Luxury, Botanical Skincare: Sunday Riley Luna, U.F.O., & Martian

May 28, 2017

Sunday Riley is a small skin care brand that has exploded in popularity over the past few years as well known beauty bloggers and YouTubers have begun trying and recommending their items. Their products are packed with high quality botanicals that nourish the skin and feel super luxurious.


For over a year now I have been using Sunday Riley's Luna Sleeping Night Oil ($105 for 1oz at Sephora). I naturally have very oily skin. I mean, veerry oily skin. As you can imagine, I was hesitant to put an oil on my face. To my surprise, after only one use I noticed a difference. My pores were visibly smaller, my skin was smoother, and any redness was significantly reduced. Luna is a retinol that is clinically proven to rejuvenate dry skin, reduce the appearance of pores, even skins tone and texture, and reduce redness. Results can be seen in as little as four weeks though I honestly saw them even sooner. When I woke up the morning after trying this stuff I rolled over in bed and insisted that my boyfriend feel my skin. He too noticed a difference in the appearance and texture!


Two key active ingredients are Blue Tansy and German Chamomile essential oils which calm and soothe the skin while evening skin tone. The tansy is what gives this oil it's rich blue pigment, but don't be alarmed, it doesn't appear this way once massaged into the skin. Other key ingredients are Trans-Retinoic Acid Ester which promotes revitalization of skin cells resulting in smoother, younger skin, and Chia Seed Oil which is a wonderful source of omega 3. Nearly all other ingredients are ones that can be found in nature: Extra Virgin Avocado Oil, Blackberry Seed Oil, Ylang Ylang Oil, and Rosemary Leaf extract to name a few. The chemically sounding ingredients are completely non-toxic:


Dimethyl Isosorbide: a safe and effective carrier for active ingredients

Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate: a safe retinol


Each night after I shower I apply three drops of Luna to my face and massage it in. It has a relatively strong botanical scent but it's by no means overpowering. It soaks into the skin quickly and doesn't leave you feeling greasy. The next morning my skin feels fully hydrated and super smooth to the touch. Sometimes, if my skin feels like it needs a little more hydration, or if it's wintertime, I'll mix a drop or two of Luna in with my moisturizer in the morning before applying makeup. I haven't found this to affect makeup application or staying power at all.



Because I loved Luna so much, once the U.F.O. / Martian duo came out I immediately went out and bought them. Martian ($55 for 4.4oz at Sephora) is a Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner that clarifies, removes oil, and tightens pores. It's great for people with oily and acne-prone skin like me. This weightless toner truly does melt into the skin.


Bentonite Clay absorbs excess oil while reducing pore size. Marshmallow and green tea calm the skin and reduce redness. Cucumber and Witch Hazel tone and tighten. Manuka (similar to tea tree oil), Black Cumin, and Magnolia Bark Extract work together to balances troubled skin. Compared to Luna and U.F.O., Martian is by far the least "natural" of the bunch though still has many good ingredients. This toner does have Denatured Alcohol as the second ingredient which is known to be drying so if you're trying to find an alcohol free toner this won't be the one for you. There are a surprising amount of hard-to-pronounce ingredients in Martian. I've gone ahead and listed them out including how safe they are and what they do:


Dicaprylyl Carbonate: a plant-derived fat that helps the product spread easily onto the skin

Dimethyl Isosorbide: the same carrier present in Luna

Sorbeth-30 Tetraisostearate: a safe emulsifying agent

Sorbitan Sesquiisostearate: a safe emulsifying agent

PPG-8 Ceteth-20: a safe emulsifying agent

Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer: a safe viscosity agent

Dipropylene Glycol: a safe solvent

Capryloyl Glycine: a safe compound that controls excess sebum

Lauryl Lactate: a safe naturally occurring emulsifying agent; Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA)

Phenoxyethanol: a natural preservative - mixed information available though likely safe - considered by some a moderate hazard that may cause cancer, allergic reactions, and organ / neurotoxicity damage though this is in high-doses - not something you would encounter in cosmetics

Caprylyl Glycol: a safe conditioning agent

Chlorphenesin: a safe synthetic preservative

Polymethylsilsesquioxane: a safe silicone used to create a smooth, silky feel

Propanediol: a safe viscosity agent

Triethanolamine: a pH balancer and emulsifying agent considered by some a moderate hazard that may harm the immune and respiratory systems


Wow, that's quite a list! Though most of these ingredients cause no harm, there are a couple that are questionable. I've been using Martian every night underneath Luna or U.F.O. for a little under a year and have noticed it adds a nice smooth base to apply the oil though I haven't noticed enough of a difference to justify the price. That being said, I don't think Martian will be on my repurchase list. I haven't tried using this as a primer underneath makeup, which I've been meaning to do, so I can't lend any thoughts on that front.



U.F.O, which stands for Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil, ($80 for 1.18oz at Sephora) is Sunday Riley's answer for those who suffer from congested pores, acne, and overall troubled skin. It is a medicated dry oil that promises to clear your skin. It is similar to Luna in that it doesn't leave you feeling greasy and absorbs quickly into the skin though it is a lighter formula.


It includes 1.5% Salicylic Acid to kill bacteria and clear pores. Tea Tree Oil and Black Cumin Seed Oil also help clear the skin, while Hexylresorcinol (safe antiseptic ingredient) and Licorice brighten and even out skin tone. Milk Thistle and Cucumber Seed Oil counterbalance any potential drying effects from the Salicylic Acid without leaving a residue. Chamomile and Neroli further soothe the skin. Just as with Luna, U.F.O. includes many other great natural ingredients such as Pomegranate Seed Oil, Cranberry Seed Oil, Flax Seed Oil, and Tea Tree Oil. U.F.O. has a few unusual ingredients though all are non-toxic:


Diisopropyl Sebacate: a safe emollient

Dimethyl Isosorbide: the same carrier agent

Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides: a safe emollient derived from coconut / palm oil

Ethyl Linoleate: a safe emollient


I alternate between Luna and U.F.O. every other night and have had great results doing this. If I had to choose one or the other I honestly don't know which one I would deem the best. Do I think you need both of them? No, probably not, but I do enjoy the variety in my skincare regime. I honestly think you can't go wrong with either of them.



Another great aspect about these three products is they are all void of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. Though they are all quite pricey, I'm still not close to running out after using these products daily for about a year. A little goes a long way! If you have the money to splurge I would highly recommend it.


Disclaimer: I am not a chemist and cannot say with 100% surety that every ingredient listed as "safe" is, by definition, safe for everyone. I look at multiple sources before I come to a conclusion about an ingredient though sometimes conflicting research exists.

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