First Impressions: Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

I have tried several Sunday Riley products in the past couple of years.  I know there are some people who adore everything the brand puts out and others who despise every product.  It just seems to be one of those brands that everyone either loves or hates.  To be honest, I am sort of in the middle.  Most of the products I’ve tried from the brand generally work well for me. None of them have ever caused me problems and a few I like enough to reorder.

One product I had not tried from Sunday Riley was the A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum.  I’d seen it around and I think it was an option in a subscription box a while ago, but I didn’t get it.  I can’t remember if it was because I didn’t choose it or because I just didn’t get it. Either way I had not tried it. 

In fact, I have not done much with retinols in general. 

It is one of those categories I have been meaning to investigate, but haven’t quite gotten around to working with.  So when I received this small sample in the November Birchbox, I thought it was a good place to start.  As the sample is small I knew I wouldn’t see any major results, but I figured I could at least try it and see how my skin reacted so that I could decide about retinol use moving forward. Since there aren’t a lot of visible results, I decided to basically record my first impressions of the serum as I figure out if i would want to try out a full sized version for a full thirty + days trial.

When I looked on the Sunday Riley site I was happy to not only see a little bit of product information but to see extra information regarding retinol use.  Normally, I try to keep the blurb I copy from the website short, but for this I did copy down the extra bits this time because they were extra useful.

A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum is an advanced-strength retinoid serum delivers a 6.5%solution of stablilized retinoid blends and botanical, retinol-alternative extracts into the skin.

Apply 1-2 pumps in the evening to clean, dry skin. For targeted instructions, see below:

For new retinoid users: Use two days on, two days off. Work your way up to every other day, then to daily, evening use. Follow with a hydrating oil or moisturizer, like C.E.O. Glow or Juno. Use an AHA serum, like Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, on alternate nights to sweep away dead skin cells.

For advanced retinoid users: Use daily, in the evenings. Follow with a hydrating oil or moisturizer, like C.E.O. Glow or Juno. Use an AHA serum, like Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, in the mornings to sweep away dead skin cells.

For sensitive skin: Apply a few drops of a gentle, hydrating oil, like C.E.O. Glow or Juno to your skin before applying A+ serum.

Ingredients: Water/Eau/Agua, Propanediol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Triheptanoin, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Hexyldecanol, Disiloxane, Cetyl PEG/PPG-10/1 Dimethicone, Diheptyl Succinate, Propylene Carbonate, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, PPG-24-Glycereth-24, Phenyl Trimethicone, Retinol, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Honey Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Algae Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Extract, Opuntia Ficus-indica Fruit Extract, Bisabolol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Phospholipids, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Extract, Lecithin, Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, 1,2-Hexanediol, 4-t- Butylcyclohexanol, Polyglyceryl-10 Stearate, Caprylyl Glycol, Helianthus Annuss (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Sorbitol, Cetylhydroxyproline Palmitamide, Polysilicone-11, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Sodium Phytate, Glyceryl Polyacrylate, Polysorbate, Hydroxyphenyl Propamidobenzoic Acid, Stearic Acid, Brassica Campestris Sterols, PVP, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Sodium Benzoate, Alcohol, Potassium Phosphate, Decyl Glucoside, Phenoxyethanol, Hexylene Glycol, Potassium Sorbate, Tocopherol.

Sunday Riley

My Birchbox came in on the afternoon of November 27th so I decided to start that night.  As a new to retinoid user, I went with the new use plan.  I used it the 27th and 28th, skipped November 29th and 30th, used it December 1st and 2nd, skipped the 3rd and 4th, used it the 5th and 6th.  The sample size I had ran out of product on the sixth. 

On the nights I used it I followed the retinol up with the Malin + Goetz recovery oil (It is one of my favorite facial oils at the moment and one I happen to like a lot better than the Sunday Riley CEO Glow. This is actually my second bottle of this oil).  I happened to still have some Good Genes Lactic Acid treatment on hand (which is one of the Sunday Riley Products I will reorder) so I used that on alternate nights as directed.

I really like that the directions are very specific as to what types of products should be used and when.  As I am just learning about applying retinols I found this break down extremely helpful. Retinols are used to work on wrinkles and dark spots followed by oil to hydrate and alternated with AHA to get rid of dead skin cells.  It is well outlined. 

Did it work?

Well, given the amount of product I had to work with and the length of time I used it, expecting major results would be a bit much. I took a picture on the day I started and on the morning after I used the last amount of product. While there is little difference that can be seen, some of the dark sun damaged spots on my forehead have lightened. Thus far i haven’t had an product that I’ve tried that has done much with those spots. I think it may be a job for retinol. I do have high hopes that a longer trial might show some more noticeable results. 

Start of trial on the Left and end of trial on the Right

The product worked well with my skin and it is something that I could definitely see giving a longer trial, especially to see what it does with those dark spots on my forehead.  I think that at some point in the future I will be picking this up to test out further.  It also gave me a bit more confidence in trying out retinoid based products in the future as well.  There is so much talk of sun sensitivity that I was very cautious of the ingredient. while I am by no means laying out in the sun to work on my tan, I walk most days and in the summer i spend a lot of time working in the garden (I’m pretty sure the forehead damage is garden work related). I did use the serum only at night and even though the garden is buried under mulch and waiting for the spring, I was still walking outside most days. I had no extra sun sensitivity. I also use sunscreen. In fact I was extra careful to use sunscreen while I was testing this out.

While I would still be cautious and ease myself in to any retinol product I try, now that I sort of understand the system of layering it with other products and interspacing it with AHAs I am less hesitant to try out this category of products.  It may take me a little while to circle back to this, but given the way my skin felt as I used it, this does rank high on the list of products I want to test for a longer time period.

Using this product also brought home to me the need to use a product for a full month or longer to see results.  While I am going to be working through a few more samples this month and gathering first impressions, in the new year I think I am going to adjust how I review skincare, like serums and moisturizers, focusing more on longer term reviews for those products. There will still be first impressions though as I decide what products I really want to try out for a longer term. As a first impression, the Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum performed well enough to be put on the list of the full sized products to try.


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