Is Sunday Riley Cruelty-Free & Vegan? (Can We Trust Them?)

August 24, 2022

Sunday Riley’s prized skincare claims it's “Powered by Science, Backed by Botanicals.” But is this cult-status brand cruelty-free and vegan? And is it as transparent about its ethics as it claims?

Sunday Riley is cruelty-free. It doesn't conduct animal testing on its products, nor does it distribute its cosmetics where animal testing is required by law. While Sunday Riley does offer a range of vegan cosmetics, it is not considered a vegan brand.

Named after its founder, Sunday Riley launched in Houston, Texas, on a shoestring budget and is now worth an estimated $50 million.

Oh yes! This oh-so-popular brand has everyone gushing over its products that strive to incorporate the best nature can offer with active ingredients for clinically proven results.

Their serums and facial oils have sassy names like C.E.O Glow, Auto Correct, and Pink Drink! No wonder they’ve built a buzzworthy reputation in online magazines and social media.

It’s also easy to get excited by a brand when Bridgerton star, Phoebe Dynevor, is their brand ambassador!

But marketing aside – are Sunday Riley’s ethical principles as legit as they claim?

Is Sunday Riley Cruelty-Free and Vegan?

Sunday Riley Cruelty-Free Serums

Sunday Riley is 100% Cruelty-Free

It does not:

  • Test any of its products or ingredients on animals;
  • Purchase any ingredients tested on animals within its supply chain; or
  • Distribute its products to any countries that require animal testing by law.

For Sunday Riley being cruelty-free is one of their core values! They have accreditation from multiple anti-animal testing organizations like our top choice - Leaping Bunny.

Leaping Bunny is the only internationally recognized certification that guarantees a brand is cruelty-free. 

The brand is also owned privately, so there is no reason to be concerned about a parent company that allows other ranges to be tested on animals.

Sunday Riley is Not Vegan

Although the line is not entirely vegan, Sunday Riley has many vegan products from which to choose.

What’s even better is that all of its vegan products are clearly labeled to the right of their individual product descriptions. Here’s an example:

Sunday Riley Vegan Product Locator Online

The most common animal-derived ingredients that Sunday Riley uses are:

  • Honey & beeswax – these ingredients pose many health benefits to your skin and wellbeing. They have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and are loaded with essential vitamins.

    Just because beeswax isn't vegan, it doesn't mean it can't be cruelty-free. Find out more here: Can Beeswax Be Cruelty-Free?
  • Pearl powder – powdered pearls give cosmetics and skincare a luminous glow to the skin. But the reported benefits include increased collagen production, skin tone, and tightened fine lines.

    But can you harvest pearls from oysters without killing them? Read this before you buy pearl-based products: Are Pearls Cruelty-Free (Including 4 Alternatives You Need to Try)? 

If you're interested in which products are vegan or finding vegan brand alternatives – keep reading or click on this link: Sunday Riley vegan products.

Animal Testing Policy and History

Sunday Riley has been committed to creating clean and effective skincare that is also cruelty-free since it was founded.

The brand is proud of its cruelty-free statement and philanthropy work with animals.

Cruelty-Free Status in 2022

Here is a screenshot of Sunday Riley's official statement regarding its cruelty-free policies and vegan products, taken from its website:

Sunday Riley Cruelty-Free website claim


Sunday Riley is both Leaping Bunny certified, and PETA approved.

While you might know PETA very well – it surprisingly doesn’t hold the strictest cruelty-free regulations. It only requires a brand’s written consent that abides by the PETA code of conduct.

Certification from Leaping Bunny is ideal because it holds rigorous standards and does regular audits to ensure they are upheld.

Leaping Bunny certification proves that:

  • No animal testing is conducted on the ingredients, formulas, or final products they sell.
  • No animal testing is conducted by the brand suppliers or on their ingredients or formulas.
  • No animal testing is done by someone else that the company itself paid for.
  • Any other form of testing (beyond ingredient and consumer safety), such as worker safety and environmental health, are considered and evaluated.

If you see a bunny stamp on the back of your product bottle – that's an excellent sign. But don't let the image itself fool you. A lot of brands are using fake logos to deceive consumers.

Do your homework and see which products are genuinely cruelty-free first. This article will help you: Which Cruelty-Free Logos Can You Trust?

Is Sunday Riley Sold Where Animal Testing is Required By Law? 

Sunday Riley does not sell any of its products in stores in China or any country that requires animal testing on cosmetics by law.

China has a shocking track record. It is the country with the most animal testing globally, with over 20 million animals used per year.

However, if you live in China or are concerned about its cruel beauty policies, there are a couple of loopholes.

Here's how to find cruelty-free cosmetics in China: Are Cosmetics Made in China Cruelty-Free?

What Sunday Riley Products Are Vegan?

Sunday Riley is 100% vegetarian with an extensive range of vegan products to choose from.

Lucky for us, all the vegan products are marked on its website.

To save you some time, here are some of Sunday Riley’s most popular and award-winning products to choose from:

  • Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment
  • C.E.O Glow Vitamin C and Turmeric Face Oil
  • 5 Stars Retinoid + Niacinamide Eye Serum
  • Luna Sleeping Night Oil
  • UFO Ultra Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil

For a complete list of vegan products, you can visit the Sunday Riley website.

Vegan Alternatives to Sunday Riley

Sunday Riley has excellent vegan skincare options with a crazy fan following.

For a multi-million dollar brand – it has commendable transparency with its customers.

But if you will not support a brand that isn't entirely vegan – Sunday Riley might not be your first choice.

Here are some 100% vegan cosmetic alternatives that you can try instead:

Is Sunday Riley Natural and Organic? 

