Reviewed by Bess

I really wanted to love Sunday Riley’s Start Over Active Eye Cream ($85). It had all the right stuff: Sophisticated packaging.  Scientific gravitas. References from beauty insiders.

After two months of continual use, the most passion I can muster is this: It’s not my type.

Start Over is a light moisturizing product that in my experience offered minimal hydration, a bit of tightening and depuffing, and a refreshing coolness. While these are credible benefits, I found them underwhelming for an expensive product like Start Over.

Start Over is one of 14 products in the Sunday Riley Modern Skincare line. Sunday Riley is a young biochemist and cosmetic industry consultant from Houston.  She has the technical expertise and marketing know-how to tap the two driving forces in the modern skincare market: botanicals and biotechnology. With exclusive distribution through Barney’s, a celebrity following and cult status in the beauty press, Sunday Riley has succeeded in the high stakes game of cosmetics.

On its packaging and website, Start Over claims: “helps to make your eyes look whiter and more rested, moisturizes, gets rid of dark circles and immediately plump up fine lines, depuffs and provides instant cooling and lifting to refresh and fight the look of fatigue.”

No doubt, Start Over is an active product.  It delivers a tingle that is like a bracing splash of ice cold water that takes several minutes to fade.  The cream also feels luxurious and silky on the hand. It massages in beautifully until it starts to dry, then it turns a little tacky. It takes its sweet time to dry down to a matte finish.  Once it dried down, I could see a bit of tightness.

The little bit of tightness that ‘Start Over’ produced upon application lasted about 30 minutes.

I thought that maybe I was missing something.  The package instructions encourage reapplication throughout the day or ‘when you need a visual or mental pick me up.’ As the package suggested, I reapplied from time to time throughout the day.  These pick-me-up applications certainly fulfilled the ‘active’ promise by producing a refreshing and cool jolt.

My biggest complaint:  Start Over has absolutely no hydrating effect.  None.  In fact, I became convinced that the product had a drying effect. After one month the skin around my eyes was parched, giving me the appearance of dry and crepey old lady skin. I used this product for an entire eight weeks and now I am on remedial hydration therapy.

‘Start Over’ makes claim to a long list of benefits that begin with the prefix anti-.  The first ingredient listed in ‘Start Over’ is NV-5 Ageless Complex, a botanical cocktail of five Texas desert plant extracts. For an evaluation of this complex, read Marta’s review in Sunday Riley and Five Botanicals.

The second ingredient listed is ‘squalane and Olio Europa (olive fruit) extract,’ a highly emollient lipid extracted from olive and other plant oils. Squalane is credible enough, but it’s inexpensive and ubiquitous in cosmetic and beauty products.

The third and the fourth ingredients listed are two up-and-comers from the botanical hit parade: rosehip seed oil and pomegranate seed oil.  Fruit seed oils are gaining ground in the botanical anti-aging community for their high levels of antioxidants and essential fatty acids.

Rosehip seed oil has been used by women since antiquity and its benefits are supported by both ancient and modern science.  Rosehip is the only vegetable oil that contains retinol (Vitamin A.)  It also contains high levels of vitamin C, Vitamin E and essential fatty acids.  Rosehip seed oil is an inexpensive and commonly used ingredient in modern cosmetics.

When it comes to pomegranate seed oil, the jury is still out. Pomegranate seed oil contains high levels of omega-3 and ellagic acid.  The health benefits of eating pomegranates is undisputed but the benefits of facial application of the seed oil is murky.  A University of Michigan Medical School, suggested that pomegranate seed oil held the ‘potential’ to promote epidermal regeneration. Meanwhile, ‘Start Over’ claims that it helps with collagen synthesis.

The tightening and lift in Start Over comes from the next ingredient: methylsilanol carboxymethyl theophylline alginate, commonly found in anti-cellulite products. Theophylline, a compound found in caffeine, tea and cocoa beans, is used to treat asthma and other respiratory diseases because of its powerful anti-inflammatory effect on smooth muscle. Methylsilanol is a silicon.

A few more active ingredients show up on the list of ingredients -- collagen-boosting vitamin C, DNA-repairing lutein, discoloration-diminishing licorice and antioxidant alpha lipoic acid.  The remaining ingredients are dispersing agents, humectants, skin conditioners, parabens and acrylics, many of which are found in much less expensive cosmetic products.

Ingredients:

NV-5 Ageless Complex (prickly pear, blue agave, lady’s slipper orchid, cactus, aloe), Squalane and Olea Europea (olive) fruit extract, Rosa Rubiginosa (rosehip) seed oil, Punica Granatum (pomegranate) seed oil, Methylsilanol carboxymethyl theophylline alginate, Butylene glycol, PEG-75 meadowsol, Ammonium polyacrylate Isohexadecane, PEG-40 castor oil, Hydroxyethyl acrylate/sodium acryloyldimethyl taurate copolymer, Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (Vitamin C Ester), Glucosamine HCL & algae extract & yeast extract and urea, Algae extract, Artemisia Vulgaris (mugwort) extract, Glabridine (licorice) extract, Lecithin, Cholesterol oleyl carbonate & Cholesteryl nanoate & Cholesteryl chloride, Punica granatum (pomegranate) seed oil & Astaxanthin & Lycopene & Alpha D-tocopherol & Thioctic acid (ALA) & Lutein, Methyl paraben, Propyl paraben, DMDM hydantoin