I'll admit it, I usually shun face masks. While sheet masks seem a little too much effort, traditional masks for me carry far too much fear factor. Even with all the patch tests and well-researched confidence in the world, something worries me about just allowing a product - often full of ‘actives’ - to sit on and sink into my skin for 15 minutes. I'm impatient, but that's not why I'll sit there fidgeting and checking the mirror every two seconds. It's because I'm scared of what's happening underneath (as the opacity of the mask increases, so too does the fear). Every little sensation has me wondering if it's a telltale tingle, a sign that I'm about to have a huge reaction - even if it's probably just a stray eyelash tickling my face.
So it was with trepidation that I tested REN's latest offering - but if there was ever a better example of the phrase 'the clue is in the name’, here you have it. I mean, what part of ‘Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask’ doesn’t sound like sensitive skin heaven?
Part of the Evercalm range, this is an instant mask that takes just 10 minutes to give your skin an intensive, calming, soothing dose of relief; so far, so normal. However, rather than simply quieting down the irritation, REN has for the first time used a white mushroom extract - albatrellus ovinus - to block the discomfort felt when skin is sensitive, be that itchiness or irritation. Acting as a topical analgesic, this is said to stop that pain message from reaching the brain, so as to prevent swelling, redness and itching in its tracks. Together with arnica, known for its soothing properties, and a yeast with antibacterial and antihistaminic effects, it’s designed to immediately relieve reactive skin while also ensuring its recovery.
To my relief, it doesn't dry to a tight, cracked finish
So does it work? My skin has been fairly well behaved recently, but I did have a slight irritation cropping up on one side of my face - a barely-there itch that I’ve been wary of using anything new on. However, in REN I trust, so I put the mask to the test in the hope of reinstating a sense of calm. Top marks for the airtight packaging; one pump gives a generous dose of a rich, almost-green-looking cream which you can apply thickly all over the face, avoiding the eye area.
It has a soft, chamomile scent - refreshing, and reassuringly safe, as REN have a brand-wide avoidance of synthetic fragrances (see a full ingredients list below). To my relief, it doesn't dry to a tight, cracked finish as many masks do; it stays soft and feels more like a cooling compress that's gently cushioning the skin against the elements. Rinsing away with cool water, my skin was left feeling softer than ever, and slightly more plump - it looked hydrated, and importantly didn't have even a hint of redness about it, something which even the kindest of masks has left me with previously.
I finished with my current serum ( Clinique Smart Custom Serum , £49) and moisturiser ( Kiehl’s Skin Rescuer , £29.50), but found myself using less as my skin was already pillowy-soft; the next day, it still felt that way by the time I was heading to bed, and my skin looked visibly clearer in tone.
The itch? Gone. Coincidence? Possibly, as I made sure not to use any other unfamiliar products at the same time so it may well have gone on its own, but I can’t deny the immediate soothing sensation the mask had, the effects of which carried well into the following days. This is one mask I won’t be afraid of using on a regular basis; in fact, I’d be inclined to use it in the throes of a reaction for a fast dose of calm.
REN Evercalm UItra Comforting Rescue Mask, £28, is available online here
Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Caprylyl Caprylate/Caprate, Olus Oil, Lactobacillus Ferment, Butyrospermum, Parkii (Shea) Butter, Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Simmondsia Chinesis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Cetearyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Algae Extract, Cetyl Alcohol, Lactobacillus, Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide, Parfum* (Fragrance), Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride Panthenol, Carbomer, Vaccinium Vitas-Idaea (Lingonberry) Seed Oil, Xanthan Gum, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Camelina Sativa Seed Oil, Cocus Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Magnesium Carboxymethyl Beta-Glucan, Malachite Extract, Albatrellus Ovinus Extract, Laminaria Ochroleuca Extract, Glucose, Phenoxyethanol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Rosmarinus Officinalis Leat Extract, Citronellol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool) *100% Natural Fragrance - Parfum 100% Naturel
Sensitive skin? Read more from Judy’s regular sensitive skin column here