It is with deep sadness that I announce to you that, on occasion, expensive skin care products really are more effective. Sure, there are a lot of beautifully packaged and marketed products with unreasonably steep markups, but every once in a while, something special comes along that warrants a hefty price tag. Case in point: Sunday Riley’s Good Genes all-in-one AHA lactic acid treatment and Luna sleeping retinoid night oil.
I’ve been using this power duo on and off for years, and every time I start up again I kick myself for having waited for so long. The powerful blast of active ingredients work together to help transform skin in mere days. Best of all? There is almost no skin issue they can’t help address. Red, irritated skin, uneven pigment and texture, acne, fine lines and more are all handled. I always notice that I get compliments on my skin within days of adding them back into my beauty routine. But my absolute favorite part? These two do so much heavy lifting that they eliminate the need for a long and complicated multi-step night and day skin care routine.
I use Good Genes and Luna as part of my nighttime routine, on dry skin immediately after cleansing. If you simply cannot skip serums, then you can use those first, but as I mentioned, I don’t find additional products necessary. It might sound counterintuitive to apply an oil first, but since Luna has active ingredients and isn’t occlusive, I use it first (per Sunday Riley’s instructions). After waiting a few minutes for it to sink in, I layer two pumps of Good Genes over it. If you have oily skin, you might not even need to use an additional moisturizer, but I find that I like the feel of lightweight night cream on top, and add that after a few minutes as well. After that it’s a little eye cream and I’m ready to wake up to radiant skin.
The secret is in the high percentage of active ingredients in both, though I’m particularly obsessed with the high content of lactic acid in Good Genes. It is a unique chemical exfoliant that encourages quick cell turnover in the surface layers of the skin, leaving it smooth and helping clear up blemishes. It’s paired with licorice and lemongrass, which help brighten up the look of dark spots, sun damage and other discoloration, and prickly pear extract that helps soothe redness and calms sensitive skin. If I simply had to pick either Good Genes or Luna, I would probably defer to Good Genes. There’s really nothing else quite like it over the counter.
But that’s not to say Luna oil isn’t a powerful and highly coveted product! If you’ve been on the fence about trying an oil or retinoid, then this is the perfect place to start. Soothing botanicals like blue tansy and German chamomile are paired with an advanced retinoid ester that supports skin health and elasticity, evens out redness and fights fine lines and wrinkles. Avocado seed oil plumps up the skin and delivers a healthy dose of antioxidants. It doesn’t clog pores, which is perfect if you are acne-prone like myself.
When used together, these two problem-solving skin care products can deliver remarkable results. They’re a great investment for someone looking to up their skin care game and incorporate serious actives into their routine, but don’t want to go the prescription cream route just yet. I started using them over five years ago and credit them in large part for my skin’s health. I’m an incredibly vain Libra woman, so if that means anything to you, then you know this is a recommendation you can trust.
As always, be sure to be diligent about sunscreen use when using both of these products. As a result of powerful active ingredients, your skin is more susceptible to sun damage, regardless of season.
Keep reading to pick up this power couple for yourself. As always, I’ve included a couple alternate options if these are currently cost-prohibitive. I often find myself turning to them when I run out of Good Genes and Luna oil and need to save up. No need to make great skin wait while you save up those pennies!
Sunday Riley Good Genes
"OMG - this cream is A-Mazing!!! You see results instantly! I don’t know how, but I was not expecting to find such an amazing product! I purchased the small kit about 2 weeks ago, and have already purchased the $100 size of the Good Genes, as I couldn’t resist. I normally don’t like to spend so much on skin products, as I usually find very good natural products at reasonable prices. But this product instantly made my skin look bright and healthy. My pimples went away immediately and my blemish scaring disappearing daily. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be one of the benefits, however, I haven’t seen my skin bounce back to normal so fast in many years!" — TL
"Hands down the best skin product I've ever used. Worth the price. I don't write reviews on amazon but if I can help anyone justify the price given the magic it's done to my skin - worth the time! My 35 year old skin looks at least 10 years younger. I will buy this for life. (I could care less about the smell and honestly, don't really smell it? weird?)" — Patricia Izquierdo
Sunday Riley Luna Oil
"I’ve been skeptical of Sunday Riley since their review debacle. I use other high-end skincare and wasn’t looking to add anything but this came highly suggested from a friend I trust. Now I can’t go a night without this beauty! The natural scents of chamomile are so relaxing and great part of self care to any nighttime routine to tell your nervous system 'it’s time for sleep.' It’s a very soft texture in the skin that feels nourishing and I love the deep blue tansy color that easily fades into skin as you apply. It’s a gentle retinoid that doesn’t irritate or interact with my other skincare. Overall my skin always looks bright and even in the morning. Love love this product, bought another for my mom for Mother’s Day! Can’t go wrong with adding this to a luxurious nighttime routine!" — shelby k
"Expensive but works! I really like this product! I received as a sample in a Birchbox and liked it so much that I bought the full size. You only need a couple drops so it will last a while. I use it in the morning as well, often in place of a moisturizer. I feel that it is very calming for the skin if you are suffering from redness or dryness." — CT-mom
Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum
Whether you're pregnant or simply prefer plant-based skin care products, Herbivore's serum is a great option. It's made with bakuchiol, a naturally-derived retinol alternative that hydrates while also targeting the look of lines, wrinkles and texture. It works in tandem with polyhydroxy acid to gently exfoliate and resurface the skin and tremella mushroom to hydrate and repair the moisture barrier.
Paula's Choice Resist Advanced Smoothing Treatment
Paula's Choice takes the power of lactic acid and combines it with other effective AHAs like glycolic and malic acids. It's a highly concentrated treatment serum that works to exfoliate the skin, leaving you with a smooth and radiant complexion. It hydrates, brightens and refines skin's texture, making it a great addition to your routine.
The Inkey List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum
The Inkey List is a go-to for those seeking active ingredients at a lower price point. Their powerful, time-released retinol helps to smooth and brighten skin without causing irritation thanks to the addition of squalane, which hydrates and soothes.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2%
The Ordinary's lactic acid and hyaluronic acid serum is a cult fave and regular in my skin care routine. It's a great alternative if you don't want to shell out for Good Genes, and I often use it on alternating nights with Good Genes when I start to run low and want to stretch out my supply. You can start with 5% lactic acid and bump it up to the 10% formulation when your skin has adjusted for even more powerful benefits. It's gentle, effective and designed to soothe your skin so you wake up glowy and refreshed.