We asked four testers to try it for the first time, with Boots No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate, and here’s what happened …
Retinol is one of the most searched skincare ingredients. One of the largest research studies* into retinol, carried out by Boots, found that nearly half of women surveyed (43 per cent) have used it. But many of us are still wary: some 66 per cent of women say that they are unsure of its benefits, while six in ten are unsure how to use it. And many of us have questions: will it make my skin red? Will it work alongside my other products? Can I use it on sensitive skin?
Skincare sales are up and we’re trying more at-home treatments. And every skin expert will tell you that retinol is the most proven ingredient in skincare, with a broad range of benefits including reduction of wrinkles and fine lines, stimulation of cell growth and improvement of skin texture. And looking after our skin can have a positive impact. As Dr Mike Bell, No7 Skincare Scientific Advisor, notes: “Stress and anxiety increase our hormones within the body which can trigger skin inflammation and oxidative stress, within the skin leading to unhealthy skin. It is now more important than ever to ensure you take time out for self-care. Small acts such as nourishing and moisturising your skin and wearing make-up can help to combat stress and give you a much-needed boost during this unsettling time.”
Boots’ first retinol product, No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate, is designed to make it easy for everyone to use this potent ingredient in their daily routine and, since launching in May, it has been in high demand. It contains a concentration of 0.3 per cent retinol together with a unique complex designed to soothe the skin and minimise irritation. The Boots team aimed for the sweet spot of maximum efficacy together with maximum tolerance. “For a long time, there has been a perception that the higher the percentage of retinol in a product, the better it works,” says Dr Bell. “However, our breakthrough scientific research with our partners at the University of Manchester has found that 0.3 per cent retinol delivers virtually the same age-defying benefits as a higher-concentration retinol, but with minimum irritation. This is a real game-changer.”
Benefits include helping to gently resurface the skin and even skin texture, visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and pigmentation and maintain skin’s bounce, leaving it smooth and hydrated.
Our four independent testers – none of whom had previously tried using a retinol product on a regular basis – started gradually incorporating the No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex into their night skincare routine, followed by a night cream, and using an SPF in the day time. Here’s how they got on:
The Gloss Testing Team
“I haven’t used retinol properly before; I tried it once but found it very strong – I didn’t really like it. It irritated the fine lines around the eye area particularly. It got really sensitive so I stopped. My skin tends to be combination/acne-prone, so I was expecting redness and tenderness using this product. But the morning after I first used it, my skin felt a little warm, but not too sensitive. And my skin looked glowing: it seemed to be doing what it was meant to do!
After the first day, I waited five days, then left a three-day gap – I wasn’t sure my skin would be able to handle it, and even the third try was three days apart. My skin is very sensitive so I was cautious – it can be sore and that was my real fear. I thought the retinol would be harsh and I worried will I have to hide under loads of make-up. Active ingredients such as vitamin C and salicylic acid for some reason cause sensitivity, and a few face masks really cause me to break out. I was breaking out a lot over lockdown in the cheek area and redness.
Mask-wearing is causing problems for my skin: now I’m back at work – I’m a make-up artist – I have to wear both a mask and a face shield, and it can get very humid. I stuck with my ordinary plain night cream and daily SPF alongside it; I always wear SPF daily anyway. The texture was fine – very light. I’m a real skincare geek – I research everything I use and give it time to see results. I tend to drink loads of water – when I’m dehydrated my skin really suffers; I cut out caffeine recently and that has made a real difference; I find it far less dry.
My plan is to use the No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate twice a week for two weeks and then three times, working up to every night. It would be something I would add into my regular routine. My skin feels more even – and that changes what you apply on top. I’ve noticed I’m wearing less foundation. My skin really looks good: it is less red than previously and more even. Miraculously I have had no breakouts – my skin is behaving really well. I have open pores and found they looked smaller. I am impressed and surprised! It’s great. I really like and will keep using it.”
