Morning Routine: How Skincare Guru Sunday Riley Starts Her Day

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Sunday Riley morning routine
Photo: Courtesy of Sunday Riley

Successful people around the world have their morning routines down to a fine art. So just how does Sunday Riley, founder and CEO of Sunday Riley, start her day? Savoir Flair’s Beauty Editor sat down with Riley during her recent trip to Dubai to celebrate the launch of her skincare must-haves at Sephora – finally! We got a sneak peek into her morning rituals – trusted beauty products and go-to wardrobe staples included.

I wake up around 6:50 a.m., which is a little late to be honest, considering I have four kids who I have to get up and out. But the two eldest set their own alarms and get themselves up, at least. That’s what I hope! The first thing I do is press snooze, so I’ll do that from 6:40 to 6:50. I’ll then get up, wash my hands, put my contacts in, wash my face with my ‘Ceramic Slip Cleanser’, and immediately use vitamin C.

I sleep with my phone on airplane mode because I’m paranoid about radiation, so after I’ve done that, I’ll grab my phone, take it off airplane mode, and check that nothing bad has happened overnight. I don’t even get a chance to check my emails because I have to get my kids out, so I just check my texts and WhatsApp. My two oldest girls are 13 and nine, and if I sleep through my alarm they come in and say “Mommy, you have to get dressed!”. They’re really self-sufficient which is great, especially my nine-year-old who is such a trooper. She’ll be like, “Mom, I put the kettle on, everything’s fine!”.

I’ll go down to my son’s room and get the four-year-old up while letting my two-year-old sleep some more. My four-year-old is not a morning person, so I carry him into the kitchen, and we talk a little bit and have that time together. We have no more than 45 minutes to get them all sorted, but luckily, I have a nanny, who’s great – she’s part of the family. She arrives around 7:15 a.m., and helps me with lunches and drives the kids to school. We travel together and we’re really good friends.

I would love to say I’m a morning person, but I’m much more of a night person. It’s not that I’m in a bad mood in the mornings, it’s just that I’m tired. I get eight hours a night, so it’s not like I didn’t sleep, but I’m always just like, “Eugh, really?” But I know I have to get up because I have people who are counting on me to get moving.

I’m not at full speed until I have my coffee. I’m very ritualistic about my coffee. I only drink an organic Italian roast, which I make in a French press with half and half, and that is the highlight of my day. I love it! I always make scrambled eggs, too, and I think I make a really good scrambled egg. I’m very particular about how I make them. I use olive oil and butter, and don’t add any milk. You melt all the oil and butter on really high heat, put the eggs in, and immediately put the heat to low, slowly stirring once it starts setting. I also take a lot of spirulina in the mornings and make this green chlorophyll drink, which is literally liquid chlorophyll. It’s fluorescent green, so if it spills, it stains everything! I drink that every morning.

I’m predominantly vegetarian, but if I’m in someone’s home and they’ve cooked for me, I’ll eat anything. It’s more of a preference rather than an adamant philosophy. If I do eat animal protein, it’s once a day max. I try to eat more plant-based and organic, and I drink a ton of water. I also like the concept of intermittent fasting, but I’m not sure how good I am at it because I have to have my coffee with half and half! If I’m sick, I drink a ton of bone broth because I think it really helps. I swear by it.

sunday riley morning routine interview
Photo: Courtesy of @sundayriley

I’ll get my laptop out and work from home for the first hour. I’ll also go onto our e-commerce site and check the sales, I’ll look at how our Google Ads and AdWords, YouTube ads, video ads, and social ads are going, what the percentage rates are and click-through rates and stuff. But I really try to use that hour at home to solidly work because it’s non-stop once I get to the office.

If we have a hole in our line – like in masks, for example – that’s easy to identify, but then you have to think, what kind of mask do we need? That’s when I’ll go onto various websites and forums to see why people like something, what they want, and how we can do it better. I’ll buy every product in that category and personally try it to see what I would do differently, so I can beat the best of the best! I find it really inspiring when I try a product that’s good, and when it’s not, I get so disappointed.

If you’re always focused on what other people are doing, you hollow out your own life. It’s a weird phenomenon.

I tend to look at social media at night, and mostly follow yoga and Pilates influencers along with artists, people who use lots of colors, and personal friends. Our business account follows all the beauty influencers, and I can log into that any time, but I try not to connect to work. When I’m on social media, I try to be on it just for me as an individual, not for me as part of a brand. If I’m always looking at what other brands are doing or what they’re saying about each other, it’s like always looking over your shoulder – you never get a break. There’s that anxiety, even if you’re doing really well, so I’d rather watch someone kill it on their Pilates mat. If you’re always focused on what other people are doing, you hollow out your own life. It’s a weird phenomenon.

