It is a good time to be a chemical exfoliant fan, particularly if you enjoy lactic acid. In the last few years, lactic acid has been becoming more and more prevalent among exfoliants, which is great if you happen to have more reactive, sensitive skin. Lactic acid also tends to be excellent for drier skins as it helps retain moisture.
Both of these products that are getting focused on today are fairly well-esteemed in the chemical exfoliant niche. However, I do not believe you need both. I tested out both of these products over several months and as promised in my prior Instagram post, I thought I would give an update on my review and offer a comparison between these two products in the beauty zeitgeist of the moment.
After I completed my first bottle of The Ordinary 5% Lactic Acid + HA 2%, I went and got a sample or two of the Sunday Riley Good Genes from Sephora to refresh my memory and to see if my results would be replicated. Normally, I use an AHA/lactic acid every other day rather than every day. In this period and spacing out the products, I went 3 days without using a chemical or physical exfoliant (this is the time frame I’ve managed to figure out through multiple means of being really damn lazy and not using skincare that the effect from a chemical exfoliant stops working on me and I start flaking.) This was to see if the results would be different between the two so I could narrow down what the differences were between products.
With the exception of the samples, I paid for both products and used both; Sunday Riley Good Genes (SRGG) lasted me from early January to mid-April. This was during winter, although the winter this year was fairly mild, with few days of dry coldness. The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (TOLA) lasted me from mid-April to late June, in a very humid period, so I would not expect my dryness to be worse in this period.
Now, with that out of the way, I can get to the nitty-gritty on these reviews.
Sunday Riley Good Genes (SRGG)
- Price: $105 per 1 oz (Note: I bought this on a post-Christmas sale for 30% off, so it was approximately $78.75; Also comes in a 1.7 oz bottle for $158 making it slightly cheaper per oz at $92.94/oz in that size.)
- Purchased: Anthropologie (can also be found at Sephora and DermStore.com)
- 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
SRGG has a cult following, and I can understand the appeal behind it. It really is an excellent but gentle chemical exfoliant. It comes with a pump (which I love, personally) and is in the form of a cream rather than a liquid. Although I don’t buy based on packaging alone, it is a nice-sized, stand up bottle made of glass. It looks fairly elegant and while I’m not the biggest gold lover, it gives it a nice appeal.
The product has a noticeable and strong scent. The scent itself does not fade away quickly on me and could take up to an hour before dissipating. I found it unpleasant at first, but over time, I came to appreciate it. It’s got a very light lemony smell, but also smells of chemicals which–well, yeah, it’s a chemical exfoliant. No shit, Sherlock.
For those that prefer to only purchase products that do not involve animal testing, the brand does not test on animals.
The product promises to do the following according to the advertisement on the Sephora website:
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.
Here’s what I found to be in my experience, both initially and after giving myself a refresher after trying it again:
- Exfoliant: ✔️ This did an excellent job of keeping flaky skin at bay and making my skin feel soft without being too harsh.
- Fine Lines: ❓ It’s hard to say on this one. Since my initial review, I was able to find a few on my face, but I don’t know that this product necessarily prevented them or if they occurred after using. I’m doesn’t really seem like this did a lot on that front, so I’m going to have to consider this one inconclusive.
- Radiance: ✔️ Initially, this one was inconclusive for me but after going a second round, I do think this product adds radiance and a brightening effect.
- Hyperpigmentation: ❔ As I don’t have hyperpigmentation, I can’t speak to this one and so it will remain inconclusive on my end.
- Redness Reduction: ✔️ So, they don’t say anything about this in the description, but I do have to share this because it did work very effectively for me at reducing redness. It didn’t clear it up completely, but it definitely reduced it significantly.
- Anti-Aging: ❔ This is going to be another inconclusive for me. As I look very young as is, you could argue that it kept me looking young, but that’s–probably not the intended purpose to keep someone looking 14.
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% (TOLA)
- Price: $6.50 per 1 oz.
- Purchased: Beautylish (also available through Skinstore.com, ASOS, and the brand’s website)
- Ingredients: Aqua (water), Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Triethanolamine, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolmer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/Leaf Extract, Arginine, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Trisodium Ethylene-Diamine Disuccinate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethyl 2.2-Dimethylhydrocinnamal, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Ethylhexylclycerin, 1.2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.
TOLA is one of those products that’s flying off the shelf and it’s not hard to see why; The Ordinary is a very affordable but effective product line. It doesn’t shy away from using effective chemicals (a plus in my book because I don’t buy into the hype around organic being best.)
Like Sunday Riley, this brand also does not perform any animal testing. It’s also a vegan product. (These two things are not necessarily the same; Ethical Elephant explains it very well if this is a concern for you.)
The product itself is in a small, clear glass container. It’s minimalist, but does not seem to have anything to deflect UV influence on the product, which is interesting to me because I would think it would degrade the product faster. Another quirk about this product is that it has a dropper as opposed to a pump. Given that the product is liquid rather than SRGG’s cream, this makes somewhat more sense.
The Ordinary has gone and explained why they use a dropper as opposed to a pump, and it largely comes down to a functional purpose despite being less cost efficient. While I appreciate the conscious effort on their end to not waste product/money, I still do prefer a nice pump at the end of the day. Not to mention, for someone like me, I’m prone to losing at least 15% by being a clumsy asshole anyways (as evidenced by how much faster I used this product up comparatively.)
Much like SRGG, this one has a scent too. The first few times I used it, I longed for the lemon chemical stench of SRGG, but I’ve come to tolerate it. It does fade quickly despite its strength (within 10-15 minutes.) It’s hard to describe what this smells like; it’s got a fruity underbody to it but it just reeks of chemicals.
Now, here is what the Beautylish website describes it as:
This treatment gently resurfaces the skin to promote a bright, even tone and a smooth, soft texture.
If nothing else, I appreciate the brevity. Here’s how I find my first go round and second go with this product:
- Exfoliant: ✔️ It keeps flakes away and leaves skin smooth after application.
- Brightness: ✔️ It does, to a degree. I definitely find my skin looking bright right away, but by the middle of the next day, it has faded some.
- Redness Reduction: ✔️ Again, it does reduce redness. I find it’s actually very red upon application but when I wake up, the redness has gone away. This is likely due to my skin being more sensitive.
- As this product does not indicate anything about fine lines or anti-aging, I am not judging it for that. Not that I really could anyways, since those are difficult things for me to pin down on my skin.
No one needs both of these products. Although I find the SRGG is more effective at keeping redness away longer and slightly more effective at reducing redness, it isn’t enough to warrant the $98.50 price differential.
Here’s what I would recommend: if you are needing to look good for a special day, really need that anti-aging or fine line reduction, or have the budget to not break the bank by buying it regularly, it may be worth splurging to get SRGG.
However, for most people, it’s really unnecessary. TOLA does close enough to the same thing at a significantly lower cost. Considering skincare is something that should be as regular a habit as brushing your teeth, for me, it’s a no brainer: The Ordinary wins this one for me.