REN Revisited

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I first reviewed REN in my very first post for this blog, in 2007. I reviewed it again in 2008. Back then REN products were only carried in America by the now-defunct C.O. Bigelow chain of stores that were owned by Bath & Body Works (the original C.O. Bigelow in New York City doesn’t carry the line). Now REN is carried by Sephora stores nationwide, and are much more easily attainable.

When I reviewed REN products the first two times, I was using the Rose Centifolia Cleansing Gel for Normal Skin, and the Mayblossom Cleansing Gel for Combination Skin. I was suffering from chronic adult acne during those years, and both of these cleansers, while natural, were foaming cleansers. I’ve since realized that my skin, although acneic, was on the dry side, and I was drying out my skin by using foaming cleansers. Now my skin no longer breaks out, but it is dry and sensitive. I no longer use foaming cleansers. When I saw that REN made a cleansing balm, in the vein of Eve Lom and Josie Maran, I wanted to try it.

REN Rose Centifolia No. 1 Purity Cleansing Balm ($48 for 5.1 oz.) is a soft balm that comes in a tub. It also comes with a muslin cloth. I scoop out a little (about a fingerful – you don’t need much), spread it over my dry face, and massage it in to help emulsify dirt and makeup. Then I wet my fingers with warm water and massage my face again. One thing that really impresses me about this cleansing balm is that it emuslifies into a milky cleanser upon contact with water, much like a cleansing oil, and unlike other cleansing balms. I then remove it with the enclosed muslin cloth rinsed in warm water, and my skin is clean and soft. Because it emulsifies with water, it’s easy to remove and doesn’t feel like it leaves a film on my face like other cleansing balms can. And it smells divine, like essential oils. I was using the Josie Maran Cleansing Balm, but the REN Rose Centifolia No. 1 Purity Cleansing Balm is the same price as Josie Maran’s while giving you two ounces more cleansing balm. I haven’t tried Eve Lom’s cleansing balm because it’s very expensive (the 3.3 oz. size will set you back $80), and it contains mineral oil, a petrochemical. REN’s cleansing balm is like the all-natural version of Eve Lom’s balm, which was arguably the first cleansing balm and which has achieved a cult-like status. Ren’s Cleansing Balm, like all of their products, is clean, meaning it uses only natural ingredients, and, as they state on their website:

    REN is free from synthetic fragrance, mineral oil, petrolatum, sulfate detergents, synthetic colours, animal ingredients and parabens. In addition, REN products 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 et al.

I round out my REN regimen with the Evercalm Cleansing Milk (which I abosolutely adore – it makes my skin look glowing) in the morning and in the evenings when I’m not wearing sunblock or makeup, and I follow this or the Rose Centifolia Cleansing Balm with the Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream (both day and night).

I really enjoy using my REN products. I think I’ve found a regimen that finally works for my skin. I feel like I’m putting only good things on my skin, not nasty chemicals or synthetics that were possibly causing my skin to react badly and break out. I’m looking forward to trying more of REN’s products.


Something Short of a Miracle (But Just a Little)

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Revitalift Miracle Blur by L’Oreal claims to be more than just a primer. It bills itself as a “first-of-its-kind Instant Skin Smoother” that “instantly erases the look of lines, wrinkles, and pores. Skin instantly looks and feels smooth, leaving a velvet soft matte finish that lasts all day.” Its “Opti-Blur Technology diffuses light on skin for a soft-focus effect that instantly smoothes lines and wrinkles, hides pores and minimizes little flaws and imperfections. In 4 weeks, wrinkles, lines and pores appear minimized. Skin texture appears smoother.” Opti-Blur Technology? Is that even a thing?

Miracle Blur is meant to be applied as the last step in one’s skin care regimen. If you want to wear foundation you apply it after Miracle Blur. I’ve only been using it for a week so far, not for the 4 weeks that the product claims it takes to minimize pores and wrinkles. While I can’t say that is “miraculously” blurs out imperfections in my face, I do notice it looks a little smoother, and my foundation goes on more smoothly as well. I’m keeping an eye on the “one” that I have between my eyes (I don’t have the “eleven,” just the “one”) to see if it appears diminished over time. MIiracle Blur does have a Broad Spectrum SPF of 30, which I like. And when worn under foundation, it makes my skin appear smoother and makes my foundation look better. I also feel it regulates the oil in my face, preventing it from getting shiny during the day. I could see myself purchasing it again, since I do like using a primer, and using one with a built-in SPF is a bonus for me. So far I’m pretty satisfied with it as a good base for makeup. All in all, it’s a good primer, just don’t expect miracles.


Fruit for Your Face

I’ve never had much luck with products from Clean & Clear, Johnson & Johnson’s line of cleansers and moisturizers for young, problem skin. Their cleansers usually dry out my skin, and their moisturizers aren’t moisturizing enough. The fact that I’m several years older than their target demographic may have something to do with it. Nevertheless, when I saw their new line of Morning Burst Fruit Infusions cleansers in the grocery store, I was immediately drawn to the chubby, brightly colored pump bottles. What can I say, I’m a sucker for cool packaging. Since the other C&C cleansers I tried dried out my skin, I chose the Hydrating Cleanser. It has coconut, pineapple, and acai extracts for antioxidants, and real strawberry seeds for exfoliation. So what do I think of this cleanser, after using it for a week?