Sometimes I’ll put on a Spotify channel but I’m random in what I choose. Usually, it’s something someone else has put together. I like listening to French stations, even though I don’t speak a word of French. It just sounds so good! I really like French music and the way it makes me feel. I never have the TV on in the morning because my dogs really are enough entertainment.

sunday riley interview
Photo: Courtesy of @sundayriley

If I don’t work out in the evening, I’ll use the reformer in the mornings – I love it so much that I have one in my house. I won’t do more than 20 to 25 minutes in the morning because I’m usually behind schedule and, in the evening, I do about 45 minutes. But I won’t do both, just one or the other. I don’t have a trainer; I’ve done it for so long that I know what to do on my own.

I shower at night unless I work out in the morning. I always go to sleep with wet hair because I feel like it’s the secret to volume! I mean, it’s probably more the secret to bedhead, but I call that volume. I always use the Living Proof ‘Perfect Hair Day Shampoo’ because I live in a really humid climate and my hair gets oily, which drives me nuts. I have to wash my hair all the time, but that dry shampoo really extends its lifespan. I also love the Ouai ‘Volumizing Shampoo’. Ouai’s ‘Memory Mist’ is also really good – I love the smell – and the dry shampoo is phenomenal. Jen Atkin is great, she’s a really cool person.

As I said, I always put on vitamin C first, so that’s one to two pumps of the ‘C.E.O.’ brightening serum and two to three drops of ‘C.E.O. Glow’, which I’ll mix together. Then, by the time I come upstairs and that has sunk in, I’ll put on ‘Tidal’, which is a brightening enzyme water cream that contains alpha-arbutin to help brighten pigmentation, which I’m prone to, and papaya extracts to retexturize. Sometimes, if my skin is really dry and flaky, I’ll put ‘Good Genes’ on, too, because that will resurface it. I also use the Kiehl’s butter lip balm. I try to make my morning beauty routine as regimented as possible.

Then I always put on sunscreen. I have to – I burn just by looking at a photo of the sun! And, if I need it, I’ll use a little bit of foundation, which is one that I actually make myself. Usually, though, I just use concealer because I have really dark circles. I’m using the Rituel de Fille ‘Ethereal Veil’ one at the moment. ‘Autocorrect’ was selfishly created for me because it’s really light-reflective and amazing for dark circles, so I always use that as well.

Then it’s onto my makeup routine, which I’m pretty loyal to. I always use Chanel eyebrow pencils and a black Chanel pencil eyeliner. I don’t usually wear eyeshadow when I go to work; I’ll just use liner and the Charlotte Tilbury mascara, which is so good. Then, I use an Edward Bess powder in ‘Afterglow’ to give a little blush and warmth. It’s a cream but the texture is dry, so it really goes on nicely. The ‘Sunlight’ highlighter is amazing too, but I’ll only use that if I’m going out.

If I am going out, I like eyeshadow from Bobbi Brown or Marc Jacobs, and I like some of the colors by Tom Ford. A lot of makeup falls on me during the day because I have really oily eyelids – a weird phenomenon – so unless the eyeshadow is really finely ground, it will just fall. And that’s not attractive! I use neutral-colored eyeshadows for the most part, so browns and grays, and then I do my version of a baby smoky eye. I’ll always do more of a bold lip than eye.

I wear the exact same thing every day. I read, like 15 years ago, that Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein did that, so I thought, “Wow, that’s smart!” And now I do the same. It’s always a long-sleeve scoop neck Majestic Filatures top, I swear by them. They’re a little bit expensive, but they last forever! It protects me from the sun in the summer, and keeps me a little warmer in the winter. I have like 20 of them! Then, I wear jeans because I have to be comfortable so I can think. I wear brain-centric clothes because I get distracted! I have to be in a uniform.

I usually wear Mother jeans, but I like J Brand too, and then it’s always a pair of Jimmy Choo 90mm high heels in a variety of colors. I literally have every color – metallic fuchsia, gold, every shade of nude, black, you name it! But I’m a little bit distraught as the logo has changed and it’s going to be on the shoe, so I might need to find a new one. I need to stock up now while I can!

I do unusual things, like I always put an extra bottle of deodorant by the front door and I always apply it twice. I get it from France, it’s the Vichy 24-hour one and highly recommend it – it’s the best on the planet! Because I’m always like, did I apply it?! So I’ll just apply it again to be sure. I also keep my thyroid pills by my shoes, which I keep in a shoe cabinet by the front door, so I won’t forget to take them.

I generally leave around 9:30, 9:45 a.m. and I won’t be in before 10. My day is planned out in 15-minute increments. That doesn’t mean every person I meet only has 15 minutes, it could be 30 minutes or an hour, but it’s always in 15-minute increments. I get to work, and my assistant will have the whole schedule ready and booked in for that day. I try and have two hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. empty just for me, but usually, she books that daily, too!

I eat lunch at my desk, and I’m literally in meetings until 7 p.m. every night. That’s why I said the morning is really the only time I have to myself. My job at work is to be there for everyone else so they can get their jobs done and I have an open-door policy, so I make sure I’m always there when anyone needs me. It’s all about doing things together.

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