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Sunday Riley’s New Skin-Care Set Takes a Travel Cue from ‘Downton Abbey’

This month, the valises are packed and parasols ready to unfurl, as Downton Abbey: A New Era heads to theaters on May 18. In this latest installment of the Crawley family saga—the second film to continue the course of the six-season series—there’s a surprise in store from the imperiously arch matriarch, played by Maggie Smith. “I’ve come into possession of a villa in the South of France,” she explains in the trailer, coyly dropping a mention of a long-ago lover. Mysteries abound, but one thing is certain: The usual English countryside vistas will be joined by palm trees and the glittering Mediterranean—escapist eye candy for parties on both sides of the screen.  

In the spirit of that high-style journey, a new collaboration with the skin-care brand Sunday Riley arrives today: a travel set of the line’s celebrated formulas. “There’s something about the Downton storyline that marries British and American cultures,” says Riley, a Texas native who “avidly watched” the series. Indulging in a little beauty-minded fan fic, she points to Cora Crawley (Elizabeth McGovern), the American heiress who brings a softened sense of propriety to the family, as someone likely to be dutiful with skin maintenance. Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), on the other hand, has different goals in mind. “Her character is someone that’s going to try to be out in front for as long as possible until she morphs into her grandmother,” Riley says. “The mother, Cora, would be about self-care. I think Lady Mary would be more like, ‘I got to keep looking good. I’m the face of this family.’”

Lady Edith and her fellow revelers—Bertie Pelham (Harry Hadden-Paton), Lucy Smith (Tuppence Middleton), and Tom Branson (Allen Leech)—slip into summer whites for the South of France. 

By Ben Blackall/Focus Features.

The six-piece set is designed to pack in just about everything a skin-savvy traveler might need. (Notable exceptions are SPF and a wide-brimmed hat: “I love the South of France,” Riley says, but “there’s so much sun!”) The daily routine begins with Ceramic Slip, a creamy, gently lathering cleanser that only sounds like a faux pas with a blue-and-white porcelain vase. A mist of Pink Drink follows, delivering firming peptides and fermented extracts to keep the skin’s microbiome in balance. The brand’s 15% vitamin C serum, called C.E.O., earns its all-business name: It’s “now the number one brightening specialist in America,” says Riley, pointing out the antioxidant’s power in fading sun spots and lending everyday glow. There’s a face oil for moisture, and the Auto Correct eye cream that Riley calls a “sleeper hit” for its light-reflecting particles. 

The final product in the kit is naturally Sunday Riley’s global best-seller, Good Genes. The lactic acid exfoliation treatment has long been a favorite among makeup artists for the way it creates a freshly smooth canvas for foundation application. In the new Downton Abbey plot, that trick would come in handy for the movie crew setting up to shoot inside the storied manse. (The Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, has nothing good to say about the intrusion: “I think it’s a horrible idea. Actresses plastered in makeup, and actors just plastered.”)

Laura Haddock plays Myrna Dalgleish, a British actress shooting a film at Downton Abbey.

By Ben Blackall/Focus Features.

But a Hollywood collaboration is all in good fun for Riley—even if the Downton association might further perpetuate the confusion about her brand’s origins, given its success across the pond. “For the longest time, it was funny because I would get told, ‘Oh, there’s this brand Sunday Riley. It was started by a British aesthetician.’ I’m like, ‘Was it?’” Riley says from home in Houston. “I would love to meet her. Somehow I’m doing her job!”

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