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Is ren skincare really skin friendly?

Kimberly’s inquiry: A somewhat new to US product has caught my discerning eye – it is REN out of England it professes to be pure (REN is “pure” in Norwegian or something) and free of toxins like parabens, mineral oil, petrochemicals, dyes, and silicones. Please give me the lowdown, as you see it. Thank you so very much, luv your website yu ROK.

The Right Brain’s REN response:

Thanks for the kind words, Kimberly. I’ve always secretly considered myself the hardest rocking Beauty Brain. Here’s our take on REN.

Scare tactics

First of all, as regular readers of our site know, we’re not big fans of any company that tries to sell products based scare tactics. REN’s website says their products are free of skin-unfriendly ingredients and potential irritants like the ones you sited above, yet in reality, many of the ingredients they avoid have NOT been proven to cause problems. (Mineral oil is a good example.)

But setting aside the ethics issue for the moment, let’s see how REN lives up to their promise of avoiding “nasty” ingredients. We’ll look at their Day Serum as an example.

Revivo-Lift Day Serum ($75 for 1 ounce)

Rosa Damascena Flower Water, Glycerin (Source Coconut Oil), Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Extract, Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (Source Coconut), Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Palmitoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Cetearyl Olivate (Source Olive Oil), Sorbitan Oilivate (Source Olive Oil), Vaccinium Vitis-Idaea (Lingonberry) Seed Oil, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate (Vitamin C), Zostera marina Pectin (Source Sea Grass), Hydrolyzed Glycosaminoglycans (Source Corn), Gynostemma Pentaphyllum (Jiaogulan) Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Magnesium Aspartate, Zinc Gluconate, Copper Gluconate, Phenoxyethanol (Source Aromatic Ether), Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate (Source Amino Acids), Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract, Xanthan Gum (Source Corn), Carbomer (Source Polymer), Parfum (100% natural fragrance), Linalool, Limonene, Farnesol, Faex (Yeast) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E).

Formula base

By listing “rose water” as the first ingredient, REN is implying that there’s no added water in the product. At best, this is a stretch of the labeling laws which state that the first ingredient should be the one present at the highest concentration, which in this case is “water” not “Rose water.”


Carbopol is an acrylic polymer used to thicken and stabilize emulsions. It’s a perfectly fine ingredient but it’s about as far from natural as it gets in the cosmetic world. It’s a surprising choice for REN.


Here’s a fact that you might not know about fragrance: companies are now required to list any known allergens contained in the fragrances they use. And if you take a look at the bottom of the Day Serum ingredient list, you’ll see two chemicals listed after “Parfum (100% natural fragrance).” These chemicals are linalool and limonene and they’re listed because they are both known fragrance allergens. If REN was really avoiding skin unfriendly ingredients you think they would avoide fragrances with known allergens.


According to REN’s website, Good Housekeeping states their products are preservative free. But that’s not true in the case of this Day Serum because it contains phenoxyethanol a common preservative in the cosmetic industry. While it’s not as effective a parabens or DMDM hydantoin, Cosmetic chemists like to use it because it provides a rose like odor that helps cover the odor the other ingredients.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

REN has some lovely formulations and it appears that, for the most part, they’ve gone out of their way to avoid ingredients that people THINK are bad for their skin. But their approach of charging exorbitant prices for their scare tactics doesn’t sit well with us. If you’re concerned enough to pay more money to avoid ingredients that haven’t been proven harmful, then REN products may be perfect for you. But we think you can get more value for your money elsewhere.

What do YOU think? Are you queasy about chemicals? Do you pay more for brands that are “safer?” Leave a comment and share your scare with the rest of the Beauty Brains community.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andrea January 29, 2014, 4:11 pm

    I tried samples of this skincare while I was having a bad reaction to some makeup products. The lady at the counter told me to try it during my bad reaction because it was supposed to help soothe my skin and bring it back to normal. Long story short it made my allergic skin even more allergic. Hives all over my face. Not to mention the cleansing milk or whatever felt like wax and like it didn’t clean my skin. I think I am also allergic to rose anything and that is probably why it didn’t work for me. Glad it was a sample and not the actual product!

    • sam January 21, 2017, 12:51 pm

      Agreed! I had the exact same experience. Within one hour of using the sensitive skin cleansing milk I felt a burning sensation and broke out with hives.

    • Karyn July 5, 2017, 11:52 pm

      I’ve had hive like things on my face too! My skin never reacts to anything? very odd.

