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.