Can Boots No.7's new super serum cure my problem skin?

Can Boots No.7’s new super serum cure my problem skin? We test the latest long-awaited range ahead of this week’s launch…

  • Ten years in the making, the No.7 Derm Solutions range launches on Wednesday 
  • READ MORE: Crowds wait outside Boots for hours after demand soars for new anti-ageing cream hailed as ‘Botox in a jar’ that experts claim could help facial burns and scars

Lunchtime in a noisy London restaurant and a big cheese from Boots No.7 surreptitiously passes me a bag containing one product. ‘Do not take it out, look at it when you get home,’ she instructs. ‘It’s under lock and key.’

While the hedge funders at the next table shout over their Sancerre and steak tartare, we talk sotto voce about the Skin Balancing Serum she has just slipped me.

The crown jewel in the yet-to-hit-the-shops No.7 Derm Solutions range, I hide it at the bottom of my bag and rush home, terrified I’m going to leave it on the number 98 bus.

Why so cloak and dagger? Because any new skincare range from Boots has a tendency to go stratospheric the moment it hits the shelves, and I am one of the few to have been given a precious advance sample.

No.7 has form when it comes to headline-grabbing launches that whip consumers into a frenzy. 

Beatrice has a sneak trial of No.7’s new Skin Solution Service, where customers can go in store to get their skin examined by trained advisers with something called a Pro Derm Scan device

When anti-ageing range Future Renew launched in April this year, 88,000 people were said to have joined the waiting list and there were hour-long queues in store.

Before that, in 2007, Protect & Perfect hit the headlines, and poof, a year’s worth of stock sold out in two weeks.

So, a Boots launch is always a big deal in the beauty world, and this is its first foray into the ‘skin health’ market, with products to help common conditions such as dryness and a weakened skin barrier, but also the more problematic issues of rosacea, eczema and psoriasis.

Apparently, this is the fastest growing segment of the skincare industry, accounting for 20 per cent of the total UK market. No wonder, given that, in the UK, rosacea affects one in 20 people, usually in middle-age.

Launching this Wednesday, and in development for a decade, the range consists of six core ‘cosmetic’ products which, No.7 claims, can repair and maintain the skin’s barrier in four weeks. The catchy slogan is ‘Stop the cycle. Start the rehab’.

There’s the serum that’s in my bag, plus Calming Gel Cleanser for oily skin (£14.95 for 200ml) and Lightweight Hydrating Lotion (£22.95 for 50ml) to soothe and nourish blemish-prone skin. 

Those struggling with spots can try the Clearing Treatment (£22.95 for 50ml). While for dry and eczema-prone skin, there is the Comforting Cream Cleanser (£14.95 for 200ml) and 100h Hydration Cream (£22.95 for 50ml), which is said to reduce skin’s sensitivity. 

Then there are three ‘treatment’ products for eczema, psoriasis and rosacea all at £14.95 for 30ml.

The Skin Balancing Serum (£27.95 for 30ml) is the standout product of the range

One reason for the excitement is that Boots has been legally allowed to advertise a cream as a ‘treatment’, rather than a cosmetic product which ‘can help’. It means they have passed certain stringent tests and been given a scientific seal of approval.

But the star of the show, I am told, is that Skin Balancing Serum (£27.95 for 30ml), which apparently works on every skin type — highly unusual for one product — and claims to target and heal the underlying causes of upset skin (such as inflammation and a chaotic skin barrier) with green tea antioxidant and vitamins C and E.

My inner sceptic rears her head at this, however — how can one product fit all? But the clinical trials I’m shown back it up. 

Over four months of testing the serum on 98 subjects, who used it on one half of the face and a regular cream on the other, scientists concluded that the serum side showed 90 per cent smoother texture along with a 71 per cent improvement in skin tone evenness. 

There was 80 per cent improved radiance, 94 per cent reduced oiliness, and 96 per cent of the subjects showed improved dryness.

But then, sceptic again, I spot another contradiction. How can it reduce oil and nourish dry skin?

Head of science research at No.7 Beauty Company, Dr Mike Bell, admits it was a ‘surprise’ to the boffins, but that the serum really does ‘meet the needs of both, as well as combination skin’.

I can’t wait to slap it on, because my normally unreactive skin has recently become as truculent as a tantrumming two-year-old. Red, sore, raised bumps have appeared on the front of my neck, and there are even a few spots too.

I have some mild, genetically inherited rosacea, and I suspect that my midlife hormones plus the changeable weather have all conspired to make my already grumpy skin positively angry.

However, before I get started, I have a sneak trial of No.7’s new Skin Solution Service, where customers can go in store to get their skin examined by trained advisers with something called a Pro Derm Scan device.

The idea is that you go once every four weeks over a 12-week period which is, according to Dr Bell, the best timeframe to allow the products to work. 

Time consuming, yes, and potentially little more than a gimmick, but it’s free, and I’m told the hi-tech skin zapper is the same as that used by top dermatologists on London’s Harley Street.

The Pro Derm Scan device reads hydration, oil balance, pores and texture levels, and, on Wednesday, a test for skin tone will be added

The gadget reads hydration, oil balance, pores and texture levels, and, on Wednesday (in tandem with the Derm Solutions launch), a test for skin tone will be added. The adviser then suggests the most appropriate products (although you are not obliged to buy anything).

At London’s Covent Garden flagship store, I meet expert Rachael Parish, who holds the device on my forehead, cheek and jawline and then shows me alarmingly enlarged images of my skin.

‘The camera has 30 times magnification and every 10p-sized area contains 20 million skin cells, so it gives us a really great insight into what the customer’s skin needs are,’ Rachael explains.

My scores are mixed — hydration is 4/5; fine lines and wrinkles 2/5; pore size 3/5; oil balance 1/5. Which means my skin barrier needs some work and I could do with some help on the fine line front, too.

Rachel ‘prescribes’ the Comforting Cream Cleanser, and Clearing Treatment for my spots, along with the category-defying super serum and 100h Hydration Cream. 

After six days using the new products, Beatrice’s skin was smoother, softer, brighter and the roughness and spots had gone

I’ve been using them for six days now, and I really wasn’t expecting to see any difference yet, but I’m amazed to find my skin is smoother, softer, brighter and the roughness and spots have gone.

Is Boots onto a winner with this combo of in-house tech and all-new ‘treatments’? It certainly thinks so — and if past skincare successes are anything to go by, you wouldn’t bet against it. 

But the serums and the creams do have to work and, despite all the impressive-sounding percentages, No.7 won’t know if it’s a hit until real women have cured their problem skin outside the lab.

Watch this space.

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