- UPDATED with the company's response at the end of this blog post.
This is probably the first time ever that I've been terrified of a product. Not just terrified to use it, but terrified in general. You know the feeling... When you are about to bungee jump and you are standing on the railing of the bridge and keep wondering if the bungee cable is properly attached and you're going to be OK instead of smashing your head on the rocks below.
I used to bungee jump a lot when I was younger. Smashed my hand during one jump, so I know the risks. And I know that the fear is not baseless.
This is how I feel about this Ravissa UV White Protector SPF 50+ PA++++ made by Alen International in Mie prefecture (yep, that's still Japan).
But let's start at the beginning...
I have heard about Ravissa sometime last year. My friend gave me a sample of... serum... I guess... I don't really remember now. It felt nice enough on my skin that I wanted to know more about the brand.
After a bit of googling I learned that this was a spa-only line sold at beauty salons and such. I said "whatever" and forgot all about it.
A few weeks ago I was in Tokyo getting a haircut (yes, I really spend close to 3 hours on the train, one way, just to get a haircut). I got out of the subway at Omotesando and proceeded to the exit. While I was busy proceeding, I noticed a small cosmetics shop (I think it was MS Style), still inside the ticket gate area. And of course I went in to check it out.
There, occupying very prominent shelf space was none other than Ravissa.
I saw the prices and promptly saw myself out. But not before testing the sunblock.
I went to get my haircut, had lunch, and then when I was going back to catch the Ginza Line, I saw that shop. Damn... I went inside.
And like a good Pavlov's dog that I am, I bought that damn sunscreen.
I brought it home, read the ingredient list and scratched my head.
Then I read it again. And scratched my head so hard I was afraid it was going to start bleeding.
I went to the company's website - Alen.co.jp (yes, Alen with just one "L"), read everything there was to read there and, if anything, felt even more confused than before.
Huh??? Say, what?
Here's a sunblock with practically no sun blocking or sun absorbing ingredients? And you want me to put it on my face?
But, of course, I was curious, so I did put it on my face.
I started slow. At home. In the evening. On my arm.
My arm felt good, and I proceeded to put Ravissa UV White Protector SPF50+ PA++++ on my face.
At home. In the evening. Just to see how it felt.
My face did not explode.
In fact, Ravissa was an excellent makeup base.
It felt amazing going onto the skin. When dispensed from the airless tube, it has the consistency of mousse.
Then it sinks in and your face starts feeling like it's covered in bulletproof film. It's not an unpleasant feeling, actually. Just strange. And about an hour later it feels like you have a special effects latex mask on your face. You run to the mirror to take a look, but you still look fine. Completely natural. There is no latex mask at all. Your makeup stays on like a champ. There is no pilling, no patching, no dryness, no white cast. You skin feels perfectly natural to the touch.
Just that nagging feeling that there is SOMETHING on your face. You can't see it. You can't touch it. And after a while you start to doubt whether you've perhaps imagined that initial feeling of SOMETHING.
Make no mistake, this is one heavy duty makeup base. It blurs, it smoothes, it just makes your skin look great. If not for that nagging feeling of SOMETHING, it would be one of the best makeup bases I've ever tried.
What about them UV protecting???
Well, here's where it gets funky.
Take a look at the ingredients.
Ravissa UV White Protector SPF50+ PA++++ ingredients:
See what I mean?
No? Ok, here, I plugged them into CosDNA for you - link.
Can you see it now?
Ravissa UV White Protector, despite having SPF50+ and PA++++ rating, has only trace amounts of UV blockers. Not enough to be effective as sun protection at all.
If the amount of oxides is insufficient to protect from the sun, then what the hell is "protecting" in this sunblock?
The company's website does not offer any answers. It just says this:
I highlighted the UV protector part in the screenshot above.
But that's not enough, so I started to do my own research.
I did find a couple of papers about plant-based photo protectants, and yes, one of them was apple-based. But is this what we have here? No idea...
I emailed the company asking for details and, of course, haven't heard back.
In the meantime, I've been reading all the PR blurbs about Ravissa that I could find.
Here are some in English:
This is from the Tokyo Cosme Expo PR materials.
Reduction hydrogen water? Yep. Apparently, it's a thing. And apparently, it's good for us.
Here's a research paper published in Trends in Food Science and Technology back in 2012 - link.
And this is what we have on Alen's website:
So far, so good. We have the trifecta of dryness, spots and anti-ageing. Standard run-of-the-mill skincare claims.
Apples! I told you there were apples in it.
Stem cells? Do they use stem cells as UV blockers? I'm confused.
