Sunday Riley may share the same name as her eponymous skincare label but she prefers to shun the spotlight. “I am an obsessively private person. It’s funny because my brand is so extroverted,” she says with a laugh. A look at the brand’s Instagram account confirms this — pictures of her are little to none. Riley’s decision to stay behind-the-scenes is cause for curiosity: She isn’t just the founder; she is the sole formulator of all of its products.
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Launched in 2009, Sunday Riley began with three stores in the US and achieved cult status after a few years. Today, it’s dubbed the ‘Internet’s favourite skincare brand’ and is worshipped by the most ardent of skincare fanatics. And to think, to date, the brand has no official website. Instead, it relies on its active social media channels. Instagram is where its devoted fanbase congregates.
Sunday Riley owes its success to the products’ “now and later” results. It’s widely known that the effects are instant, visible and long-lasting. The secret is in the high-tech formulas: Riley combines science-based active ingredients with botanicals. The packaging is clean and sophisticated; women and men of all ages are proud to flaunt them on their night stands.
Describe Sunday Riley.
I want to give people the ability to change and take control of their skin — it does, after all, affect how they feel about themselves. The products are focused on what I call ‘green technology’. I combine high tech ingredients, whether it be retinoid or acids, with botanicals to combat any irritation y from using active ingredients. It isn’t just about transforming; it’s also about nurturing and soothing. It’s a 360 degree way of looking after your skin.
How similar are you to your brand?
I see my personality traits in my products. I’m a little impatient as a person. I’m a “now” person. The minute I want something happen, I’m like: “…and? Where is it?”. I suppose that’s why all the products have instant results because I believe in an immediate and a long-term payoff.
How was Sunday Riley created?
We had to fight every step of the way. We started in 2009 during the recession and took off in a viral way after a few years. We didn’t put any money into marketing or advertising because we didn’t have any, but the products worked and people talked about it. They talked to their friends and on social media and before we knew it, plenty of people were using the brand.
Who is the Sunday Riley woman?
If you asked me three years ago, I would have said it would be someone who’s educated about skincare and knowledgable about ingredients. Our first client was a skincare guru. Now we still have her, but we’ve also got her sister who doesn’t know much about skincare, isn’t invested but wants to know why a product works great. Now we even have her brother too. We’re seeing more of people who don’t want to spend five years researching on skincare but simply want to know what works.
Where does Sunday Riley fit in the world of luxury beauty?
We have this cult following because so many people have heard about it, tried it and know that it works. Something that we have that is really special is our dedicated fanbase. They see results and they talk about it. You can have all the money in the world but you can’t buy word of mouth. That’s something you have to earn.
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How do you cater to the increasingly savvy beauty consumer?
People are getting more and more educated about ingredients. They tend to say: “I want retinol. I want this and that.” In a way, we’re uniquely suited to cater to them. We talk about our ingredients and the percentages of each that we use in our formulas. We provide transparency.
Let me give you an example: Ten to 15 years ago, a brand would put out a product that they claim is “with seaweed”. They don’t tell you where the ingredient is from or how much is in it. All the buyer has to know is that it’s in there.
Sunday Riley is honest. We’ll tell you that the C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum has 15 percent of Vitamin C. We cater to the client that cares about ingredients and try to make them understand what they’re buying into. There has to be transparency and a trust.
How do you think attitudes towards skincare have evolved over the years?
There are a lot of types of clients. Before, women were told to just moisturise, and men were told not to take care of their skin at all. I think the only thing my mum did growing up was wash her face and moisturise. That was all there was. She had no idea about ingredients or about textures and scents. Now, clients ask for ingredients. They want acids. Retinol. They’re also more willing to experiment. They’d say, “I need a serum, a mask, a moisturiser. On Tuesdays, I mask and Wednesdays, I oil.”
Also, skincare is becoming a part of self-care. Skincare used to be part of a beauty routine but now it’s a wellness movement. It’s something to invest in. So maybe you didn’t go to the gym today, but you can pop a vitamin. Skincare is like that now.
“Skincare is becoming part of self-care… It’s a wellness movement” — Sunday Riley, founder of the eponymous beauty label
What’s a skincare trend that’s over-hyped?
I’m intrigued by all trends. Although there is an miseducation about certain things. Some people say silicone is unsafe and I disagree. Cosmetic grade high quality silicon is used in all sorts of implants and it doesn’t react with the body. Good silicone can even provide skin protective qualities. That aside, I’m pretty intrigued by skincare trends. I’m curious about sheet masks and we don’t have that yet.
Would you ever go the organic route?
I would say we’re part of the clean beauty movement. We’re clean but we’re not a ‘bicycle’ — that’s what I call an assuring, organic brand. We’re a Tesla. We’ll get you there with speed, luxury and can get you there much further than a bicycle. But I think there are people out there who are content with soft, nurturing products and don’t need the high-tech. I think that’s perfectly fine, and as we grow, we can add that to our lineup.
What skincare routine would you recommend for women in Singapore?
I think that if all women were to use Good Genes, whether you’ve got oily, acne prone, dehydrated or mature skin, chemical exfoliation is really critical for even skin and relieving pore-clogging debris and old skin cells. I recommend C.E.O Rapid Flash Brightening Serum makes you look instantly healthy. I would also recommend the Luna Sleeping Oil for every single person as it has retinoids. To finish, use Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream as it’s lightweight and of a gel formula. Plus, it contains hyaluronic acid to put water in your skin while you sleep.
PrestigeOnline ends each personality piece with a P.S. – a postscript that highlights high-passion and how one powers through adversity, as shared by our Prestige society. Here, skincare founder Sunday Riley shares three tips for success:
1. Work On Improving Your Skill Set
“Sometimes I work on formulas just to practice. I worked on hand soap the other day purely because I want to get good at it. I try to increase my skill set and keep fresh.”
2. Be Transparent
“Always let the customer understand what they’re buying into. Be honest. Be transparent about what goes into your products.”
3. Believe In The Power Of Change
“Many people suffer from low self-esteem when they look in the mirror. I want to give people the ability to achieve change and transformation in their lives through skincare and education.”