It was Bess who alerted me to Sunday Riley, an anti-aging brand that I hadn’t heard of. I took a quick look and found a line that majors on botanical ingredients, upscale packaging and prices to match. What about the name though? Was Sunday Riley a person? Was it a famous person who I should have instantly recognized and embarrassingly have failed to? (Being a Brit, I can always plead cultural deprivation). And what about the products – would they live up to the prices (more than $200 for an anti-aging serum)?

Sunday Riley turns out to be (according to Dallas News) a 30-something biochemist from Houston. With distribution in Barney’s, she seems hell bent on being the next Helena Rubenstein. Well, good luck to her. Thanks to a spectacularly efficient press office, I had samples in my hands the same day I requested them. The Start Over eye cream ($85) has been sent off to Bess and I kept the Bionic Anti-Aging Cream ($225) for myself.

Sunday Riley’s packaging is gorgeous. The styling is modern and chic and even the boxes seem luxurious (this isn’t mere packaging, more like a gift box). While the snobby, hedonist in me purred like a cat, my inner Capricorn wondered if Sunday Riley would prove to be style over substance.

“Botanicals and biotechnology” are the watchwords of Sunday Riley and there is a signature ingredient called NV-5 Ageless Complex. Now, what is impressive is that NV-5 is the first ingredient in every single Sunday Riley product. Less impressive is that it is quickly followed by silicones, pegs, copolymers, propylene glycol and other non-actives typical of a mediocre department store brand. These are like an unappetizing filling between two delicious layers of artisanal bread, as next up comes familiar anti-agers with a good track record. So let’s focus on the bread for now.

NV-5 Ageless Complex is made up of five plant extracts: prickly pear, blue agave, lady’s slipper orchid, cactus, aloe. Of all of these, prickly pear, or cactus pear (opuntia tuna) is the most convincing. Perhaps that’s why it appears twice in the formula’s listing. It is also something you might recognize as cropping up in Skin Nutrition products and it is one of those “better than vitamin C” actives (according to one study). Cactus pear has plenty of antioxidants, such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, reduced glutathione, cysteine, taurine, and flavonoids such as quercetin, kaempferol and isorhamnetin.

Unfortunately, some of the other components of NV-5 have less convincing pedigrees. Blue agave, from which tequila is made, doesn’t have much research to back it up and I could find no supporting evidence as to its role in skincare. Lady’s slipper (cypripedium pubescens) has primarily been used as a sedative. Again, I can’t find any information about its role in skincare or anti-aging beyond another cosmetic company saying it was used for its relaxing properties.

Aloe, of course, has lots of good things going for it. It is an effective anti-inflammatory and is ubiquitous in beauty products (it would probably be easier to name ones without it).  Also in fairly widespread use are the actives that come after the silicones, pegs and what not. They are non the worse for that and include antioxidant resveratrol and green tea, plus its most active component, EGCG, as well as Matrixyl (palmitoyl oligopeptide) and copper tripeptide-1 (also in Skin Nutrition).

As I expected, Sunday Riley Bionic is a very rich cream with a fruity smell. Initially, I didn’t enjoy the tacky to the touch feeling that lasted about 15 minutes. But after that subsided, I found it very comfortable. I am curious as to how it will perform over time and I’ll report back in a month.


NV-5 Ageless Complex (prickly pear, blue agave, lady’s slipper orchid, cactus, aloe), yeast extract, urea, sunflower seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, butylene glycol, glyceryl polymethacrylate, squalane, cyclomethicone, dimethicone, centella asiatica extract, PEG-75 meadowsol, PPG-12/SMDI copolymer, stearic acid, propylene glycol, cetearyl alcohol and ceteareth 20, shea butter, glyceryl polymethacrylate, glyceryl stearate and PEG-100 stearate, saccharmyces ferment lysate fitrate, CoQ10, resveratrol, retinol, EGCG and green tea, xanthan gum, pomegranate extract, steareth-2, palmitoyl oligopeptide, copper tripeptide-1, stearyl glycyrrhetinate, cholesteryl noanoate, cholesteryl oleyl, cholesteryl chloride, butylated hydroxytoluene, methyl paraben, propyl paraben, DMDM hydantoin.