This $7 Product Is a Shockingly Effective Dupe for Sunday Riley’s $105 Good Genes

the ordinary lactic acid

When it comes to my makeup and skin care routines, despite wanting to be a person who constantly tries new things (especially because I’m lucky enough to have a job where I get to sample products for free), I generally stick to my tried-and-true stable of picks.

And though I’ve tried the fanciest of fancy serums and eye creams, my day-to-day routine is super affordable. To give you an idea, my favorite moisturizer for day and night is Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel ($21) and my go-to mascara is CoverGirl Clump Crusher ($10).

But I threw all sense of fiscal responsibility out the window when I splurged on Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment. At $105 for one ounce, it costs more than my entire skin care collection combined. But still, after reading countless glowing reviews and hearing friends and coworkers rave about it, I had to see what the fuss was all about.

It. Is. Magic.

I find foundation to be way too heavy, so I’m a tinted moisturizer gal. And because I don’t use a full-coverage base, I’m hypervigilant about how my skin looks next to naked. Good Genes was a game changer. It promises to clarify, smooth and retexturize the appearance of skin—and it actually does. For months, I applied it every morning all over my face, before my moisturizer, tinted moisturizer and sunscreen. My skin had never looked more even-toned and dewy.

Then I ran out. Despite its awesomeness, I couldn’t bring myself to repurchase it. (I can’t remember all the details, but I ran out at a time when I felt like I was hemorrhaging money in other areas.) 

Before resigning myself to a lifetime of dull-looking skin, I decided to find a dupe. I looked at the ingredient list for Good Genes and found that the main ingredient is lactic acid. From there, I researched other products with lactic acid. The first one I tried was also the last one I tried. Why? It works. I’ve been a fan of The Ordinary for years, and I found that their Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2% was a shockingly effective Good Genes dupe. Plus, it costs…$7. Yes, half of a Sweetgreen salad. According to the brand, “This formulation offers very mild exfoliation and is supported with a purified Tasmanian pepperberry known to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivity that is often associated with exfoliation.”

Now, every morning, I mix a few drops of lactic acid into my moisturizer before applying my tinted moisturizer and sunscreen. While my skin isn’t quite as glowy and smooth as it was on Good Genes, it’s noticeably brighter than it was before I started using any lactic acid. I’ll add here that my skin—knock on wood—isn’t sensitive at all, so I use this every day. If you’re prone to irritation, I’d recommend starting small.

Would I go crawling back to Sunday Riley if I suddenly won the lottery or found out that a dead relative I’ve never met left me millions of dollars? Oh, I sure would. But in the meantime, I’m happy to save $98 without sacrificing good skin. 

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...