Review: Sunday Riley C.E.O Vitamin C Brightening Serum

Where to purchase: From Cult Beauty

Price: £70

Volume: 30ml

What is it?: A brightening and skin re-texturising 15% Vitamin C Derivative ”serum” – I would prefer to call this a cream than a serum as this is quite thick.

Description: A Brightening Vitamin C, Oil-Soluble Derivative serum which is supposed to help with skin tone and aid dryness as well as helping with fine lines and wrinkles. This is also supposed to work on dark spots.

Contains an oil-soluble derivative of vitamin C (hence why it’s stable) and contains 15% of this derivative. I’m a little annoyed because I purchased this on the belief (due to the clever marketing) that this was 15% PURE ASCORBIC ACID which this is not. Therefore I think this cannot work as effectively at either brightening OR being an antioxidant to the skin.

Contains 15% THD Ascorbate – which is an oil-soluble derivative (not pure ascorbic acid). Derivatives usually mean the formulation doesn’t need to be as air-tight / as low a pH (so doesn’t sting as much) and also doesn’t deteriorate as quick. So this lasts longer.

Good for: Pore size / dullness / dark spots / fine lines and wrinkles / dehydration

Skin type: Dry skin, oily skin (I use this in the last step of my routine as it’s moisturising), and skins that want re-texturing and brightening.


Directions: ”After cleansing, apply to dry skin and gently massage into face and neck.” – I’m guessing this is ok to use AM and PM?

How I use it: I use this in the last step of my PM routine as it’s so moisturising, I use this like a cream to lock in all my layers underneath. As this contains Glycolic acid, I do not use this in conjunction with other actives for instance, I don’t use this product on the same day I would use copper peptide / BHA / Other vitamin C serums and Niacinamide. I also wouldn’t use this in conjunction with any vitamin A / retinol / retinoids. NOTE: It is not stated what % of glycolic acid is in here.

Key Ingredients: THT (Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate) – brightening and ‘antioxidant’ benefits. Glycolic acid – skin brightening. Squalane (barrier mimicking). Jojoba Esters (moisturisation).

Full Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Squalane, Peg-8 Beeswax, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate, Ppg-12/Smdi Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Acetamidoethoxyethanol, Jojoba Esters, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Glycine Soja Sterols, Tocopherol, Glycolic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Phytate, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Sweet Orange) Oil, Chlorphenesin, Cera Alba, Glycerin, Isosqualane, C30 Hydrocarbons, Saccharide Isomerate

NOTE: The Incidecoder have an ingredient list breakdown HERE

My Thoughts: Not a fan of the sweet orange oil, wasn’t needed and it definitely affects the smell of this (smells sickly sweet). Like Squalane and I like Glycerin.


Texture: This is not a serum to me, this is a cream. It leaves my skin with a shiny, near-oily residue. Some people may find this too thick, I find it absolutely fine as a moisturiser because my layers underneath are few and very thin i.e. lightweight toner, solution, lightweight HA serum and then this to seal it all in. This isn’t like the melted-butter texture of the eye cream from Sunday Riley

I would not say that this looks like a serum and looks more like the Muji Milky Lotion. But when rubbed in, my hand ‘shines’ and I guess that’s from the more oil-type ingredients in here. There isn’t a graininess to this texture, it is very much like a light-weight cream.

Do you see this looks more like a cream than a serum. Unless this is directed towards more mature skins which tend to be on the drier side which this then may be used as a serum?



In this Youtube Video – I swatch and RUB IN the Sunday Riley serum so you can see how the texture looks LIVE and my thoughts about it.


Fragrance?: Yes! Contains both Tangerine Peel oil (Citrus Reticulata and Sweet Orange oil Citrus Aurantium Dulcis. This product to me, smells sickly sweet – smells like a sherbet orange sweet.

Good Under Makeup?: Haven’t tried it under makeup as I use this in the PM

How long have I been using this?: 3-4 weeks.

The Effect?: This hasn’t made my skin worse. It does moisturise, it does help with hydration. In terms of brightening – to be honest I can’t see a huge difference, but I’m sure it is maintaining a good condition subtly (as this is a derivative). Although I don’t know the % of glycolic acid, I do think this has helps with the texture of my skin. I can’t deny that there has been some effect to my skin in a good way, and hasn’t made it worse.

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What I like:

  • The addition of AHA to gently exfoliate the skin
  • Because this has AHA – I don’t need to add an ‘acid’ step in my routine (shortens my routine as this doubles as a vitamin C, AHA and Moisturising cream step).
  • Moisturising
  • Hydrating
  • I like the pump / airtight packaging
  • Non-irritating

What I don’t like:

  • Essential oils – very unnecessary, especialy when adding to actives/acids
  • Can be deemed a bit too thick/greasy (would have preferred this as a water serum
  • Expensive for the ml

Overall Rating and Conclusion: 3.8/5 – really not a fan of the essential oil addition. Happy this is alcohol free however. I like the addition of AHA with vitamin C and although this contains a vitamin C derivative, I like the fact that this has 15% rather than 5%. Also, the derivative does mean this makes the vitamin C more tolerable on the skin (not as stingy/irritating). I think this does work in brightening and re-texturising the skin. It is moisturising too. It’s just very expensive.

Would I repurchase?: You know, because of the effect this has had on my skin (I like the pairing of vitamin C with Glycolic acid), I would consider it. But the smell is really off-putting and I don’t like essential oils anyway. I also prefer watery-type vitamin C serums instead of a cream-like texture (a bit too heavy for my liking). So I could get a vitamin C serum that is pure ascorbic acid instead of referring to a derivative.

Other suggestions?: Well since this contains basically a vitamin C derivative, the Ordinary offer many Vitamin C derivatives (i.e. the Ascorbyl Glucoside or Tetraisopalmitate) HERE

Or to get pure Ascorbic Acid (and reap more of the benefits) – The Timeless 20% C E Ferulic is something else to use (but it is acidic). Personally I haven’t used a product that contains both a vitamin C derivative AND Glycolic Acid, so I do like this added touch (but once again, no % on the amount of Glycolic acid).

Disclaimer: I am a skincare enthusiast and not a skin expert. I am not qualified to give out dermatological advice. This type of advice should only be given by a medical practitioner. Upon trying / using any of the reviewed products on the blog, please follow the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings and please seek medical advice if needed.


11 thoughts on “Review: Sunday Riley C.E.O Vitamin C Brightening Serum

  1. For the cost of this product, I want it to be fabulous and extraordinary!! This was a helpful review as there are more effective treatments for far less money!


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