels dewy and hydrated...then suddenly your skin becomes matte, smooth and soft to the touch. It is...incredible.
I cannot stress how magical Martian is for oily skin. It took a week of daily use to see the long term mattifying effects of this toner. The more I used it, the more I noticed that I wasn't needing to blot...like, at all. Blotting every hour had become a necessary ritual for me, even with setting powder and primer and all that jazz. Since I live in Texas my oily T-Zone is typically always a hot mess. Literally.
Then, Martian crash-landed into my life. Not only did oil production chill out when the heat kicked up, but my makeup began wearing longer altogether because of it.
If oil control wasn't enough, the tone and texture of my skin began to look more refined, pores looked smaller and tighter, and blackheads stopped being such a struggle.
Martian became an integral part of my daily skincare routine, and because I fell so in love with it I decided to try out U.F.O.
U.F.O FACE OIL
If you've read my previous posts you may recall that I often mention an issue with my chin that has plagued me for a year now. It breaks out, scabs over, dries out, peels, and repeats. There have been quite a few products that have helped extend the period before a flare up, but the U.F.O. oil has been the best and most effective product for this issue.
You only need a few drops of this emerald green oil for your entire face. I'm talkin' 4-5 little drops max. If you find that it is not absorbing or that your skin feels greasy, you're using way too much.
This oil, when used in small amounts, absorbs beautifully into the skin. It doesn't feel heavy or greasy. What's more, though it contains salicylic acid it is SO nourishing! It's also a fantastic oil to mix into your moisturizer.
I only use U.F.O. in the evening after cleansing because I typically don't like wearing oils during the day. Sometimes I wear it alone or mix a few drops into my Tatcha Water Cream moisturizer. Upon waking up my skin feels hydrated, super soft, and perfectly balanced.
Not once has this oil dried out my skin, irritated my skin, stung my skin (even on active breakouts or my irritated chin). In fact, it calms and soothes any irritation and the blend of ingredients really DO prevent the salicylic acid from drying out your skin!
I'm incredibly sensitive to salicylic acid and I have steered clear of the stuff for ages because of how badly it makes my skin peel. U.F.O is unlike ANY salicylic acid topical medication I have ever tried. If you did a blind test you would never know it contained salicylic acid.
Within a week of using this herbal earthy smelling oil (which I personally find calming and pleasant), my chin had gone from full on chaos-mode to dormant and chill. The redness that is typically left behind after a flare up was so minimal that I could barely believe it. My skin also stopped flaking in that area. I was amazed at just how effective this oil was, and from that point on I was a true Sunday Riley convert.
U.F.O. is without a doubt my favorite facial oil on the planet. Not only did it help out my crazy chin, but my skin finally felt like it was retaining moisture where I'm typically dry and it has never made my oily areas more oily. I use it religiously every evening and it continues to impress me.
U.F.O. delivers the perfect amount of moisture and nourishment to acne-prone skin and it balances out oil production. Even the oiliest skin needs moisture, and this oil meets two needs with one deed.
If you can get over the herbal scent, it has the potential to be a life-changing product. If you want to try one product from Sunday Riley and you suffer from breakouts and blackheads, this is the one to check out.
Because I fell so crazy in love with Martian and U.F.O., when Saturn was released I couldn't wait to get my hands on it and I ordered it as soon as it hit Sephora.
I hadn't used a sulfur product since my late teens, and though I don't remember how effective it was (it was a Dr. Perricone MD product I had read about in Seventeen magazine) I do remember how awful it smelled. Saturn smells just as awful, if not worse. It. Is. Rank.
This neon yellow green mask is potent and crazy strong. For this reason I highly recommend not applying the mask with your fingers and using a masking brush instead. I squeeze the mask directly onto the brush and start painting.
(Side note: the fumes are intense, therefore do not put it anywhere near your eyes, lips, or your nostrils!)
The issue I have with dispensing Saturn is that you can't gauge how much is going to come out with each squeeze. It's not a very thick or fluid mask, but it can be watery and creamy at the same time. There are two different textures going on, which would be an easy fix if you could mix up the mask before application. You can shake up the tube, but it's not very effective. The result is a sort of separation of the formula when you squeeze it out of the tube, and it comes out very unevenly. It can drip or shoot out of the tube.
You don't want to get this mask on anything because you'll never be able to remove the smell of rotten eggs. I recommend that you designate a wash cloth for this mask and only use it for this mask until the end of eternity.
So now that the mask is on and your bathroom and face is fully saturated with the smell of sulfur, the mask dries like most clay masks do but it isn't hard and it doesn't pull. It remains pretty soft as it dries. Once washed off after 10 - 20 minutes your skin will either look bright and clean, or red and splotchy. It really depends on your sensitivities. I've experienced both with this mask, oddly enough. I think the current state of your skin should be taken into consideration as well. You may want to avoid irritated areas because it does have a tendency to sting.
Here's the thing... I don't think this mask is for those with the occasional breakout. This mask backfired on me and I ended up with a purging effect...and it was ROUGH, let me tell you. I haven't experienced a purging of that magnitude in many years. So, unfortunately this mask ended up doing the opposite of what I had intended and caused breakouts instead of clearing them.
It didn't ruin my life or anything like that, but I don't think the mask's intended benefit is suited for my particular skin. Out of the three of these products, Saturn is the only product I would not repurchase in the future.
Despite my lamentable experience, I have no doubt that Saturn works for those with more severe forms of acne. Remember when I mentioned the attempts in converting my friends? It just so happens that one of my closest friends (who suffers from chronic acne) took my advice and now uses Saturn weekly. I can firmly attest to it's divine-like intervention because it has performed miracles for his skin.
Saturn's directions say that it can be used as an overnight mask or spot treatment, but I highly advise against doing so. Unless your skin is crocodile tough and can hang with anything that comes it's way, the sheer intensity of this mask has the potential to cause a chemical burn. Plus, I highly doubt you'd be able to sleep well smelling this mask all through the night. I know I didn't, and I woke up to a red burned patch from my overnight spot treatment experiment.
Sunday Riley has become one of my absolute favorite skin care brands and though not every product I have tried from the line has been a complete win, the ones that are have changed my skin for the better and I have seen REAL results with them.
I couldn't recommend these products enough (yes, even Saturn because I've seen what it can do), and if you're looking to try this set of products without spending a fortune, Sephora now offers the Space Race Fight Acne, Oil + Pores at Warp Speed Kit ($65), a set of Martian, U.F.O. and Saturn in deluxe sizes.
Though Sunday Riley's products are pricey, they work. Her methodology with ingredients and formulations is genius and I can't wait to see what the brand comes up with next. It's refreshing when you finally come across a brand that is so noticeably dedicated to creating quality products with interesting, yet simple, ingredients that really DO live up to their claims.
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Brigid Anderson has been a makeup addict for over 15 years and has worked as a freelance makeup artist and stylist for fashion labels and music videos. When she isn't writing about and using beauty products, she enjoys spending time with her husband and their dog Ivan, hoarding vintage clothing and vinyl records, and binge watching 'Game of Thrones'...repeatedly.