Sunday Riley

A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

1.00 fl. oz. for $ 85.00
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Brand Overview

Sunday Riley’s A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum combines a newer retinoid + tried-and-true retinol, along with a respectable mix of repairing and replenishing ingredients. We’re happy to report that this powerhouse blend has what it takes to fight the signs of aging; however, it’s quite not as potent as it might seem.

Housed in a darkly frosted bottle, A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum has a lightweight, fluid texture that spreads easily and is compatible with all skin types. In a smart move, the formula is fragrance free (which is not always the case for Sunday Riley products).

As mentioned, the heroes of this serum are a form of retinoid known as hydryoxypinacolone retinoate (HPR), as well as the extensively researched retinol. HPR is a next-generation retinol derivative, with some research indicating that it may be able to bind directly to skin’s retinoid receptors. That means it’s likely to improve UV-damaged skin as claimed and also help soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Is it superior to retinol? Not necessarily; retinol has more than 40 years of research proving its effectiveness in skin care, so while this development is exciting, it’s not a proven advantage. We like that you’re getting both forms here. The combination is intriguing although not necessarily better than using one or the other alone.

About the percentages being called out for both the HPR and retinol: they’re likely not as “high-dose” as they sound.  The main supplier of HPR uses a 90/10 mix of the solvent dimethyl isosorbide + the retinoid. Using this blend at 5% means you’re actually getting a smaller fraction of the retinoid itself. As for the “liposomal-encapsulated retinol blend,” that’s also diluted so instead of a pure 1% retinol, you’re getting a lower strength. That’s not a deal-breaker because even low-to-moderate doses of retinol and retinoids can still have a great impact, but it does make the “high dose” claims misleading.

More importantly, Sunday Riley didn’t stop with the retinoids—this serum also delivers an impressive mix of antioxidants, including ubiquinone (CoQ10), soothing agents, and sodium hyaluronate (a form of hyaluronic acid), all of which help skin look and feel its best.

Between the combination of retinoid/retinol + additional beneficial ingredients, this formula is able to improve skin in numerous ways.

  • Retinoid + retinol blend addresses multiple skin concerns, including signs of aging.
  • Loaded with antioxidants and replenishing ingredients to give skin a healthy look and feel.
  • Several soothing agents on hand to keep skin calm.
  • Lightweight, fluid texture compatible with all skin types.
  • Fragrance-free formula.
  • The “high dose” claims around the retinoid ingredients are misleading.
Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum combines a five percent retinoid ester blend, one percent liposomal-encapsulated retinol blend, and a half percent blue green algae with natural retinoid-alternative activity. This serum fights the signs of aging and improves the look of congested and UV-damaged skin.

Water, Propanediol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Triheptanoin, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Hexyldecanol, Disiloxane, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Diheptyl Succinate, Propylene Carbonate, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, PPG-24-Glycereth-24, Phenyl Trimethicone, Retinol, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Honey Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Algae Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Extract, Opuntia Ficus-indica Fruit Extract, Bisabolol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Phospholipids, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Lecithin, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, 1,2-Hexanediol, 4-t-Butylcyclohexanol, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Helianthus Annuss (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Sorbitol, Cetylhydroxyproline Palmitamide, Polysilicone-11, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Sodium Phytate, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Polysorbate, Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid, Stearic Acid, Brassica Campestris Sterols, PVP, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Sodium Benzoate, Alcohol, Potassium Phosphate, Decyl Glucoside, Phenoxyethanol, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Tocopherol.

Sunday Riley is a brand that has captured the attention of many with its mix of luxury-positioned skincare 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. The answer: Yes and no.

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.

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. 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.

Sunday Riley products are available at several online retailers, as well as at Sephora stores.

About the Experts

The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.

Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.

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