May 29, 2013

a lilac encounter with REN

I attended my first ever "blogger event" last weekend as part of the Lilac Bloggers initiative and hosted by KENSsapothecary at Bangsar Village II. The event focused mainly on what makes REN tick. If you've heard of or have used REN before, you'd already know what I'm going to be writing about but if not, I think it's definitely a brand worth exploring and having a go at.

I'll be honest. The first time I heard the brand REN, it didn't quite tickle my fancy nor did it conjure up any sort of reaction close to excitement or even the slightest hint of drool from me, which would have happened if you mentioned brands like Caudalié, for example. I actually thought it was a Korean skincare brand {... I'm waiting to be shot for writing that}. But I did my research before attending the event and discovered that maybe, just maybe this brand may have gotten it right not just green-wise for our skin, but also for the wallet and mother nature.

REN basically means CLEAN in Swedish but the brand hails from merry ol' England and is as English as an English can be. Whether intentional or otherwise, we were served a lovely spot of afternoon tea in very fancy teacups no less, with delicious finger food as only the English would. I would know - I have an English aunt.

After tea, we met Terry - the Marketing Manager. He spent the afternoon with us, patiently introducing REN and its line of products available in Malaysia.


JAN/FEB 2009: ISSUE 09

As seasoned followers of natural beauty will attest, REN needs no introduction. REN is the cool and smart brand on the block, maintaining a presence at mainstream beauty retailers like Sephora and Space NK and enjoying A-list fans like Kate Moss, Uma Thurman and Sienna Miller, all while pioneering some of the latest, greatest advancements in natural skincare. The result? A following that blurs the line between earthy and cutting edge. If there were a REN ‘type,’ it would be a beauty user who demands the top reaches of quality, effectiveness and environmental consciousness.

REN in Swedish, means ‘clean,’ an appropriate association for a company that allows no petrochemicals, sulfates, parabens, silicones, glycols, phthalates, synthetic fragrance or color into their products. The concept behind REN solidified back in 2000 when co-founder Antony Buck’s pregnant wife had difficulty finding an effective skincare line that was toxin-free and didn't cause allergies. When REN’s London-based founders Buck and Robert Calcraft set out to create ‘Clean Bio Active Skincare’ (the brand’s tag line), they stumbled upon some real winners--products that have the potential to command a cult following in the beauty world. From the beginning, they've topped bigger brands with products that are customer and beauty editor favorites. What was (and is) the secret behind REN's reputation as a beauty heavy-hitter? Like all successful beauty lines, aesthetics are key.

The first thing you notice about REN products is their packaging, a mix of minimalist, modernist chic and devout pragmatism. Nearly all REN products are packaged in translucent recycled plastic and vacuum sealed, so air or fingers won’t spoil things. This allows the company to use minimal preservatives. Second, you’re likely to notice the richness of REN’s formulas. I’ve never met a REN product that didn’t feel expensive and this makes the potency of their formulas tangible. And every REN product begs a deep inhale to take in the scent of its natural ingredients, be it rose otto, peppermint or frankincense.

Of course the kicker is effectiveness. REN products are formulated to improve the skin’s natural processes of healing and protection, an idea that we can all stand behind. The majority of us choose natural products because we believe that they are as effective, and far safer, than conventional products. REN makes this certain by using active natural ingredients like cell life-prolonging sirtuin activators, essential fatty acid-rich spirulina and plant-based collagen.

“REN’s approach is the blueprint for skincare of the future. With REN you can have the best of both worlds - brilliant products that really can change your skin and the comfort of knowing you’re not ingesting any nasties,” says Buck.

So what makes the list for must-have REN products? There’s no going wrong with the Glycolactic Skin Renewal Peel Mask, a sticky mix of fruit acids and papain that, given ten minutes, will bring glow to the surface of a dull complexion.

REN’s rose body products also inspire raves, with the Moroccan Rose Otto Body Wash topping them all. REN’s balms, No. 1 Purity Cleansing Balm for face and Guerande Salt Exfoliating Balm for body, get my vote as well, for being mineral oil free and super-rich.

Whether you’re just learning about REN or you’re a seasoned user, the great news is that you can expect more of the same from the company in the future.

“We want REN products to continue to mix nature and science in ways that are fresh and innovative. Most of all, we want our products to be as provocative as they are powerful, raising consciousness even if that just starts with something as simple as washing your face,” says Calcraft.

And, as always, 2.5% of the sales from every REN product go back to helping the earth and others in need. Sometimes you really can do it all!


