Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Yet Another Sunday Riley Good Genes Review – Why I Finally Caved

Nobody knows how critical I am of purchases. I rarely make impulsive purchases, if you can find it in my drawer, then you bet I have spent minutes and in some cases, hours, into research. Eh, but that doesn't mean I'm a mindful buyer. It's just I carefully research the things I want.... and I don't always need the things I want.

Anyhoo. Enough rambles.

My first encounter with chemical exfoliation took place in 2014. I thought I need to try both AHA and BHA, and being a student, Paula's Choice was way out of my budget. Enter COSRX. Affordable, check. Rave reviews, check.

My package arrived. I was eager to start yet slightly wary of the purging phase. My skin has never 'purged' before. Who knows how bad it will be? Worse, what if I couldn't tell between purging and a reaction? Blah blah blah. Fast forward a few months, and I learned that my skin hates glycolic. It's a strong word, but I'm pretty sure I can't handle glycolic acid of any strength unless it's in a blend. So I destashed my bottle of COSRX AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid, and purchased a ton of other things.

Some worked okay, the others performed great, but I was not satisfied.

Until Sunday Riley's Good Genes arrived in my hands.



Being a broke skincare hoarder slash snob, I never imagined I would own Sunday Riley Good Genes. It's ridiculously expensive. Lactic acid is lactic acid, I should be able to find a Good Genes dupe that performs equally, if not better. That was before I learned skincare is not as easy as CosDNA or finding a product with a similar ingredient.

What is it: (from Sephora.com)

A clarifying, line smoothing lactic acid treatment.Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment is formulated with high potency, purified grade lactic acid that immediately exfoliates dull, pore-clogging dead skin cells, revealing smoother, fresher, younger-looking skin. Fine lines appear visually plumped while the skin looks more radiant. With continued use, the appearance of stubborn hyperpigmentation and the visible signs of aging are reduced for a healthier-looking complexion. Perfect for all skin types and all ages, this treatment is enhanced with licorice for brightening, Good Genes clarifies, smooths, and retexturizes for instant radiance.
Suitable for oily, combination, and dry skin.
Solutions for dullness and uneven texture; dark spots; fine lines and wrinkles.
Formulated without parabens, sulfates, and phthalates.

What's inside: (from Sephora.com)

Sunday Riley Good Genes ingredients: Opuntia Tuna Fruit (Prickly Pear) Extract, Agave Tequilana Leaf (Blue Agave) Extract, Cypripedium Pubescens (Lady's Slipper Orchid) Extract, Opuntia Vulgaris (Cactus) Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract & Saccharomyses Cerevisiae (Yeast) Extract, Lactic Acid, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Butylene Glycol, Squalane, Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone, Ppg-12/Smdi Copolymer, Stearic Acid, Cetearyl Alcohol And Ceteareth20, Glyceryl Stearate And Peg-100 Stearate, Arnica Montana (Flower) Extract, Peg-75 Meadowfoam Oil, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Oil, Triethanolamine, Xantham Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Steareth-20, Dmdm Hydantoin.

As blogger Fanserviced-b explained in her super-detailed post, Good Genes is not just a chemical exfoliant. If you study the ingredients list above, lactic acid is the sixth out of twenty-four. Compare that to the Alpha H Liquid Gold or the Bravura London 10% Lactic Acid Peel.

The first ingredient in Good Genes is not even water, it's Prickly Pear extract. Which apparently has both astringent and moisturising properties. Second is Blue Agave extract, which also has soothing, softening, and moisturising benefits. Third is Lady's Slipper extract – want to take a guess at what it does? Soothing. A study published by a Biochemistry company suggests that Cactus extract – which happens to be the fourth ingredient – is able to provide long-lasting hydration and (has) remarkable soothing properties. Shall I elaborate more on the suggested possible benefits of Aloe Vera extract and Yeast extract?

How to use: (from Sephora.com)

Apply one to two pumps to clean skin. 

Advanced Tips: Layer under Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream to fight the appearance of stubborn hyperpigmentation. Layer on top of Luna Sleeping Night Oil (or use Good Genes in the morning and Luna at night) for anti-aging radiance and the appearance of healthy, youthful-looking skin. Can be applied under foundation as a radiance primer, without any oiliness. Can be combined with Ceramic Slip (two pumps of Good Genes and one pump Ceramic Slip Clay Cleanser) for a "Flash Facial" mask. Leave on for one to 10 minutes for an immediately radiant, deep detox facial.

I wish Sunday Riley released another version of Good Genes sans lactic acid, because there's no way I'm using a chemical exfoliant in daytime.

Texture and scent:

Out of the tube, Sunday Riley Good Genes is a white, opaque cream that is neither thick nor watery. When rubbed into the skin, it feels light and emollient. It almost feels like a exfoliant–moisturiser hybrid, like the DERMA E Overnight Facial Peel, but more emollient.

Sunday Riley Good Genes smells a little sour, but does not linger and dissipates rather quickly. The smell is not overpowering, unless you sniff your fingers right after application. It never bothers me.

My experience:

After just one use, Sunday Riley Good Genes quickly earns its title as my favourite AHA exfoliant.

I have a difficult skin profile: prone to dullness, but cannot tolerate strong acids. My first AHA product only has 7% glycolic acid, but it stung every time I use it. I scoured the internet for advice. Build tolerance, check. After two months of weekly use, it still gave me a burning sensation, so perhaps my tolerance is nonexistent to begin with. Dilute said exfoliant with other liquids, check. I wet a cotton pad with water and even hydrating toners like the Kiku Masamune Sake Brewing Skin Care Lotion High Moist, but nothing changed. After many trial and error, I settled with the reality that 5% AHA is my limit. 

It's very hard for me to describe my experience with Sunday Riley Good Genes without mentioning other products of similar type as benchmarks. Compared to other 5% AHA exfoliants that I've tried, Good Genes managed to boost the gentle exfoliating properties of lactic acid with a set of hydrating, soothing, and moisturising plant extracts. Unlike other mild exfoliants, Good Genes gently exfoliates without leaving my skin tight and irritated.

If I have to pick one thing that stands out for me, it's the soothing, moisturising qualities that helps boost overall glow and radiance. Judging from the feel, I do think the overall glow comes from the hybrid of plant extracts included. The lactic acid could be dupe-able, but the specific combination of plant extracts are harder to find. 

There's a circulating rumour that Good Genes contains 40% lactic acid, which I initially believe. But when I saw this image of Sunday Riley's Facebook post, I was a little relieved yet confused at the same time. 5% lactic acid makes much more sense as an OTC product. But lower pH does not make a 5% lactic acid equally strong as 40%, a lower pH increases free acid value which makes it more effective. The maximum capability of 5% lactic acid is still 5%.


  • Rating 5/5
  • Gentle lactic-acid based exfoliant that gets the job done.
  • Additional plant extracts hydrate, soothe, and moisturise.
  • Still expensive.
  • Would repurchase forever and ever.