Ready Steady Glow AHA Tonic
We love the name of this AHA exfoliant: it's cute and clever and clearly conveys a benefit many people want. Unfortunately, like many products from natural brand REN, Ready Steady Glow AHA Tonic contains several problematic ingredients that don't make it worth consideration.
The alpha hydroxy acids come in the form of lactic acid and its salt form, sodium lactate. This liquid exfoliant's pH of 4 allows this duo to exfoliate, and although REN doesn't list the percentage of acids included, we suspect it's around 5%.
Along with the AHAs you're getting a skin-brightening and refining ingredient derived from azelaic acid along with soothing plant extract willow bark. REN maintains willow bark is a source of the beta hydroxy acid salicylic acid, but it isn't. Rather, willow bark contains salicin, which must be converted to salicylic acid—something that doesn't happen on skin (although it can when willow bark is ingested, but don't drink this stuff).
Trouble comes in the form of fragrant citrus oils, fragrance itself, and limonene, a fragrance chemical that's a documented skin sensitive. Given lower-pH formulas with acids can be sensitizing for some on their own, we can't imagine why any skincare brand would add such ingredients to the mix; it's certainly not going to help anyone's skin improve!
See our list of Best AHA Exfoliants for effective options that omit Ready Steady Glow's unwelcome guests and treat your skin to smooth results with minimal to no risk of irritation.
- Contains what we suspect is an effective amount of AHAs.
- The formula's pH allows the acids to exfoliate.
- Lightweight, toner-like liquid is easy to use.
- Brightens and smooths skin.
- Highly fragrant formula poses a risk of irritating skin.
- The citrus oils are known skin sensitizers.
- Willow bark isn't a natural replacement for salicylic acid (BHA).
Irritating ingredients are a problem because they can lead to visible problems, such as redness, rough skin, dull skin, dryness, increased oil production, and clogged pores, and they contribute to making signs of aging worse.
Switching to non-irritating, gentle skincare products can make all the difference in the world. Non-irritating products are those packed with beneficial ingredients that also replenish and soothe skin, without any volatile ingredients, such as those present in fragrance ingredients, whether natural or synthetic.
A surprising fact: Research has demonstrated that you do not need to see or feel the effects of irritants on your skin for your skin to be suffering, and visible damage may not become apparent for a long time. Don't get lulled into thinking that if you don't see or feel signs of irritation, everything is OK.
Generally, it's best to eliminate, or minimize as much as possible, your exposure to ingredients that are known to irritate skin. There are many completely non-irritating products that contain effective ingredients, so there's no reason to put your skin at risk with products that include ingredients research has shown can be a problem.
References for this information:
Journal of Dermatological Sciences, January 2015, pages 28–36
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, August 2014, pages 379–385
Clinical Dermatology, May-June 2012, pages 257–262
Aging, March 2012, pages 166–175
Chemical Immunology and Allergy, March 2012, pages 77–80
Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, June 2008, pages 124–135
Food and Chemical Toxicology, February 2008, pages 446–475
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003, pages 789–798
Keep your skin looking healthy and clean with REN's Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic. Designed to easily alleviate fine lines, acne, visible pores and dehydrated skin, this skin toner is powered by lactic and azelaic acid that balance skin tone and brighten the appearance of dark spots.
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, voil, 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 ourpoint: 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 Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.