When British brand REN first launched back in 2000, the idea of “clean” skincare was still in its infancy. This was back during a time when skincare still happily boasted about using microbead plastics in its exfoliating products.

The story, which is now legend, goes like this: co-founders Rob Calcraft and Antony Buck discovered a huge gap in the beauty market for skincare that wasn’t laden with synthetic materials after Buck’s wife fell pregnant and developed a sensitivity to a lot of commonly used chemicals.

Thus the development for a safer, clean, skincare began. Twenty-three years on and REN has not only maintained this promise of a skincare line that is safe for even the most sensitive skins but also safer for the planet.

REN skincare

In those early days, clean might have focused more on what was inside the packaging but today it is an entire ecosystem of values that underpin the brand’s entire output says David Delport, REN’s global ambassador.

“Clean can mean so many different things for different brands,” says Delport. “As the originators of clean skincare our view was always that clean was the alternative way to formulating. But it’s also a movement and a way of life. So to us, clean more than just formulation it has to extend to who we work with, how we choose our people, packaging and sustainability.”

Delport says that, for a long time the perception of clean was also more about labelling what a brand didn’t do: they didn’t use silicons or they don’t include synthetic fragrances. But this became commonplace, but for REN it was always more than this says Delport.

“Over the last few years, we’ve really dialled up the sustainability focus and we’ve gone harder on our clinical claims. If we say you can use our Bio Retinoid product that won’t make your skin more sensitised and we have the clinical [studies] that prove the case.”

REN was also ahead of the curve when it came to working with the skin to support its microbiome. A lot of modern skincare has been prone to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, as they strip the skin barrier of microbiota for necessary for healthy functioning. “I think consumers are beginning to understand that you don’t need all these active ingredients on your skin all the time,” says Delport.

“You can actually have too much of a good thing. REN really does build on the fundamentals of what skin is meant to do: protect us and is an incredible sensory organ.”

If Delport had to sum up the philosophy of clean as it exists within REN today, it would be efficacy, pleasure of use and sensorial elements both smell and texture. Whether it’s their acclaimed Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk (also the GOAT to use when shaving on sensitive skin) or an overnight recovery balm, the skinfeel is delivers as much satisfaction as the product’s end results.

And of course, there’s the sustainability quota. All packaging is made from recycled, or recyclable and reusable, materials – they use reclaimed ocean plastics to create the packaging for their Atlantic Kelp line – while ingredients are also chosen for their sustainability.

The importance of sustainability at REN goes beyond just packaging – it also ties into the ingredients they use and if they can be used without compromising their values. Over the past 20-odd years, REN has built a reputation for being ruthless in this regard, infamously cutting more than 20 products from their lineup that didn’t meet with their standards. Some of these, says Delport, were even best sellers. But it’s a refreshing thought, that a company won’t sacrifice values for profit.

It also points to one of REN’s other core values: simplified skincare that can addresses multiple targets rather than taking up shelf space with products that aren’t necessary.

“If you have products that do what they say they do, or supporting the skin’s essential functions, you’ll have healthy skin. Because that’s where the skin wants to be. It’s not about overcomplicating it. If we can have one serum, like our Youth Serum, that has retinol alternative but also has ceramides and your niacinamides all sustainably created or sourced, is non irritating and it’s just one serum – that kind of covers what three or four other serums from other brands would do.”

Check out our favourite picks from REN Skincare below

Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk. $49. SHOP NOW

Everhydrate Marine Moisture-Replenish Cream. $68. SHOP NOW

Bio Retinoid Youth Serum. $125. SHOP NOW

Clearcalm Invisible Pores Detox Mask. $82. SHOP NOW

Atlantic Kelp And Magnesium Anti-fatigue Body Cream. $49. SHOP NOW