Product Review: Sunday Riley C.E.O.

Repurchase? No.

Sunday Riley CEO

Hi lovelies!  So let me preface this by saying I usually do not post reviews so quickly after incorporating a new product into my routine, but given what a heavyweight SUNDAY RILEY is and the buzz that has been created for this new product I figured I’d post an initial review and update in a month’s time.  THERE ARE GAPS IN THIS REVIEW SO BE PATIENT!  WILL BE UPDATING OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS!

Now on to the product!  Obviously I’m reviewing Sunday Riley’s new moisturizer, the C.E.O. C + E antiOXIDANT Protect + Repair Moisturizer.  I have used this a few times now, and generally like it so far.  Let’s get into the nitty gritty!

Company’s claims…

The moisturizer’s back side reads:

“Lusciously hydrating and scientifically advanced, CEO is the smart, moisturizing guru for your thirsty skin.  Whipped and luminizing, CEO provides deep, soothing, (but never greasy) moisturization while its technologically advanced formula expertly fights the 5 visible signs of environmental and micropollution-induced skin damage: sensitivity, dehydration, dullness, uneven tone, and premature lines and wrinkles.  With 5% THD Ascorbate (the gold standard of Vitamin C: exceptionally powerful, yet less irritating than other forms of Vitamin C), blended with protective, anti-pollution exopolysaccharides and refining lime pearl extract.”

The instructions indicate the moisturizer should be used daily morning and/or night.  Below you will see Sephora’s crib sheet on the product.

Sephora Sunday Riley CEO

Some things to notice are that Sephora recommends this product for every skin type–I’ll give you my thoughts on that later.  Also, for the green beauty lovers out there or the ingredient-conscious, no parabens, sulfates, or phthalates so, good news!

First impressions…

I always have to do a sniff test on new products as anything too perfumed will anger the allergy beast within and lead to a raging headache, so smell-wise it’s your basic citrus scent.  Some have described it as a distinctly artificial orange scent, which I can understand, but that does not bother me too much.  When applied to my skin, the scent dissipates fairly quickly and I have had no issues with the scent from an allergy standpoint.  My skin is also on the sensitive/reactive side, so sometimes essential oils or scents can be problematic, but again, no issues so far!

The texture is certainly a much richer one compared to Sunday’s original moisturizer, Tidal.  I do still find that it melts into the skin well and can be worn under makeup which is a must for me as I like to use antioxidants during the day.  Upon first inspection it appeared that there was a bit of oil sitting on the top of the jar, but once I dove in I realized the product had just settled, no oil.  On the product container it does say “never greasy” and I have to say that I think this product would be greasy on oilier skin types, as it has an oily, waxy consistency.

As for the feel on the fingers and skin it is creamy, and has a slightly cooling effect when applied to my face.  I find I don’t need much for a full face application, just a small dollop.


The full ingredient list is below.

Sunday Riley CEO Ingredients

And here is the breakdown:

