We were one of the first to try No7 Menopause Skincare. Here's our honest review
We’re in the middle of a menopause revolution, thanks to a raft of high-profile mid-life campaigners and doctors such as Dr Lousie Newson, Davina McCall and Lisa Snowdon sharing their knowledge and experiences. Now we're almost spoilt for choice with books on menopause and doctor-led information unpicking the demonisation of HRT and spreading awareness of symptoms and the help available. More beauty and wellness brands are stepping up to greet the ready market for menopause supplements as well as skincare to serve the specific needs of menopausal skin. Finally.
The latest to join the space is Boots No7, which just launched its first menopausal skincare range. It comes with a no-nonsense name: No7 Menopause Skincare and the tagline 'co-created with menopausal women'. It's a collection of four products; a serum, a cooling mist, an SPF day cream and a night cream, with an eye cream to follow in January – designed to tackle six of the most common menopausal skincare concerns such as dryness, sensitivity, wrinkles and dullness.
Five years in the making, with a launch offer of 3 for 2, the collection is priced at £32.95 per product and £14.95 for the mist. It is the culmination of two things that Boots No7 does exceptionally well – its own clinical skin research (in conjunction with the University of Manchester) and quizzing consumers, in this case, 7,000 menopausal women, about what they wanted from their skincare. Of those asked, three-quarters wanted the name 'Menopuase' on the packaging.
What’s the science behind No7 Menopause Skincare?
While we often hear about the emotional impact of hormone fluctuations on perimenopausal and menopausal women, falling and fluctuating oestrogen levels can also have profound effects on the skin. To understand exactly what happens, No7 scientists spent five years researching how the skin changes during perimenopause and menopause with teams at the University of Manchester.
Their first major discovery centred on the effect on the skin barrier of falling oestrogen levels in menopause. One of the studies found signs of significant depletion in moisture-locking and ceramides and glow-giving lipids in the epidermis (upper layer) of menopausal skin.
This won't come as a surprise to any mid-life woman whose skin is everywhere is as dry as the Sahara (oestrogen is responsible for water retention) and who is suddenly plagued with breakouts thanks to a disrupted skin barrier.
“The changes in ceramides and lipids during menopause are likely down to barrier disruption because the skin surface is less resilient,” explains Dr Mike Bell, head of science research at No7. “We also see an increase in inflammation which can disrupt the skin barrier," he adds.
It was also found that the skin's immune system was compromised. The research concluded that declining oestrogen in the skin was linked to inflammation and oxidative stress. It was noted, however, that taking HRT, which restores lost oestrogen, significantly improved all the issues.
What did real women say their menopausal skin concerns were?
Armed with this research, No7 then reached out to thousands of menopausal women to learn how their skin had changed and what their main concerns were.
The most common issues they reported were dryness, sensitivity and dullness alongside lack of firmness,, lines and wrinkles and unevenness. This tallies with what Dr Sophie Shotter tells us about how skin can change in menopause. "During menopause, our skin produces fewer natural oils, which are what keeps our skin looking dewy and nourished and keep water in the skin," she says. "As our lipid (oil) barrier deteriorates, we suffer from transepidermal water loss so the skin gets much dryer than they were pre-menopause."
More than half of the women said they did not expect their skin to change during menopause and a similar number didn’t recognise their skin symptoms as part of menopause. Many (41 per cent) felt that their current skincare routine wasn't working for them. Could No7 step in to fill that gap?
The brand then came up with an ingredient combination to 'help skin behave as if oestrogen was still present' targeting the visual effects of a drop in collagen (ie sagging and wrinkles) and the dryness and dullness caused by lipids as well as the inflammation and skin barrier disruption which can cause spots and redness.
What’s in the No7 Menopause Skincare range?
The result is a collection that features ingredient powerhouses, notably the suits-everyone multitasking barrier builder and pigment regulating and pore-minimizer niacinamide, plus calming chamomile, antioxidant-rich green tea, ceramides as well as soy isoflavones, which are high in phytoestrogens, compounds that bind to oestrogen receptor in all skin cells and help them function better. They've also included their tried-and-tested age-proofing collagen-boosting peptide Matrixyl 3000+ that features across many of the No7 age-well ranges. They left out rejuvenating retinoids altogether, claiming their formulas delivered better results for those particular menopausal skin concerns. It makes sense as retinoids can cause irritation for sensitive skin. (However, No7 has two strengths of retinol that can be used alongside it 1% retinol which we reviewed earlier this year (No7 Pure Retinol 1% Retinol Night Concentrate, £37.95, and a 0.3% No7 Advanced Retinol, reviewed here.)
