Toner can be a great addition to any skincare routine, provided it's well-formulated. Unfortunately, this oddly-named toner from Sunday Riley relies on some old-school thinking, making this one we don't recommend.
Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner comes in an opaque pump-style container that's convenient to use. The first thing you'll notice is the mint-green color of this toner, which starts out as a lotion (the brand says it's a gel, but it definitely is more of a lotion texture), then transforms into a clear liquid as you smooth it across skin. It feels refreshing and lightweight, and absorbs quickly without leaving a sticky or tacky feeling.
The ingredient behind this lightweight aesthetic is a high amount of denatured alcohol. It's the second ingredient on the list, ahead of all the other potentially-beneficial extracts (and there are quite a few). Sunday Riley attributes this toner's mattifying properties to the inclusion of clay, but it's more likely the alcohol working to de-grease oily skin—a problem that can backfire, as we explain in the More Info section.
Pass on this one, and go instead for one of the far better options on our list of Best Toners & Face Mists.
Alcohol-Based Skincare Products: Alcohol does help ingredients like retinol and vitamin C penetrate into the skin more effectively, but it does so by breaking down skin's barrier, destroying the very substances that keep your skin healthy over the long term (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012; Journal of Hospital Infection, 2003).
A significant amount of research shows that alcohol causes free-radical damage in skin even at low levels (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, 2012). In a lab setting, low concentrations of alcohol on skin cells (about 3%; skincare products contain amounts ranging from 5% to 60% or greater) over the course of two days increased cell death by 26%. It also destroyed the substances in cells that reduce inflammation and defend against free radicals; in fact, this process actually causes more free-radical damage. If that weren't bad enough, exposure to alcohol also causes skin cells to self-destruct (Alcohol, 2002).
Research also shows that the destructive and aging effects on skin cells increases the longer skin is exposed to alcohol; for example, two days of exposure were dramatically more harmful than one day, and that's at only a 3% concentration (Alcohol, 2002).
In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012; Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
Irritation's Connection to Oily Skin & Breakouts: Inflammation in skin is usually related to external factors, such as irritation, which damages the skin's barrier in numerous ways, whether you can see or feel the irritation or not.
When irritation occurs on the surface of skin, it activates specific chemicals in the brain called neuropeptides (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2007), which regulate the hormonal system of the body.
This activation process in turn leads to the formation of inflammatory chemicals in the oil glands at the base of your pores, triggering an increase in oil production, which in turn can increase the size of the pore and the likelihood of acne. The more inflammation that occurs, the higher the risk (European Journal of Dermatology, 2002; Dermatology, 2003).
Bottom line: Inflammation and its resulting irritation on skin's surface and deeper within skin is practically a guarantee you will see excess oil, larger pores, and possibly more breakouts (Experimental Dermatology, 2009; Dermato-Endocrinology, 2011). That should be reason enough to avoid products with irritating ingredients, including fragrance and fragrant oils.
Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner is formulated to target oily and acne-prone skin concerns. Immediately melting from a treatment gel to a water toner as it is massaged into the skin, it contains bentonite clay to mattify and visibly reduce pore size, and marshmallow and green tea to soothe and cool the signs of redness and sensitive skin for a calmer-looking complexion. Cucumber and witch hazel extracts tone and tighten, while Manuka—a relative of tea tree oil—along with black cumin and magnolia bark extracts provide natural antibacterial properties to balance oily and problem skin conditions and promote a visibly improved, clearer, smoother, shine-free complexion.
Water, Alcohol Denat., Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Sorbeth-30 Tetraisostearate, Sorbitan Sesquiisostearate, PPG-8 Ceteth-20, Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, Dipropylene Glycol, Taraktogenos Kurzii Seed Oil, Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seed Oil, Leptospermum Scoparium (Manuka) Branch/Leaf Oil, Potassium Lauroyl Wheat Amino Acids, Palm Glycerides, Capryloyl Glycine, Magnolia Grandiflora Bark Extract, Lauryl Lactate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Chlorphenesin, Tapioca Starch, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Bentonite, Tapioca Starch (and) Polymethylsilsequioxane, Lauryl Lactate, Phenoxyethanol, Propanediol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract, Hammamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Cymbopogan Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Oil, Chlorphenesin, Caprylyl Glycol, Triethanolamine, Melia Azadirachta Leaf Extract, Melia Azadirachta Flower Extract, Amino Esters-1, Mimosa Tenuiflora Bark Extract, Coccinia Indica Fruit Extract, Solanum Melongena (Eggplant) Fruit Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, Lawsonia Inermis (Henna) Extract, Ocimum Sanctum Leaf Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Corallina Officinalis Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Flower/Leaf Extract, Pearl Powder.
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.
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