  1. Water: Well, this will take a while.  Water…just kidding.  You got this.
  2. Squalane: Squalane acts as a lubricant and a fantastic moisturizer.  Squalane replenishes skin lipids and softens and smoothes the skin.  Human sebum is actually made up of 25% squalane.  Can be acquired from shark liver oil, other natural oils, plant sources, or synthetically manufactured.  All in all, a great ingredient!
  3. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C): This is an antioxidant that inhibits lipid oxidation and protects from free-radical damage.  This form of Vit C can also improve and maintain the skin’s overall condition.  Manufacturers state that Vitamin C can lessen UV damage and stimulate collagen, and some studies have indicated the possibility that this this form of Vit C can promote a more even skin tone by inhibiting melanin (pigment) production.  This form of Vitamin C is a stable ester that is oil-soluble.  To explain the benefits of this, I have to first explain that Vitamin C is typically water-soluble and unable to make it through the lipid-rich skin barrier to reach the dermis where it can fulfill its purpose.  Making it an ester that is oil-soluble keeps the product from sitting on your skin’s surface and makes the formulation less susceptible to degradation.  TA is generally less irritating than ascorbic acid.
  4. Dicaprylyl Carbonate: Dicaprylyl Carbonate is a di-ester of carbonic acid and caprylyl alcohol and serves as a skin-conditioning agent.
  5. C10-18 Triglycerides: C10-18 Triglycerids is a trimester of glycerin and a mixture of normal and branched chain C10-18 fatty acids.  The combination of many solid fats and liquid oils is responsible for giving cosmetic formulations water-binding and thickening abilities.  This compound conditions the skin but is occlusive.  Red flag here–I know that not ALL occlusive products are bad, but I try to stay away from them as I am prone to congestion and the occasional breakout.
  6. PEG-8 Beeswax:  Made from the free fatty acids of beeswax, this forms a stable oil-in-water emulsion containing a high concentration of oil phase and lipophilic (combines with or dissolves in lipids and fats) active ingredients.  Used in creams, lotions, ointments, pomades, emulsions, cold creams, and salves.
  7. Hydrogrenated Vegetable Oil: Produced by (and I know this is shocking) the hydrogenation of vegetable oil.  This ingredient acts as a skin-conditioning agent and emollient.  Can be occlusive, again, not one of my favorite things. NOTE: Hydrogrenation is the charging with or combination with hydrogen.
  8. Tapioca Starch: Used as a thickening agent and can be soothing.  Derived from cassava.
  9. PPG-12 SMDI Copolymer: A copolymer of saturated methylene diphenyldiisocyanate and PPG-12 monomers.  Acts as a film-former, hair conditioning agent and fixative, plasticizer, skin-conditioning agent, and emollient.  I don’t know if I like the idea of a “plasticizer” on my skin, but with more digging I found that this can also be used as an anti-irritant and stabilizer (could be good given the amount of Vitamin C, etc. in this product).  This can be used to control the release of ingredients like Vitamin C and AHAs to reduce the likelihood of irritation, and should not clog pores.  Okay, I’m pacified.
  10. Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate: An emulsifier, this can be found in products for sensitive skin, babies, and sun care.  Liking this ingredient!
  11. Jojoba Esters: Jojoba esters are emollients and skin-conditioning agents made from jojoba oil and jojoba wax.
  12. Cetyl Alcohol: This ingredient is quite versatile and is used as an emollient, an emulsifier, a thickener, a foam booster, or a stabilizer.  The ingredient is derived from coconut or palm oil, or can be synthetically manufactured.  Some sources indicate it is non-comedogenic, but the jury is still out.
  13. Sodium Acrylates Copolymer: A thickener and stabilizer.
  14. Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax: Polyglyceryl-3 beeswax is an emulsifier and a beeswax derivative.  It is an ester of beeswax with polyglycerin-3.
  15. Lecithin: Lecithin is a natural emollient, emulsifier, anti-oxidant, and spreading agent.  The ingredient is hydrophilic (attracts water).  Typically obtained from eggs and soybeans and found in all living organisms.
  16. Glycerin: Glycerin is present in all natural lipids (AKA fats) and can be derived from natural substances or synthetically manufactured. Glycerin is a humectant (meaning, it is used to keep things moist) used in moisturizers. It is especially useful as it is water-binding and can pull water from the air and help the skin to retain moisture. It should also be noted that glycerin is a substance naturally found in skin. Glycerin can also improve the spreading qualities of creams and lotions. Research has shown that glycerin, in combination with other ingredients is excellent for the replenishment of skin. A note about glycerin: although it has not been shown to cause allergies, it may be comedogenic and irritating to the mucous membrane in concentrated solutions.
  17. Microcitrus Australasica Fruit (Lime Pearl) Extract:  Lime pearl is a source of AHAs.  This ingredient gently exfoliates and provides a brighter and more even complexion.  A review panel has investigated the safety of this ingredient in skincare preparations and found that it should be safe for use when formulated correctly.
  18. Butylene Glycol: A solvent with good antimicrobial actions.  Enhances the preservative activity of parabens.  Also serves as a humectant and viscosity controller.  Can also be used to mask odor.
  19. Alteromonas Ferment Extract (Exopolysaccharides): This is a skin conditioner suitable for dry or damaged skin.  Also considered an anti-inflammatory.  Obtained through fermentation of Alteromonas macleodii (marine bacterium).  Loving this–I’m a sucker for anti-inflammatory ingredients!
  20. Phenoxyethanol: A preservative with fungicidal, bactericidal, insecticidal, and germicidal properties.  Has a low sensitizing factor in leave-on preparations.
  21. Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit (Kakadu Plum) Extract: This ingredient is an anti-oxidant with skin-bleaching properties that can be used in the treatment of acne.  The constituents include vitamin C, phenolic compounds, anthocyanin, and amino acids.
  22. Bisabolol: Another botanical used for anti-inflammatory purposes.  Also has soothing properties.  Derived from chamomile and/or yarrow.
  23. Chlorophenesin: A preservative with fungistatic and bactericidal properties.
  24. Caprylyl Glycol: Works in concert with phenoxyethanol as an anti-microbial.  An emollient with moisturizing and stabilizing properties.
  25. Polymethylsilsesquioxane: A silicone ingredient that is common in cosmetics preparations.  Used as a film-former and to smooth, and also as an opacifying agent (makes the formulation opaque).
  26. Nylon-12: A bulking and opacifying agent that gives a good feel and elasticity to moisturizers.  Reduces oiliness. 
  27. Citrus Reticulata (Tangerine) Peel Oil: This one is tough.  It appears that the safety of this ingredient in cosmetic preparations is still up for debate.  I’m currently reading the report of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review on the topic, but their original panel was slated to discuss citrus oils and their uses in general and so parsing apart the information pertaining to this particular ingredient is going to take some time.  I’l be back with more!
  28. Citric Acid: Boasts astringent and anti-oxidant properties.  Can be used as a product stabilizer, pH adjuster, or preservative with a low-sensitizing potential.  Not usually irritating to normal skin, but can cause burning and redness when applied to inflamed or chapped skin.  Derived from citrus fruit.
  29. Sodium Phytate: Boosts a product’s stability.
  30. Tocopherol: AKA Vitamin E.  An antioxidant obtained by vacuum distillation of edible vegetable oils.  Largely considered the most important oil-soluble antioxidant and radical scavenger.  Can also act as a photoprotectant and help protect the cellular membrane from free-radical damage.  Protects against oxidation.
  31. Sodium Hyaluronate: Sodium hyaluronate is used as a humectant to increase moisture in the skin and also as an emulsifier. Sodium hyaluronate is capable of penetrating the skin. This compound can bind 1,800 times its own weight in water. Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid and is the most commonly used form of hyaluronic acid.
  32. Fragrance: Do NOT love this.  Fragrance and my skin don’t typically get on, and in most cases I don’t see any use for it.  Still, been doing fine so I’ll forgive them this lapse.
  33. Rosa Centifolia Flower Wax: A wax obtained from the flower of the Rosa centifolia.  Acts as a skin-protecting agent.
  34. Rosa Damascena Flower Wax: A wax obtained from the flower of Rosa damascena.  Used as a fragrance and masking agent.  Some say it acts as a protector by creating a light, breathable barrier on the skin.
  35. Alcohol Denat (found in botanical extracts): Denatured alcohol.  Used in all kinds of personal care products as an anti-foaming agent, an astringent, a solvent, and to decrease viscosity.  Can also be used as an anti-microbial.  There is some concern with organ system toxicity (just like drinking too much alcohol).  I don’t love the idea of alcohol in my skincare products, but, it’s low on the ingredient list so I’ll push on.
  36. Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: This is an emollient which aids in the spreading of formulations.  It has also been shown to promote penetration without leaving an oily feeling on the skin.  A skin-conditioning agent.  Made from coconut oil.
  37. Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract: Contains potent antioxidant properties and has also been seen to have a soothing effect on the skin.
  38. Citrus Junos Fruit (Yuzu) Extract: Primarily used as a scent in fragrance and bath products.  Gaining popularity as an active ingredient touting energizing, toning, and brightening properties.
  39. Lippia Citriodora Flower (Lemon Verbena Extract): Little scientific information on this ingredient as well so I will have to dig deeper over the next few days.  I’ll let you all know what I find!
  40. Euterpe Oleracea (Acai) Fruit: Full of antioxidants and fatty acids.  Protects skin from environmental aggressors and reduces the appearance of aging.
  41. Butyrospermum Parkil (Shea) Butter Extract: Obtained from the nut kernels of the Shea tree.  Rich in saturated and unsaturated fatty acids.  Good source of carotene.  High content of antioxidant Vitamin E.  Protects the skin against drying, soothes irritations, and helps support skin elasticity.
  42. Rosa Canina Fruit (Rosehips) Extract: High in vitamins A and C.  Has a toning effect on the skin.  Soothing and astringent, and used to calm skin irritations.
  43. Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Seed Extract: An extract of the seeds of the evening primrose.  Known as a natural anti-inflammatory.  Used to soothe skin dryness, itchiness, and redness.
  44. Camellia Sinensis Leaf (Oolong Tea): An extract of black tea, this is rich in antioxidants and tannins with toning, skin-soothing, and fortifying properties.