The hero of the range, the Menopause Instant Radiance Serum targets all the main concerns that the search flagged as well as the effects of ageing generally. It contains No7’s powerful peptide blend to target deep lines and wrinkles, hyaluronic acid to hydrate, bisabolol (from chamomile) to soothe, nourishing ceramides and lipids or skin barrier repair as well as soy isoflavones. It's dispensed via a cooling metal roller and claims to give the face and neck a firmer look in one week and to be suitable for sensitive skin.
Our verdict: GTG Editorial Director Victoria tested the range. She says. "I have menopausal skin, but because I take HRT, I don't have skin symptoms, but I do notice that my skin feels very dry, both in the morning and around 4pm when I always need to apply another round of cream. My skin loses moisture easily and laps up oils. The serum felt very soothing although with the roller it's hard to tell how much you have applied - usually too much. I found it much better to rub the serum in with my fingers and then go over it with the roller which feels mildly cooling and makes the whole thing more of a self-care experience. Combined with the night cream my skin felt noticeably softer and plumper in the morning. It’s not overly fragranced but if you have sensitive skin that reacts to the ingredient ‘parfum’, patch test in-store first."
Mists are a great way of adding an extra shot of hydration to any skin type, but are particularly soothing and cooling on menopausal skin. With hot flushes in mind, this mist is made for on-the-go use and absorbs quickly underneath or over makeup. Blended with organic rose water to purify and refresh the skin, citrus essential oils and glycerin to moisturise.
Our verdict: Victoria says: “The cooling sensation comes from the alcohol, which is pretty standard for cooling mists, but something I generally avoid if it’s high up the ingredients list (as here) as it can be drying and irritating, although No7's Dr Eleanor Bradley told me that they'd balanced this out with moisturising glycerine. Still, my skin felt a little tight. What I like is that the rose scent is calming, and they have nailed the misting element which comes out in a soothing fine spray, unlike some 'super-soaker’ spritzes.”
This thick, nourishing night cream contains ceramides and niacinamide to restore lipids; hyaluronic acid and shea butter to hydrate; Japanese lily turf and soy isoflavones No7's signature collagen peptides and a multi-vitamin antioxidant complex.
Our verdict: “This velvety night cream, in conjunction with the serum, really did make me wake up with noticeably less dryness, thanks to shea butter, safflowers seed oil, ceramides and hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide to balance and protect the skin barrier," says Victoria. "It’s all sealed in with a layer of silicone, an ingredient that gives skincare that luxury feel. The fragrance is gentler than other No7 ranges, which is a tick for me.”
With SPF30 for a little added sun protection, this lightweight cream is ultra-hydrating, with a similar ingredients list to the serum, featuring a combination of niacinamide, bisabolol, green tea and vitamins E, C and B5.
Our verdict: “This protective day cream, like the others in the range, feels lovely to apply and aside from moisturising glycerine there’s also niacinamide and a low level of stable vitamin C (ascorbyl glucoside). I needed a couple of drops of oil to make it rich enough for my dry skin. It’s a chemical sun cream with a decent year-round protection level of broad-spectrum SPF 30. It's something I'd happily put in my handbag for whenever my skin gets dry, irritated or I need an SPF top up.”
The final word: “When you hit perimenopause and menopause, so many aspects of your physical and mental health can be thrown into confusion and often your skin is the first to react," says Victoria."This is a good range for when you suddenly don’t have a clue what to do with your skin and need someone else to do the thinking for you – heaven knows you’ve got enough going on with a possible 37+ symptoms to contend with.
"It’s unlikely to irritate anyone (unless you react to ‘parfum’ or alcohol) and with hero ingredients of niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerine and peptides it has met its brief from 7,000 menopausal women, who will likely walk into Boots and breathe a sigh of relief that finally, this is something for them. If you know your skin, you can add in any extras, such as super face oils, chemical exfoliants or the occasional retinoid. It’s a few pounds more expensive than No7’s excellent Lift and Luminate range aimed at a similar age group, the 45-60-year-olds (perhaps due to the research) but, with science and real women behind it, it may just be the missing piece of their skincare puzzle.”