The philosophy behind REN can be summed up in five basic principles. It's also a way of how they approach skincare by means of the:
- Right ingredients.
- Right science.
- Right product experience.
- Right environment impact.
- Right attitude.

It's a fact that every ingredient in every cosmetic product is a "chemical" so instead of launching into the age old argument of natural vs chemical, REN s approach to skincare is to make clean products by means of being modern and sophisticated in formula and design & effective and pleasurable to use products that are free from skin-unfriendly ingredients which are routinely being used in the skincare industry today.
As pioneers of the "Clean Bio Active Skincare", all REN products bear the "Clean Stamp" which shows what ingredients are not used in their products. As one of the purest skincare line in the market today, all REN products are free of synthetic fragrance, pore-blocking petrochemicals, sulfate detergents, silicones, synthetic colours, animal ingredients and parabens. In addition, REN products also do not contain potential irritants including glycols and diglycols (such as propylene glycol), PEG's, PPGs, urea, D.E.A, T.E.A, PABA and other synthetic sunscreens, aliphatic alcohols/hydrocarbons, phthalates, fumarates, amines, alkanolamines, synthetic AHAs/BHAs, polyacrylamide, metacrylate, elastomer, poloxamer, styrene, vinyl, polyquaternium, synthetic chelating agents, nylon, nitriles, nitrates, nitrosamine releasers, bromates, fluor, aluminum and alumina.

The brand also uses vacuum packaging, shown by Terry in the photo below. This simply means that as the product is pumped out of the pack, air does not get in to replace it. This design acts as a preservative that kills bugs which may get into the product from the air or from our fingers. It also prevents air from coming into contact with the product therefore minimizing the use of preservative and the 100% natural fragrance used in the product stays as fresh as possible.

The packaging for their masks are pretty unique too as it features a nozzle cap to further protect the product from contamination and also from leaking.

And it gets even cleaner ... all REN products are also suitable for vegan use, other than the Hydra-Calm Youth Defence Serum which contains milk and the Mayday Mayday Rescue Balm which contains beeswax. All product containers are recyclable; the cartons made from paper from managed forests and printed with vegetable ink and the filling materials used are 100% biodegradable. Plus, all REN products are not tested on animals either.  - see ... clean in every way, right?

REN carries under its facial skincare range eight different lines and each line is colour-coded so you don't get lost in its sea of products. 


If you've wandered onto REN's website and got a tad confused with what's what and where's where, here's a little nudge towards some of their best-selling skin care products.

Then there is also the infamous Morrocon Rose body care range where the rose petals are collected by hand at dawn to maintain its freshness.

Celebrate the annual Moroccan Rose Harvest with REB with this beautiful short film showcasing the harvest itself and the people who help produce this divine oil.
Directed by Laurie Castelli.

"The rose harvest centres on the town of Kelaat M’Gouna, and its annual May rose festival, but as soon as we entered the surrounding green valleys dotted with pink damascene rose bushes, seemingly growing wild among the wheat fields, we began to smell the sweet scent of roses faintly in the air. It is for this scent, so valued by perfume makers, that the roses are harvested. Many tonnes of petals are collected by hand, mixed with water and distilled in order to extract a mere litre of their precious essence, in the form of pure rose water or rose oil..." - Laurie Castelli, Director

KENSapothecary and REN gave each of us a sample goodie bag chocked full with some of their best-selling products to try. I've been using the Hydra-Calm Global Protection Day Cream for close to a week now and I am totally loving how my skin looks and feel, but I'll leave my product review for another post. Having said that, I wish we were given full sized skin-care products {cleanser + moisturiser} to try instead of having to stop one week short of what I believe would have been pretty amazing skin thereafter.

By the end of the session, I've drawn up a pretty long list of REN products I hope to add to my skincare routine soon. It might take me a while to tick it off all the check-boxes since I'll have to haul myself to KL to get it {or not ... see note below}.

When it comes to pricing, it's really not as intimidating as you might think too given the philosophy and quality of the product. Depending on the range, cleansers start from RM115 to RM159 for 150 ml while moisturizers from RM159 to RM177 for 50 ml. 

As a mama to two little trolls kids, I am endeavoring to be greener not only to my skin {and health} but also to the environment - for my sake and for the kid's sake. Finding a skincare line that "walks the walk and talks the talk" in every way not only to the skin but also the environment {and the bank account} is not easy these days but fortunately, REN is one of them. How wrong can a brand go when it's got a cult following and an impressively long list of celebrities who loves it too?

Me, I'm just stocked to know it's not "just another Korean brand" ... among other things :-)