It smells great, it lathers well, and it removes makeup. But the cleanser doesn’t contain enough fruit extracts to make a difference in one’s skin. It’s just the usual concoction of detergents and, yes, parabens, found in most cleansers, with a little bit of natural ingredients in it to capitalize on the trend of natural skincare products. To be fair, however, Clean & Clear make no claims that the Fruit Infusions line is all- or largely- natural. And the strawberry seeds that the product description on the company’s website say will reveal vibrant skin are so few and far between that sometimes the one pump of cleanser I use to wash my face with doesn’t contain any seeds at all. But I will say that the Hydrating Cleanser lives up to its name in that, while it’s not truly hydrating, it doesn’t dry out my skin like other Clean & Clear cleansers, provided I follow it with a good moisture cream.

I find the Morning Burst Fruit Infusions Hydrating Cleanser pleasant to use. It may be more hydrating for skin that’s oilier than mine, who would appreciate the fact that it’s oil-free. I’ll keep using it during the summer, then see how it fares during the winter months. But I might just keep using it because I’m really digging the coconut fragrance.

The Morning Burst Fruit Infusion cleansers are also available in a Revitalizing Cleanser and a Purifying Cleanser, so there’s one for every skin type. They retail for around $7 and are available in drugstores as well as Ulta.

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Acid Trip

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Today I purchased the Glycolic Cream Cleanser ($12.99) by Skin Effects by Dr. Dover. This line of cosmeceutical products has grown exponentially in the five years since it was first introduced. Dr. Jeffrey Dover is a renowned dermatologist with a successful practice just south of Boston. His Skin Effects line of products are sold exclusively at CVS drugstores nationwide.

The Glycolic Cream Cleanser is a fairly recent addition to the range of Skin Effects cleansers. I always check out the skin care aisle when I’m in CVS, and I never noticed this particular cleanser in the Skin Effects section before. But when I saw it I wanted to try it, because my skin is dull, lifeless, acneic, acne-scarred, and rough looking. Plus I’m trying to stave off the first signs of wrinkles. (I sound like a mess, don’t I?) The Glycolic Cream Cleanser markets itself as an anti-aging cleanser. According to the CVS website, it “Reveals fresher, younger looking skin with each use. Improves appearance of skin’s texture, clarity and firmness; reduces the appearance of sun damage.” In addition to glycolic acid, it also contains hyaluronic acid microspheres to help hydrate your skin.

I tried the Glycolic Cream Cleanser tonight and I was surprised at its consistency. Other glycolic cleansers I’ve used in the past had the consistency of thick lotions, and they didn’t lather. The Skin Effects version is more pearlescent, still a lotion, but it emulsifies in water and foams a little, though I wouldn’t call it a lathering cleanser. I waited for that familiar stinging sensation that I’ve gotten with every other glycolic cleanser I’ve tried, but amazingly, the Glycolic Cream Cleanser doesn’t sting my face. I used it around my eye area and it didn’t sting my eyes either (and it removes eye makeup very well). It doesn’t dry out my face like other glycolic cleansers have. I chalk that up to the hyaluronic microspheres.

The Skin Effects Glycolic Cream Cleanser is the gentlest glycolic acid cleanser I’ve tried. Only time will tell if that gentleness belies an effective exfoliating and renewing powerhouse for my skin. You can purchase Skin Effects by Dr. Dover products at CVS in stores or online.


What the Heck is a Scrublet?

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When I saw the commercials for L’Oreal’s new Go 360 Clean line of cleansers, I was intrigued. Included with each cleanser is a rubber “scrublet,” a cleansing tool with nodules to exfoliate your skin. The Go 360 Clean Deep Cleansers are available in four formulas: one for oily, dry, or sensitive skin, as well as an exfoliating scrub. I purchased the cleanser for sensitive skin.

I bought the sensitive skin formula because I thought it was non-foaming, but when I used it I discovered that it actually lathers. However, it’s a light lather that didn’t dry out my skin, so I have no complaints. I was particularly eager to try the scrublet. It comes neatly tucked into a corresponding cavity in the center of the bottle. You pop it out to use it, and when you’re finished you can either put it back into the bottle or stick it on the bathroom mirror with the suction cup that’s attached to the other end. The instructions are on the plastic wrap that holds the scrublet in place in the bottle. Simply wet the scrublet, apply the cleanser to it, and scrub it on your face. The scrublet is made of a squishy rubber that feels kind of gross, like those little octopus finger puppets with the long arms and tentacles that you get from a gumball machine to creep out your kid sister. But when I ran it over my wet face and massaged it into my skin, I was pleasantly surprised. The scrublet glided easily along my face, it was very gentle and it was fun to use. Before I purchased the Go 360 Clean cleanser, I was skeptical of the scrublet concept in theory. I thought it was just a gimmick, but after using it, I’m a scrublet convert.