      • Bess November 18, 2018, 9:10 am

        I love REN cosmetics. My wrinkles ate going away. That gets an A in my book. So bottom line…it works if you can afford it.

  • Katrina Souder May 3, 2014, 6:10 am

    I love Ren Hydra Calming moisturizer & all the other Ren I’ve tried. I have highly sensitive skin & they mean it when they say “calming.” All lot of products make me break out or get allergic reactions. They live up to their claims here & with the Vital 7 Eye treatment. THANKS REN! Don’t listen to just one review.

  • Sophie September 25, 2014, 8:19 am

    I’m 16 and suffer from acne prone skin – not hugely severe, but enough blackheads, whiteheads and humungous pores to leave me very self conscious. I was wondering if you had any skin treatments you’d recommend? I’m desperate for a skin solution but can’t seem to find a NATURAL one!!! please help!!

  • Mumbles November 6, 2014, 10:27 pm

    I have recently started useing REN. I have really sensitive dry skin with some blocked pores. I started using the Rosa Centifolia Cleansing balm and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve gotten compliments on my skin which has been terrible for years.

  • Simo March 14, 2015, 11:02 pm


    I tried a few products by Ren and I find them very effective and good quality.

    I also tried very effective products of other “green” companies, as Josie Maran, Olfattiva, and Dr Roebuck’s. I will try also 100% Pure.

    Personally, I am very glad that companies like these ones are increasing in the cosmetic industry. The fact that companies like Ren, Josie Maran, or 100% Pure try to avoid health hazard ingredients in their cosmetic products (as parabens, imidazolidiny urea, dea, tea, etc.) and issue products that are also very effective, to me is enough to attract my attention toward these types of firm.

    As a consumer, this will be my attitude from now on:

    If there is a doubt that a certain ingredient can be risky for the health or may affect the health system or endocrine system, I simply do NOT want to have this ingredient in any of my personal care and cosmetic products! I do not want to run any risk and, as a consumer, I do not want to wait years until it is published the definitive proof of a causal link between a certain ingredient and a certain damage to the health or to the endocrine system ( this has already occurred in the recent past – just a few examples are in the book “Exposed”).

    As a consumer, I simply do not want to find any health hazard additives or preservatives or ingredients, no matter what. And I am willing to accept these ingredients only if and when their total safety for the human body will be proved. Until then, In case of doubts, I prefer to avoid them!

    In the past, I have also tried various products by very famous international cosmetic companies and… yes, they may be effective, but in the vast majority of them I have found ingredients that I did not and I do not want to find. And I have been quite disappointed. As consumers, we need to answer the following question: What do we want? Effectiveness at all costs? Low price?

    Is it too much to ask for more: effectiveness and safety? I personally do not want to settle for any less.

    From now on, I have decided to look only for companies who tries to act differently and implement an innovative approach trying to reach effectiveness by avoiding any potential health hazard ingredients, even if their potential damages have not yet been proved 100%. After I made a long and time consuming research on the ingredients included in the vast majority of the cosmetic products, I have decided that from now on I will always and only look for brands that sell natural products whose effectiveness meets total safety, and I am very glad that EU regulation increased the standard requirements for cosmetic products to be sold in Europe. It was a necessary first step to finally push cosmetic industry to put “safety” in the first place of its priority list. This regulation it is not complete and not perfect, but when it comes to safeguard the health of consumers, I prefer to have something (even if incomplete) than having nothing at all.

    Have a nice day!! Best, Simo

  • Pat Olik March 30, 2017, 3:25 pm

    I have just started using REN products, I’m in my 60s why oh why didn’t I discover it in my 40s !
    It’s expensive, but I’m worth it.

  • Michelle April 12, 2018, 10:47 pm

    Their sensitive line gave me itchy hives all over my face as well 🙁 it’s been a week and it’s still not gone!

  • Shelley January 3, 2020, 11:27 am

    The Radiance skin mask that you leave in for 10 minutes and then rinse off is just AMAZING!! I’m a little addicted!! And so many people have commented on my skin since I’ve been using it. It preps your skin lovely for underneath foundation too, giving it a beautiful healthy glow.

    I received it in a gift box set with Ready, steady, flow tonic and vitamin c moisturiser… I really wasnt keen on the tonic… it made my face way to shiny (and I love shiny glowy skin!), leaving my skin really tacky.

    I love The Ordinary Peeling Solution as a much cheaper alternative to the face mask… buy u do LOVE the REN one!!