“I have not used retinol before. I have very sensitive skin and so was always concerned about that. I admit to being also quite confused as to how best to use it and how it works. It feels a bit intimidating. I don’t change products very much and don’t use many products on my skin, so I was wary. I also had concerns whether it would work with other products – for example an acid toner or exfoliator. I followed the advice and only used the No7 night cream and daily SPF alongside the No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate.
I found the instructions for using the product very clear and straightforward. I started off applying twice a week and then built up to three times. I didn’t experience any reactions at any stage. After the first use I noticed my skin looked better – it coincided with a time of not great sleep, and I felt after the first week that my skin looked a bit less tired, and lines on my forehead looked a bit softer and less ingrained. It goes on lightly and easily, sinks in straight away and is simple to use – you don’t feel it on your skin.
I would continue using it, as I did see some results and improvement after two weeks and, based on the documentation, you get best results from using it every night. I am taking it gradually and building up to nightly use by week five or six. I’m really interested to see how my skin looks when I’m using it every night.”
“I did try retinol years ago but I didn’t really know what I was doing and didn’t stick with it. But I was happy to try it again and curious to see if it would have any positive results. I wasn’t worried about any reactions, as my skin is normal and I tend not to react to products, so I used it every second night. I did experience perhaps a slight tingling for a minute or two, but no redness.
I definitely needed the night moisturiser along with it and it felt nice. I usually wear a tinted moisturiser with SPF so I’m used to wearing daily skin protection. I found the No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate very straightforward to use – I liked the airtight pump packaging. It’s somehow less scary and medical-looking to use than prescription retinols. And I’m curious to see future results. Though I’ve only been using it a couple of weeks my skin feels a bit tighter in texture and I will definitely stick with it.”
“I’ve never used retinol before. A friend use a professional retinol product and her skin reacted and went scaly, so I’ve always been wary. I focus on really cleansing and looking after my skin instead. However my skin does tend to get dull, and I noticed a difference after the first week of using No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate – it looked more radiant, and I’m excited to keep on using it. I used a night cream alongside it and didn’t notice any reaction – a bit of tingling perhaps. I’ve even stopped using my usual night serum to focus on this.
I’ve never committed to one range – though I love the Boots No 7 Oil Cleanser and eye make-up remover, which I find gentle and use all the time. I have very sensitive skin so I was relieved about this. In general, I find that late nights and lack of sleep really changes my skin dramatically – I definitely find that avoiding alcohol and getting a good night’s sleep makes a real difference to hydration levels.”
Overall, our first-time retinol users enjoyed using the No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate and were pleasantly surprised that they didn’t experience any adverse reactions such as redness or irritation – all had been wary that their skin might become red or irritated. All the testers said they would stick with the product and were positive about the impact on their skin. As Dr Bell notes, the Boots team’s tests showed that “age-defying benefits start to be seen after only a few weeks, with maximum results taking a few months to be achieved”. So continued use will see the best results, while continuing to be kinder to our skin.
Boots’ expert top tips on how to incorporate retinol into your regime:
1 Keep up your regime: Incorporating a retinol into your regime can have lots of benefits on your skin but it should be in addition your night cream and not instead of it.
2 Ramp up usage slowly to give your skin a chance to build tolerance: Some people find retinol difficult to tolerate at first. You can avoid this by limiting initial use to once or twice a week (on non-consecutive nights) and then ramping up to every night after about 4 weeks.
3 Use product sparingly: Almost half the women (52 per cent) surveyed* who have experienced some irritation believe they used too much product (we recommend two pumps of the No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate).
4 More is not always more: 30 per cent of women surveyed used a product with a higher percentage of retinol than their skin could tolerate, which can lead to them not wanting to use the product regularly. The new No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate is clinically proven to be kinder to your skin.
5 Use an SPF: As retinol can leave your skin more prone to damage from the sun, always wear at least SPF15 during the day.
No7 ADVANCED Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate, introductory offer €25 until September 22 2020. The normal retail price is €36, available at Boots stores across Ireland and at www.Boots.ie.
*2000 UK women surveyed by OnePoll in March 2020
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