The Go 360 Clean deep cleansers claim to shrink pores and help eliminate blackheads. I can’t really attest to those claims yet, but I like how the cleanser makes my skin feel. Go 360 Clean cleansers are $6.99 each. They’re available in drugstores or at www.lorealparis.com.

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Blast from the Past

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For a limited time only, The Body Shop has brought back eleven of their classic products from the Eighties. Old favorites such as Blue Ice Shampoo, Fuzzy Peach Shower Gel, and Banana Conditioner are once again available. They retail for $8.99 each, or three for $20. Visitors to The Body Shop stores can vote for their favorite classic products by putting heart-shaped ballots, each with the name of one of the re-launched products, into a ballot box by the cash register.

I miss the old-school Body Shop, the way it used to be twenty years ago. I loved how their skin care products weren’t categorized into “lines,” such as the Vitamin E line or the Aloe Vera line. Back then, their skin care collection was an eclectic mix of fruit, vegetables, and exotic offerings like the Japanese Washing Grains. You could mix Dewberry Cleansing Gel with Cucumber Freshening Water and Carrot Moisture Cream and have a veritable salad of good-for-your-skin ingredients. The Body Shop’s packaging was fun back then, too; less “slick” and more disjointed, in a way, than the uniform labels that grace their current offerings. I was a big fan of their Carrot Moisture Cream, so when I saw they had reintroduced it, along with other retro products I had tried in the past, I took advantage of their three-for-twenty-dollars offer. I purchased the Cucumber Cleansing Milk, the Cucumber Freshening Water. and the Carrot Moisture Cream. The first time I used them, the overpowering smell of cucumbers and the not-really-carroty-but-kind-of-powdery fragrances from the products immediately took me back in time to the early Nineties. The overpowering fragrances of the Body Shop products haven’t changed since then, but one thing that has is the formulations of the re-launched products. They now use fair trade ingredients such as soybean oil and beeswax to retweak their classic recipes. My skin feels great after I use my retro regimen, but I realize that I shouldn’t get too attached to it because The Body Shop will only take these products away from me again. My only hope is that the reason for the heart-shaped ballots is perhaps that The Body Shop might relaunch on a permanent basis some of the products that received the most votes. I voted for the Carrot Moisture Cream. Now if only they would bring back the Rum Raisin Lip Balm, I would be a very happy girl.

I went to the ‘burbs today to visit my sister and we went to the mall. I saw this sign in the parking lot. I have never seen a sign like this before, but it’s nice that the mall is making shopper safety a priority. I especially like how the generic “Children Playing” kid is transformed into a little girl with pigtails and a handbag. Her mother, however, looks like a transvestite carrying a clutch purse. They just put a skirt on the male “Pedestrian Crossing” figure. And check out those shoulders – she might as well have an Adam’s Apple. They should have used the universal Ladies’ Room figure, the one in an A-line dress to symbolize that it’s a woman. Kudos to the graphic designer on this one.

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FAB Skincare for Winter

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First Aid Beauty hit the shelves of over 100 Sephora stores this past Monday. First Aid Beauty, or FAB for short, is a premium collection of skincare that caters specifically to sensitive skin and universal beauty challenges. The line offers both daily skincare basics and intense therapy and emergency care for common skin problems and beauty challenges.

    Ultra Repair Cream ($28) – a deeply penetrating over-the-counter treatment with ceramides, colloidal oatmeal, shea butter and eucalyptus oil to provide immediate relief for raw, scaly skin due to eczema, aggressive cosmetic treatments, harsh winter weather and other conditions.

    Anti-Redness Serum ($34)– a soothing treatment that calms flare-ups and reduces redness with a unique blend of anti-inflammatory ingredients and caffeine.

    Detox Eye Roller ($24) – an all-purpose treatment that diminishes fine lines, dark circles and under-eye puffiness with a caffeine and peptide-infused formula delivered in a unique roller-ball applicator.

    Healing Stick ($14) – a unique variant on the usual cream, a multi-use 1% hydrocortisone stick for skin reactions, chapping and bug bites.

    Blemish Eraser ($16) – a convenient tube that provides on-the-spot treatment with 3.5% benzoyl peroxide blended with anti-inflammatory and soothing extracts.

    Face Cleanser ($18) – a starting point for healthy skin, this calming, all-purpose wash is infused with therapeutic botanicals to preserve the natural oils that protect the skin and maintain a balanced pH.

I recently sampled the Healing Stick and the Ultra Repair Cream. I highly recommend both. The Healing Stick is softer than most conditioning sticks on the market. It melts on contact with skin, so apply with a lighter hand than usual. I use it on dry patches, and it also makes a great lip conditioner. Another use I’ve found for it is to soothe my new(ish) tattoo, which is still in its dry, kind of flaky stage. The Ultra Repair cream is rich and does a great job of protecting skin from the elements, especially the bitter, gusty winds that seem to be plaguing New England more than usual this winter. Yet it goes on creamy, like a souffle, and isn’t heavy or greasy. In fact, I’m going to pick up a full-sized jar the next time I’m at Sephora, where it’s sold exclusively. Not near a Sephora? You can also order online at www.firstaidbeauty.com.