Sunday Riley C.E.O 15% Vitamin C Serum 01

In case you’re wondering, yes – that is a sample size of Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum. You see, I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not and didn’t want to fork out £70 for the privilege of finding out. So I did what I always do in these cases: wait for the holidays.

Holiday season is the best time for skincare shopping. You can bag gift sets full of a brand’s bestsellers to satisfy your curiosity – for less than half the price. If you dig everything, awesome. If you’re stuck with a dud, no harm done.

Let me tell you, I’m glad I waited. Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum has a lot going for it, but it’s no match for my new Vitamin C HG, Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day. Here’s why:

(P.S. This review is for the most recent version of this serum):

What’s In Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum?


Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a form of Vitamin C that’s oil-soluble. This matters because your skin’s protective barrier is oily, so anything water-based has a hard time getting through (it’s not impossible, just more difficult).

Its oil-soluble properties mean that Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate penetrates skin faster and goes in deeper than any other form of vitamin C (including L-Ascorbic Acid – the pure form). Here’s what it does for your skin:

  • Antioxidant: It destroys the free radicals that cause premature wrinkles.
  • Brightening: It fades away discolourations by reducing the production of melanin by more than 80%.
  • Firming: It boosts the production of collagen (even more than L-Ascorbic Acid).

Awesome, right? I have two “problems” with this:

  1. Less effective than L-Ascorbic Acid: Even though Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate penetrates skin better than L-Ascorbic Acid, we don’t know if it’s just as (or more) effective. Usually, derivatives aren’t.
  2. No ferulic acid: Studies show that vitamin C is more effective when used with its BFF vitamin E and ferulic acid. This serum only has vitamin E.

If you want your skincare products to be backed up by as much science as possible, you’re better off with one that contains L-Ascorbic Acid + vitamin E + ferulic acid. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day fits the bill. If your skin can’t take L-Ascorbic Acid, then using products with a Vitamin C derivative like Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum makes more sense.

Related: Is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate The Best Vitamin C Derivative?


Is it me or every brand is switching to squalane lately? I totally see why. It’s one of the few oils that’s 100% safe and non-comedogenic for everyone, including people with fungal acne.

Squalane works because it’s very similar to human sebum, your skin’s natural moisturiser. In other words, your skin recognises it straight away, allowing it to sink quickly and deeply moisturise your skin. It strengthens the skin’s protective barrier, moisturises skin and keeps it soft and smooth for hours.

Related: How To Treat Fungal Acne

Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises wrinkles, prevents premature aging, and gives your complexion a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Aqua (Water): The main solvent of the product, it helps other ingredients dissolve in it.
  • Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate: An emollient that lands a soft finish to skincare products.
  • Peg-8 Beeswax: It creates textures that spread easily into your skin
  • Limonene: The fragrant component that makes citrus fruits smell divine. It must be listed separately because it’s a common allergen.
  • Citrus Sinesis (Sweet Orange) Oil: It makes the product smell good, but it can cause allergies and irritations.
  • Citrus Tangerine Peel Oil: It makes the serum smell divine, but it can cause allergies and irritations.
  • Glycine Soya Sterols: An alcohol complex derived from the soy plant that moisturises skin (yep, not all alcohols are drying).
  • PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer: It helps keep ingredients suspended in the formula and moisturises skin.
  • Sodium Phytate: It stabilises the formula by preventing metal ions in the water from spoiling it.
  • Tocopherol: A form of Vitamin E with powerful antioxidant properties that boosts the effectiveness of Vitamin C.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that kills bacteria and fungi before they can spoil your products.
  • Acetamidoethoxyehanol: A non-sticky moisturiser that spreads easily on your skin and deeply hydrates it.
  • Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Tautrate Copolymer: It enhances the texture of skincare products.
  • Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer: It’s a dispersing agent, emulsion stabilizer, opacifying agent, and texture enhancer.
  • Jojoba Esters: Very similar to human sebum, it moisturises skin.
  • Glycolic acid: It’s an exfoliant that removes dead cells and brightens skin. But, in the small concentration used here, it acts as a humectant to hydrate skin.
  • Caprylyl Glycol: It deeply hydrates skin.
  • Acetyl Alcohol: It helps dissolve other ingredients in the formula.
  • Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax: It keeps the oily and watery parts of the formula from separating.
  • Chlorphensin: A preservative that inhibits contamination and helps your skincare products be safe and last longer.
  • Glycerin: A humectant that draws moisture from the air into the skin to deeply hydrate it.
  • Polysorbate 60: An emulsifier that helps the watery and oily parts of the formula from separating.
  • Sorbitan Isostearate: Another emulsifier that helps the watery and oily parts of the formula from separating.
  • Saccharide Isomerate: A humectant that attracts and binds moisture to your skin.
  • Linalool: A fragrant component of plants that makes products smell good, but can cause allergies and irritations.


Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum has a white, creamy texture that reminds me more of a lightweight lotion that a serum. On my dry skin, it sinks in quickly without leaving a sticky residue behind.


Technically, the serum it’s fragrance-free. Sunday Riley hasn’t added any artificial fragrance to it. But, they’ve added citrus oils that give the serum a lovely citrusy scents. Unfortunately, citrus oils are one of the most irritating ingredients used in skincare, so they can cause allergies and irritations in sensitive skin.

How To Use It

As all Vitamin C serums, I recommend using it every morning under sunscreen to boost its sun protection.

Performance & Personal Opinion

I’ve been using Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum for a couple months and I can’t say I saw a big improvement in my skin. My skin looks a little brighter and more awake, but that’s pretty much it. I’m confident that vitamin C is also fighting free radicals, keeping those pesky premature wrinkles off my face. But it would do it a lot better if the serum contained more antioxidants.

Overall, I’m on the fence. Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum does what every other vitamin C serum does. It just never goes the extra mile. Five years ago, I’d have been all over it. Now the skincare market’s become so competitive, I feel like there are better options out there. This one leaves me feeling meh…

One more thing: Sunday Riley added sweet orange oil to make the serum smell like vitamin C. It’s cool and pleasant but citrus oils can irritate sensitive skin. So I’m not sure this serum is a good option even for this skin type…


The serum comes in an orange bottle that reminds of citrus fruits and Vitamin C. It has a pump applicator that dispenses just the right amount of product you need. Plus, the opaque packaging protects the antioxidants from the light and air that would make them go bad faster.

Sunday Riley CEO Rapid Flash Brightening Serum 02

What I Like About Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum

  • Lightweight, creamy texture that leaves no tacky residue behind.
  • Brightens skin.
  • Helps prevent premature aging.
  • Practical packaging.

What I DON’T Like About Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum

  • Fragrance (citrus oils) can irritate skin.
  • Contains a derivative of Vitamin C that may be less effective than the pure form.

Who Should Use This?

I’m not sure. Usually, I recommend Vitamin C derivatives to women with sensitive skin that can’t tolerate high concentrations of L-Ascorbic Acid (the pure form). But, as it contains irritating citrus oils, I’m hesitant to recommend it to them. Most skin types can use it, but there are better Vitamin C serums around.

Does Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15% Vitamin C Serum Live Up To Its Claims?

CEO 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum, is targeted to quickly fight the look of dullness, dark spots, and discolorations at the source, while diminishing the signs of premature aging. Skin looks firmer and plumper, as youthful skin bounce and even-tone are restored.Note how it says skin “looks” firmer, not is firmer. Vitamin C can do all this, but this serum uses a derivative that delivers resists slowly.
CEO 15% Vitamin C Brightening Serum, uses a sophisticated, ultra-powerful form of Vitamin C called THD Ascorbate. Both highly stable and oil-soluble, THD Ascorbate rapidly absorbs into the skin for visible anti-aging benefits, including visual improvement in loss of firmness, the appearance of lines and wrinkles, and dark spots and dullness.THD Ascorbate can help with all this. But, again, results are slow.

Is Sunday Riley Cruelty-Free?

Yes, Sunday Riley is cruelty-free. They don’t test on animals, not even though a third-party.

Price & Availability

$85.00/£70 at Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Revolve and Sephora

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

If you’re curious to try it, I recommend you wait for a holiday or gift set. This way, you can test it out without spending too much money. But, if you’re asking me (and I guess you are), there are better Vitamin C serums around.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Paula’s Choice Resist Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum ($39.00): A Vitamin C serum with Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate and any other antioxidant you can think of. Fragrance-free, it’s best suitable for sensitive skin. Available at Paula’s Choice and Sephora.
  • Peter Thomas Roth Potent-C Power Serum ($105.00): A Vitamin C serum with Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate and a few other antioxidants to prevent premature aging. It also has hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin. Available at Beauty Bay, Peter Thomas Roth, Selfridges and Sephora.


Aqua (Water), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Squalane, Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate, Peg-8 Beeswax, Limonene, Citrus Sinesis (Sweet Orange) Oil, Citrus Tangerine Peel Oil, Glycine Soya Sterols, PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer, Sodium Phytate, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Acetamidoethoxyehanol, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Tautrate Copolymer, Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Jojoba Esters, Glycolic acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Acetyl Alcohol, Polyglyceryl-3 Beeswax, Chlorphensin Glycerin, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Isostearate, Saccharide Isomerate, Linalool.