Can a €30 cream really turn back the clock?

Margaret Carragher before her month of treatment in Mayand after in early July.

Back in 2007, an entire year’s supply of Boots’ No 7 Protect & Perfect Serum sold out in two weeks. Now Boots has launched a new version of the serum. Margaret Carragher gives it a month-long trial.

YOUTHFUL beauty potions are nothing new. Japanese geishas used bird poo. Cleopatra favoured donkey’s milk and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I swore by a toxic mix of white lead and vinegar. Thankfully today’s anti-ageing treatments are less extreme and much more user friendly.

Take for example Boots’ No 7 Protect & Perfect Serum. Back in 2007 this product created quite a stir among skincare professionals when in clinical trials its anti-ageing effects were shown to be equivalent to that of a gold standard, prescription-only treatment. When a BBC documentary subsequently revealed the serum’s efficacy pharmacy shelves nationwide were stripped bare as an entire year’s supply of the stuff sold out within two weeks.

Now Boots has launched its new No 7 Protect & Perfect Advanced Serum and No 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum, both re-engineering to deliver even better results.

So do they work?

Can a €30 cream really turn back the clock?

When first approached by Boots to trial its original serum, leading dermatologist Professor Chris Griffiths of the University of Manchester admitted to being sceptical about its benefits. When clinical tests proved him wrong the partnership between Boots and the University of Manchester took off in earnest. A subsequent year-long study of the serum revealed that its beneficial effects continued over time with a clinical improvement in lines and wrinkles attributable to an increase of fibrillin (a protein essential for the formation of elastic fibres found in connective tissue) in the skin.

Fast forward to 2009 and a five-year research programme into the mechanisms of skin ageing which concluded that the peptide blend Matrixyl 3000 in Boots’ original Protect & Perfect serum was crucial to its reparative benefits. This discovery led directly to the development of its latest product.

Launched to great fanfare in May 2014 the two Protect & Perfect Advanced Serums, whilst specifically targeted at anti-ageing, have also been designed for age-specific skin concerns. The Advanced Serum for 25 to 35 year olds contains salicylic acid to help with skin conditions prevalent among that particular age group; while Intense Advanced Serum, aimed at the 35-plus age group contains hyaluronic acid to plump skin.

Being firmly in the latter age category — your correspondent embarked on a month long trial of the Intense Advanced Serum.

With a skincare regime that would have been cursory at best — you’re talking generic facial wipes and any supermarket moisturiser with ‘for mature skin’ on the packaging — I reckoned that anything involving an actual skincare routine would have to be beneficial. But could the frown, worry and laughter lines of a lifetime be lessened by the application of a mere cream?

In its pre-launch campaign Boots advertised for women aged in their 30s and 40s from the UK and Ireland to participate in a trial.

Eight women were chosen, all from different walks of life and all with different approaches to skincare but with one thing in common: a concern for their skin which was beginning to show giveaway signs of ageing, and all of them wanted to do something about it.

Among them was 36-year-old Orla Wardlaw, an accounts administrator from Dublin who found out about the skincare trial when she saw a casting call on Facebook looking for ‘fun, lively, real women to test an exciting new skin product’. The mum-of-one reckoned it would be an exciting new adventure for her.

Since hitting her 30s Orla felt that though generally self-assured, when it came to her skin she was anything but confident. She had noticed a change in her skin over the previous two years — particularly with the lines under her eyes.

Prior to the trial Orla’s skincare regime was something she described as ‘mumsy’ with her choice of products and brands determined by what was on special offer in the supermarket. However, our trials of the product couldn’t have been more different. For 28 days access to mirrors was strictly prohibited as Orla and seven others trialled the new anti-ageing serums. With the help of a personal chaperone to do their hair and makeup and drive them where they needed to go, not a mirror remained uncovered. The month-long trial gave the women an opportunity to focus on their skincare, and share with the team at No 7 what and how they felt every step of the way. It was an emotional and exciting journey as mirrors were blanked out. A spokesperson for Boots said that the ‘Four Weeks. No Mirrors’ challenge was about showing the experience of using No 7 New Protect & Perfect Advanced Serums in as honest a way possible — with no makeover or other razzamatazz.

“It shows the real difference that using truly effective skincare can make. It is about the excitement and anticipation women feel as they use the products and, importantly, it is about the way women feel about themselves when they realise how great — and how greatly improved — their skin looks.”

Fast forward through 28 days of 24/7 chaperoning, chauffeuring and skincare. Afterwards, all eight participants reported a huge improvement in their skin with lines and wrinkles reduced and tone and texture enhanced. But it was their reaction to seeing themselves in a mirror for the first time in a month that was most remarkable. “I think I may have got my sparkle back!” shrieked one. “I feel like I’m discovering a new me!” gushed another. “I’ve got a glow, I’ve definitely got a glow!” exclaimed Dubliner Orla.

Meanwhile, with no 24/7 chaperone to keep yours truly away from mirrors the trial wasn’t quite so exclamation-marked. It was however equally impressive. Having used the serum twice daily for 28 days in tandem with a moisturiser (for best results Boots recommend its Protect & Perfect Intense day or night cream; in its absence I made do with my usual supermarket special) my skin showed a definite improvement. Lines and wrinkles were less pronounced and my skin was clear and plumped out — in a good way. But perhaps best of all was the reaction of others. “There’s something different about you.” remarked one. “Were you on holidays?” asked another. And my favourite. “You’re looking well. What the hell have you been up to?”

At €30.50 for the Protect & Perfect Advanced Serum and €33 for the Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum what you have here is a relatively inexpensive anti-ageing treatment that actually works. I don’t expect to be asked for ID in the pub anytime soon but it still feels pretty damn good.


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