Final verdict…

I’m certainly enjoying this product and would recommend it if you’re in the market for a moisturizer + something added (in this case, antioxidants).  While I’m not ready to chuck out the rest of my moisturizers quite yet, this will definitely continue in my rotation.  I’ll also be back in a month or so to update you all on my progress!

Skin Types:

  • Dry/dehydrated–severely dry skin may require layering with other moisturizing products.
  • Normal–should be more than enough moisture for day-to-day use.
  • Oily–depends on the extent of the oiliness and whether or not it is controlled with the use of other products.  Certainly an option for nighttime if you don’t mind that it does contain some occlusive ingredients.


  • Day or night moisturizer.
  • Layered with other Vitamin C products–use caution when doing this as Vitamin C is NOT like sunscreen, i.e., layering Vit C products of varying strengths does have a cumulative effect (5+5 does equal 10 in this case).

Step in Routine:

  • Last or next to last, given its consistency.
  • Could be used prior to an oil or sleeping mask for drier skin types.

CAUTION: As noted in the ingredient list there are some ingredients included which have been known to cause burning and/or irritation to cracked, chapped, or inflamed skin.


I was wrong.  With continued use I have found this moisturizer to be relatively lackluster.

I do not want to call it a bad moisturizer, but I don’t think it’s worth the price tag.  I do appreciate a moisturizer that has added ingredients to pack an extra punch, but I’m not sure if Vitamin C is the best ingredient to be included in a moisturizer.  I find that I get better results with a serum formulation (right now I’m using the Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Booster during the day).  And, thanks to the power of suggestion, I’ve been noticing the waxy texture of the cream more and more with continued use.  All of this coupled with the jar packaging that is unlikely to keep notoriously unstable Vitamin C for very long, I have decided not to repurchase.  It is not such a sever miss that I will be binning, because you all know I can’t stand waste, but not a rebuy.