As a skincare brand, Sunday Riley is perhaps best known for its popular oil products (such as Luna Sleeping Oil). U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil expands the oil-themed lineup, but it's a tough sell due to some formulary missteps.
This oil comes in an elegant glass jar with a dropper dispenser. The first thing you'll notice (aside from its forest green color) is that it has a strong herbal/floral fragrance, and this fragrance lingers.
The oil itself goes on well, oily, but absorbs quickly and easily. While Sunday Riley describes this as a "dry" oil, and it certainly doesn't remain greasy, you will see a slight sheen on skin where it's applied.
U.F.O. is designed to help treat acne, and does contain a host of good antioxidant oils that can serve to soothe and protect skin, including pomegranate seed oil, cranberry seed oil, and flax seed oil. These are great additions to your skincare routine, but none of them have research showing they help reduce breakouts.
Unfortunately, some not-so-great ingredients show up are here as well. They include fragrant oils like black cumin seed oil (which likely gives this product its main scent), along with neroli oil and grapefruit peel oil. All of these can lead to potential irritation, which is particularly problematic for those with oily or acne-prone skin (see More Info for details).
The other problem is that while this does contain the acne-fighting superstar salicylic acid (BHA), for this ingredient to really work to exfoliate, it has to be at the right pH. We tried to determine the pH of this formula, but because the salicylic acid is suspended in an oil, we couldn't (determining pH is most effective when it's in a water-based solution). What this means is that it's uncertain exactly how beneficial the salicylic acid in this formula is to fighting acne—and we suspect it's not effective.
Irritation from High Amounts of Fragrance: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can impair the production of healthy collagen, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to look and act healthy. Fragrance free is the best way to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008; American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).
The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see or feel the effects on your skin for your skin to be suffering damage, and that damage may not become apparent for a long time, sometimes not for years (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
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.
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.
The Beautypedia and Paula’s Choice Research teams have one mission: To help you find the best products for your skin, whether they’re from Paula’s Choice or another brand. By combining efforts, we’re able to share scientific research and remain committed to the highest standards based on our decades of experience objectively reviewing thousands upon thousands of skincare and makeup formularies in all price ranges.
Beautypedia cuts through the hype to bring you product insights and recommendations you won’t find anywhere else!