Sunday Riley uses safe, simple, and clean ingredients. However, it is not considered natural or organic.

Its whole ethos is to make clean formulas and products that combine the best of botanicals and modern science.

Clean vs. Natural Ingredients

The term "natural" is not regulated for cosmetics and skincare. In other words, it doesn't hold one specific meaning.

Usually, it means a product is free of certain more toxic synthetic ingredients, including parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and more. But people also interpret "natural" to mean ingredients of immediate plant origin.

Here's the thing: "natural" is not necessarily good. Just because an ingredient is natural (take egg whites, for example) doesn't mean you should rub it on your skin and risk a salmonella infection!

All products use a certain amount of synthetic ingredients in their formulas. Sunday Riley is no exception – but it does choose to use better or clean synthetics.

If a synthetic ingredient is "clean," it means it is safe and non-toxic for us. Its purpose is to preserve the stability of a beauty formulation.

A few naturally-derived ingredients Sunday Riley uses to enhance its cosmetics include:

  • Ceramides are lipids (or fats) found in skin cells. Ceramides ‘hold together’ the topmost layer of skin and keep any environmental nasties out.

    Including them in your skincare protects and repairs the skin barrier, which boosts hydration, speeds up healing, and improves texture.
  • Hyaluronic acid is a substance found naturally in our skin that helps maintain moisture, and boost tissue regeneration and wound healing.

    As we age, we produce less hyaluronic acid – making it an essential ingredient in our beauty products.
  • Niacinamide, or Vitamin B3, has been shown to reduce the appearance of blemishes and skin congestions. It also repairs the skin barrier, increases smoothness, and boosts radiance.

Does Sunday Riley Use Safe Ingredients?

According to Skin Safe, Sunday Riley has an 82- 91% allergen-free ranking across 42 products.

All Sunday Riley products are free of sulfate cleansers, phthalates, mineral oil, parabens, TEA, or synthetic fragrances.

The brand also avoids allergens such as gluten, MCI/ MI, nickel, coconut, soy, and dyes.

Reading the ingredient list is crucial because Sunday Riley is not 100% hypoallergenic or non-comedogenic, and they do not claim to be.

The EU/UK Have Stricter Ingredient Regulations

We don’t want to scare you, but you HAVE to read up on any product’s ingredient list before you make a purchase – especially if you live within the United States. The reason why will shock you.

The FDA has only banned or restricted 11 harmful chemicals from cosmetics within the country. Europe and the UK, on the other hand, have banned 1,328!

Although Sunday Riley uses clean formulas – it’s worth noting that you should always avoid the following ingredients in skincare products:
  • Ethoxylated ingredients (PPG, PEG, and polysorbate)
  • Ethanolamine compounds (DEA, MEA, and TEA)
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, aka teflon®)
  • Propylene glycol (pg) & butylene glycol
  • Polyacrylamide
  • DMDM Hydantoin
  • Phthalates
  • Triclosan
  • Formaldehyde

Are Cruelty-Free Ingredients Safe?

If you’re worried about how safe it is to use cosmetics not tested on animals – please relax and take a sigh of relief.

There is no reason why cruelty-free products shouldn’t be as safe as anything tested on animals.

Not only is it easy to test ingredients without using animals altogether, but there are so many pre-approved ingredients you can use to make cosmetics that there is no need.

If you’re interested, here’s more on the subject: Are Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Safe?

Is Sunday Riley Sustainable and Ethical? 

Sunday Riley does have strong sustainable and ethical initiatives.

As it stands, the brand:

  • Is committed to lowering its environmental impact.
  • Treats people with respect and dignity.
  • Incorporates philanthropy into the company culture.

They’ve even gone as far as becoming a B Corp Certified brand. 

B Corp certification means a brand “meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”

Some things Sunday Riley does include:

  • Donating to animal charities and shelters.
  • Donating to environmental corporations.
  • Offering paid volunteer leave for employees.

The only suspicious thing is that we couldn’t find any certification for Sunday Riley’s Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil claims… Hmmm.

And, of course, the small fake reviews issue it had on Sephora.

For a quick recap, a former whistle-blowing employee shared that Sunday Riley employees were instructed to leave positive reviews on at least two products… and hide their affiliation. Sneaky!

You can read more here.

It's no secret that the world has a huge waste problem, and cosmetic brands are only making it worse by using unsustainable packaging and harmful ingredients.

Some of the ways Sunday Riley is taking strong environmental accountability is by:
  • Developing formulas that are kinder to the environment using more natural ingredients.
  • Prohibiting the use of synthetic microbeads that pollute our waters and harm marine life.
  • Using sustainable packaging.
  • Using Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil (however, no RSPO certification is provided).
  • Using ethically mined MICA sourced without the use of child labor.
  • Having a Zero Waste Oil Process in its factories.
  • Implementing reduced carbon footprint shipping methods.
  • Using sustainably sourced paper cartons (FSC certified).
  • Incorporating recycled pulp board for packaging.

Final Thoughts

Sunday Riley’s has a huge fan base, and this skincare brand takes various ethical factors into consideration.

We do have to remember their run-in with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) over fake Sephora reviews between 2015- 2017… Not a cute look.

The complaint was settled in 2019, and the brand is now “making an effort to be more transparent with [their] customers.”

But it’s still worth noting.

On the bright side – being a cruelty-free brand is a step towards a more sustainable future in skincare, especially with multiple cruelty-free accreditations.

Sunday Riley’s verified supply chain and openness to the public about its testing, purchasing, and distribution policies is another win.

Of course, since they’re not 100% vegan – they might not be the best choice for activists who go the extra mile.

But we wouldn't shut it down so quickly if we were you. This young brand is developing and listening to your needs, so keep following its movements.

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