Or is it that vitamin C derivative that's doing the blocking?
Or perhaps, something else entirely?
Peptides? I love peptides!
But I'm not a cosmetic chemist, so the rest is lost on me...
This I'm familiar with. Yeast extract sounds positively pedestrian next to stem cells and peptides.
And instead of what's in this skincare, here you have what's NOT in it:
The fear mongering and claims that these ingredients are "irritants" is more than just a little off-putting. But hey, it's their brand. They can say whatever they want, right?
And we're back to the magical water, which in the ingredient list is listed simply as "water".
In summary, after reading all this, I still have no clue what is doing the UV protecting in this sunblock.
There was only one way to see if this sunblock really works. To actually test it in the sun.
I had an hour to kill today, and thought, hey, why not. Beats doing the laundry, right?
This is how I prepped my arm:
The picture is self explanatory. The top bit of exposed skin was covered with HABA UV Cut Milk SPF50+ PA++++, a non-chemical non-alcohol sunblock which is nearly bulletproof. One of my favorites.
The next bit of naked skin was covered with Ravissa UV White Protector SPF50+ PA++++ and left exposed in the sun for 60 minutes.
We have Ravissa one more time, this one was exposed for only 30 minutes.
And for control purposes, we have skin that was left unprotected.
The skin on the sides of the testing area was covered with Evermere UV Gel SPF50+ PA++++ (one of my favorites).
I know that HABA and Evermere work. I trust them. I was curious whether Ravissa will work.
I put on a hat, got a book and sat on the balcony.
This is after 30 minutes:
The covered patch is where Ravissa after 30 minutes was. You can see the unprotected skin getting pinkish in the above photo.
And this is after one hour.
Are you ready?
I increased the contrast, so you can see the results better.
Yep. Unprotected skin is clearly sunburned.
But that damn Ravissa UV White Protector somehow worked.
How? Don't ask me. I don't know.
I am really hoping that the company emails me back and explains what they use as UV blockers.
We have 35 grams of something in a shiny airless pump, which is supposed to protect our precious faces from the sun, which, surprisingly, it does.
It also claims to be anti-everything (wrinkles, spots, aging, dryness...).
In addition Ravissa UV White Protector SPF50+ PA++++ is:
- mineral oil free
- artificial fragrance free
- synthetic color free
- UV absorber free
- paraben free
- phenoxyethanol free
- alcohol free.
It's an excellent makeup base, but at 5184 yen (tax included) it should be.
I'm just terrified to use it as an actual sunblock. Even after today's test, I am still scared...
So that's Ravissa UV White Protector SPF50+ PA++++ for you.
Now, if you excuse me, I have to pack. Going to Karuizawa tomorrow. And yes, I am taking a different sunblock with me (Evermere UV Gel).
UPDATE as of April 5, 2017
After back and forth with Alen International via email regarding this Ravissa UV White Protector SPF50+ PA++++, I still don't know anything.
First of all, dear Alen International, if you have an English language version of your website, it is only natural that you would respond to emails written in English. I mean, that is common sense, or so I thought. Apparently Alen's version of common sense does not match mine, because my email in English went without answer.
I wrote again in Japanese, where I actually pointed out that this was my second time contacting them, as my inquiry in English had been ignored. The company didn't even bother to apologize in their response.
In their response to me they just quoted the standard PR spiel about not including in their products "ingredients that burden the skin". Dear Alen, I am not illiterate, I read that the first time around on your website. In both languages.
The question as to what provides the SPF50+ and PA++++ level of UV blocking in Ravissa UV White Protector was not addressed. It was simply stated that it contains sunblocking ingredients.
I pressed harder. I wanted to know what these ingredients were. I asked about Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide and wanted to know the concentration of both. I explained that in non-chemical sunscreen products if these two oxides are the only UV blockers, they are usually within the top ten ingredients on the list. I wanted to know how can they offer SPF50+ PA++++ if in Ravissa UV White Protector they appear after the (+/-) sign in the ingredient listing.
The company response was very blunt, devoid of any pleasantries and went like this (translation):
The proper blending of all the ingredients is responsible for the effect of the product. iI doesn't mean that any ingredients are specifically for UV blocking. Please be assured that the product contains enough sunscreen. If you use it in the appropriate way, you will be satisfied. Thank you very much.
Well, excuse me for being stupid, but if you are saying there is enough sunscreen, then tell me what that sunscreen is. Otherwise fuck off.
Use Ravissa UV White Protector SPF50+ PA++++ at your own risk.
I'm tossing mine in the garbage.
And currently have exactly zero interest in trying other products from their lineup.