Going Paraben Free: REN Moroccan Rose Otto Ultra-Moisture Body Oil

As someone who relies mainly on cocoa butter and drugstore-brand lotion, substituting the familiar with REN’s Moroccan Rose Otto Ultra-Moisture Body Oil initially seemed like an overindulgence in vanity. The aisles of Target and CVS are stuffed with a plethora of creams and lotions that promise the same benefits but better than the other competing brands. After using the product for about a week, my reservations have been proven to be unsubstantial. Aside from being a brilliant overall body conditioner, the body oil is compatible with all skin types. It does not contain parabens, synthetic fragrances, mineral oil, sulfate detergents, and other chemical elements that may irritate skin. Since its founding in 2000, all REN products are cruelty-free and are not tested on animals.

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If you diligently follow health, beauty and makeup blogs, you may have come across a disdain for parabens. The FDA defines parabens as preservatives in cosmetics and “typically, more than one paraben is used in a product, and they are often used in combination with other types of preservatives to provide preservation against a broad range of microorganisms.” In other words, parabens are chemically-based compounds that help preserve the shelf life of your makeup. According to Real Simple, “parabens have been widely used in products to prevent bacteria growth since the 1950s.” So why the sudden fuss by beauty bloggers? It wasn’t until the 1990s that the health risks linked to  parabens were reexamined. In 2004, British cancer researcher Philippa Darbre found that parabens were present in malignant breast tumors. Consequently, this raised public alarm. On the other hand, critics of the aforementioned study argue that “the presence of parabens in tumors doesn’t prove that they caused the cancer.” If the presence of parabens in tumors proved that they caused cancer, we’d have to worry about a lot more than just potentially contaminated cosmetics products. 90 percent of typical grocery items contain measurable amounts of parabens, which is why even those who steer clear of potentially harmful personal care products will inevitably also carry parabens around in their bloodstreams.

In an article for Jezebel, Lyz Len points out that, “Darbre’s research was incomplete. It didn’t involve testing to see if parabens were present elsewhere in the bodies of the patients…Also, subsequent studies have revealed that while parabens are xenoestrogens, they don’t really disrupt estrogen enough to do any damage.” Although it’s a generalization to say that exposure to parabens are fatal, parabens, according to the Washington Post, “have biological activity.” Again, this does not automatically mean that the presence of parabens results in cancerous growth. The LA Times concludes that ultimately, “there isn’t a consensus on whether parabens are safe.”

Luckily, one can be comforted by REN’s list of non-included elements. The Post says, “if a product’s label says phthalate-free or paraben-free, that provides clarity.” So I put it to the test. After the oil had absorbed into my skin, I was left with the faint perfume of crushed roses. It wasn’t overwhelming and on a scale of weak rosewater to Viktor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb, it comfortably nestled in the middle of the spectrum. At the end of the day, my skin was still smooth and still wearing the scent of roses. Although my skin isn’t terribly uncontrollable or sensitive, it craves moisture. Major breakouts aren’t my problem but dry skin is. Considering this year’s unrelenting and merciless New England winter, it’s important to use products that help my skin retain moisture. REN body oil solved this problem, greasy sheen not included. The bio extracts listed are derived from moroccan rose, nepalese palmarose, geranium oil, rosehip seed oil, and shea butter. After washing my face with Biore, I even applied a little of the oil to my face. I woke up without any blemishes and soft skin. Was it REN’s paraben-free policy that made this product so effective? I’m not sure. But it was wonderful to use and better than any other moisturizing product I’ve tried in a long while; maybe there’s something to be said for going paraben-free after all.

If you’re looking for tips on how to avoid toxins in your beauty and skincare products, the Silent Spring Institute provides a helpful cheat sheet.

These tips include:

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  • Carefully reading labels for the inclusion of parabens or other skin irritants
  • Avoid wearing perfume and using other products with fragrance
  • Research which cosmetics companies carry products without chemicals

If this all seems like an overload of information, just remember that the best thing you can do is to be mindful of what you’re putting on your skin. Take a second to read labels. Research companies before you commit to a purchase. If you’re looking for a place to start, the REN Clean Skincare line is one company that can ease your paraben and chemical-related anxieties.

REN also offers a range of other facial skincare products, carefully curated for various skin types. The brand is available in stores, including Sephora, Nordstrom and Barneys, and online at their website and fashion aggregators such as ASOS.


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