Bio Retinoid Anti-Aging Concentrate
1.02 fl. oz. for $60
Last Updated:12.23.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Review Overview

Although this facial oil contains a few good ingredients, its claims are truly misleading, almost to the point of no return. Assuming the ingredient list is correct (we checked the product itself plus what is listed on numerous websites) the formula does not contain pure vitamin A, retinol, or any other type of "retinoid analogue" ingredient as claimed.

There is no basis to REN's claim that this facial oil works like retinol products, synthetic or not (and, to be clear, retinol as used in cosmetics is always synthetic because that's the most effective form).

This facial oil's main ingredient is a type of rose oil more commonly known as sweet briar rose. There's no research proving sweet briar rose is beneficial for skin, nor does it contain vitamin A although it does contain vitamin C.

The plant extract Hippophae rhamnoides (sea buckthorn) contains vitamin A, but is no more a natural form of retinol than tree bark could be considered a form of paper to write on. Besides, research has shown this plant is a much richer source of vitamin C (Source: Journal of Food Science, November 2008, pages C615–C620).

In truth, the only way to get naturally-derived retinol (the entire vitamin A molecule) is to use animal ingredients or animal by-products, which this oil lacks. Plant sources of vitamin A provide what's known as carotenoids, which must be converted to vitamin A in the body; they can't be changed to retinol when applied topically (Source: www.naturaldatabase.com).

The mix of soy and cotton seed oils (which can be good for dry skin) along with a couple of beneficial plant extracts and fragrance ingredients just doesn't add up to anything approaching a wise replacement for your current retinol product or others that we recommend with a far better assortment of ingredients and without the absurd claims.

The fragrance it contains does pose a risk of irritation, which makes this facial oil a less compelling choice for dry, sensitive skin.

  • Contains some good plant oils for dry skin.
  • The plant extracts provide an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory boost.
  • Does not contain retinol or retinoid analogue ingredients as claimed.
  • Portrays synthetic retinol as a bad ingredient for skin, when copious research has shown otherwise.

This synergistic complex of pure, potent, 100 percent naturally derived vitamin A, pro-vitamin A, and retinoid analogue combat the appearance of wrinkles, imperfections, and age spots. The complexion appears brighter, toned, and healthy without the effects of synthetic retinol.


Rosa Rubiginosa Seed Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Gossypium Harbaceum (Cotton) Seed Oil, Bidens Pilosa Extract, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Parfum (Fragrance), Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Linalool.

Brand Overview

Ren At-A-Glance

Strengths: Good toner; some worthwhile moisturizers and masks (but not the anti-acne formula); a bounty of products for dry to very dry skin; some products contain especially high amounts of known antioxidants.

Weaknesses: Expensive; repetitive formulas that aren't nearly as natural as they're made out to be; several products contain irritants with no established benefit for skin; very irritating products for those with acne; no skin-lightening options; unappealing products for oily skin.

Hailing from the United Kingdom, the Ren line was developed by two businessmen who are, according to company information, "evangelical" about skin care. The story goes that Robert Calcraft and Anthony Buck were former consultants who began researching the skin-care market after Buck's wife began having adverse reactions to every skin-care product she used while pregnant. Apparently neither man believed that there was a line out there that offered consumers high-tech products that were "totally clean" and "completely effective," and so, voilá, a new skin-care line was born.

We wish we could write that these men were really onto something for all women, not just Buck's wife, but that's simply not the case. First of all, their assessment of the cosmetics industry is bizarre, because in truth there are indeed many cosmetic lines offering "clean" and "effective" products ("clean," by Ren's definition, are products that don't contain problematic ingredients). Second, which lines did Ren's founders check out to determine that there was a missing link? An even better question is: What criteria were they using, because almost all of their products are either poorly formulated or contain irritating ingredients?

Calcraft and Buck apparently worked with a cosmetic pharmacologist; although that sounds impressive, a cosmetic pharmacologist works with drugs designed to improve mental ability in healthy individuals, not with skin-care formulations. All of this back story is nothing more than proof that the people behind this line really didn't do their homework, and the consumer who buys these products will be the poorer (both skin health- and money-wise) because of it.

It still shocks us when we review a line that's laden with products claiming to improve wrinkles and other signs of aging skin, and yet there's limited options for sun protection. Few researchers question how critical daily sun protection is to preserving the health and appearance of skin. Many of Ren's products contain antioxidants, and several have high amounts of green tea oil. But all the green tea in Japan isn't capable of protecting skin from environmental damage, which of course includes sunlight.

More so than many other lines that eschew certain ingredients for their alleged (and, sometimes, proven) negative effects when present in skin-care products, Ren loves to point out everything they don't use. This is a line for those who love to see the word "No" followed by a long list of chemical-sounding names that can seem scary to the uninformed. A consumer may have no idea what a polyquaternium is, but because of lines like Ren, the message is clear that it's not desirable. Ren doesn't provide any documentation supporting their ban on certain ingredients, which is typical of lines whose marketing angle relies on perpetuating the myth that synthetic ingredients are evil and that natural is the only truly safe way to go.

It would be great if Ren's "do not use" list benefited consumers, but it doesn't. Frustratingly, many of the ingredients Ren opts to use instead of synthetics are proven irritants for skin. Bergamot, peppermint, tangerine, and arnica are indeed natural ingredients, but each has its share of problems for skin. We could go on, but you get our point: Ren is really nothing more than an overly fragranced, fear-mongering, natural "me too" line using the same tired plant-based ingredient angle as countless other brands. The difference is that many of those other brands have a product assortment that, either from a price or formulary perspective, is much better than this one.

For more information about Ren, now owned by Unilever, call (732) 553-1185 or visit www.renskincare.com.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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I have used this product for three days now and I already see a difference. The smell is not important to me as I can see it does not contain any artificial fragrance and I prefer it that way. My skin is moisturized now and has a subtle glow. I am using this forever

Reviewed by
Diana S
Beta carotene

Nice review. However, I do believe that rose hip oil, sea buckthorn etc contain beta carotene (hence the orange colour!) which is a precursor to vit a. Companies such as ren, yuli etc say it is converted to vit a. (Like in your body when eating beta carotene rich foods, such as carrots). Is that incorrect? It is thought that beta carotene is a gentler form of vit a with the same benefits over time...

Reviewed by
Beautypedia Team Response

Hi there!  All of those ingredients are sources of beta-carotene, and it is a precursor to vitamin A, but beta-carotene’s conversion to retinol does not occur on skin, it happens in the intestine. Topical application of beta-carotene is not a roundabout or gentler way to use retinol, but beta-carotene is definitely a good antioxidant to apply to skin! Only one study has shown evidence of beta-carotene converting to retinol on human and animal skin samples, but we don’t know if the same thing would occur on intact skin, as that would contain enzymes that could interrupt the conversion. For best results, especially for signs of aging and acne, go for pure retinol. 

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