We have all become much savvier ‘skintellectual’ consumers in the past few years; we know our skin barrier from our dermis, our retinol from our niacinamide . But astonishingly three-quarters of us only use up a third of our skincare and makeup and 86 per cent say we’ve bought skincare that in fact doesn’t suit our skin, according to a new survey 2000 UK women by Boots. In the current climate, that’s something many of us can ill afford. To take the guesswork out of beauty buying, the retailer launched a personalised skin analysis service, the Pro Derm Scan, available In April at more than 400 of its No7 counters and it has already received hundreds of thousands of five-star reviews. The retailer says that in the first month 100,000 people tried the service with 96 per cent giving it top marks.
If you haven't tried it yet, here's what to expect. The Pro Derm Scan is a 15-minute consultation that gives in-depth information about how your skin is performing – what you're doing well and where you might need more support. A derm-grade lens attached to an iPhone takes snapshots of your face and analyses them across four metrics: oil balance, hydration, fine lines and wrinkles and pores.
You're then given a tailored skincare routine and perfectly matched foundation shade to even out your imbalances and meet your goals. You can choose to buy them or simply go away armed with more information about the condition of your skin.
No7 has a decade of high street skin scanning expertise in the bag already. When it brought the Match Made service in 2012, I was one of the first in line – and it was revolutionary. A snapshot of your cheek told you which foundation shade was right for you – no need to have endless options swatched on your jawline. In a decade, the service has been used by millions. My match with the shade Warm Ivory has been a godsend over the years. If I needed to emergency buy my base, I knew I’d be able to find my shade on the high street, in the station or at the airport, without breaking the bank.
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Now, No7 has retired Match Made in favour of the Pro Derm Scan. The new handheld device has been six years in the making. It uses 'Fitskin' technology developed by a Canadian tech company in conjunction with consultant dermatologist Prof Rod Hay. We'll be seeing more of this as Fitskin partners with other retailers across the world.
How does the Pro Derm Scan work?
The Pro Derm Scan magnifies your skin 30 times. Its expert vision can see things five times smaller than a human hair before they are visible to the naked eye, so it’s able to spot issues long before you see them in the mirror. The magnifying technology is based on a dermatoscope, a device used in medical settings. If you’ve had a basic mole check, a dermatoscope is what they would have used. Here, there's an additional hydration sensor attached to the lens.
A forehead scan measures fine lines and wrinkles, oil balance and skin tone. An eye area scan measures fine lines and wrinkles. The cheek scan measures pores and hydration, while the jawline is used to measure skin tone.
How do you book a No7 Pro Derm consultation?
There are more than 2000 Boots stores across the country and 427 of them offer the service - generally those that have a No7 counter with a beauty advisor. Once you’ve located your store (live from 6 April) you can book online or simply turn up. From scanning to receiving your skincare ‘prescription’ takes 15 minutes. It's completely free.
Our review of the No7 Pro Derm consultation
When you arrive in-store, you’re matched with a human in the form of a No7 Beauty Advisor. As great as it is to see technology making our lives easier, knowing that there’s a skin specialist to explain it all and listen to your needs – and your budget – really makes the experience stand out, and is what will get people supporting the high street once more.
My advisor Tasha asked me what my goals were; I said I wanted to feel less dry and wrinkly and reduce pigmentation. She ticked the relevant boxes on her scanner before asking me some quick questions about my lifestyle, my morning and evening routine and my ideal foundation coverage and finish. Interestingly, I didn't have to give my name, gender or age. This service is truly anonymous.
No7 say they will use the data to build a picture of real people’s skin concerns. They’ll then adjust their own skincare offering to give us as consumers more of what the evidence says we need. They’ve already used millions of people’s Match Made scans across the globe to improve their foundations this year with a broader and brighter range of shades and undertones.
Back to my consultation, and Tasha cleaned four areas of my face to scan – forehead, cheeks, jawline and below the eye. It will work over makeup, she says although not quite as well. As she pressed the scanner to my face, I could hear it whirring and clicking and on her screen, I could see my skin 1000 times more clearly than with the naked eye (my pores looked huuuge!). The machine then gave me a score out of five for each of the four metrics.
Now you’d think that I’d score perfectly on each, having access to some of the best skincare in my job – but no. I’m a woeful 1/5 for oil balance (you can’t actually score zero) meaning I’m crying out for moisture. The ideal score here is three; five would be too oily.
For the remaining metrics, it’s the higher marks the better. I score a measly 2/5 for hydration but a passable 3/5 on fine lines and wrinkles (given that the machine doesn’t know my age, I’d call that a big win) and I totally smash it on pores – not so huge after all – scoring 5/5. My foundation shade is still Warm Ivory, although now I have a lighter and a darker shade to choose from for winter and summer if I need them.
Tasha gives me a handwritten prescription of skincare that majors on getting more oil and water into my skin and addressing the pigmentation that I flagged as a concern, but which the machine doesn’t test for. She advised me to switch to a balm cleanser to help restore my oil balance and suggested No7 Cleansing Balm (stock coming soon) as well as No7 Lift and Luminate Day Cream SPF15 , £27.95 and the Lift and Luminate Night Cream , £27.95 for age-defying and brightness.
I’m advised to add booster treatments using the Hydraluminous Water Concentrate , £14.94 and the No7 Replenishing Facial Oil , £24.95. I already have the latest Restore & Renew Serum Foundation (a brilliant dupe for the Bobbi Brown version) in my shade, as well as hyaluronic acid serums, facial oils and balm cleansers (I just need to use them more assiduously than I am) so leave with just the day cream. I’ve not yet found my perfect moisturiser and this one has a great balance of age-well ingredients for my skin type.
Her recommendations have helped. I used to feel a horrible dry tightness around 4pm and would I wake up with a face like paper. Since I've been adding more oil and hyaluronic acid to my regime, cleansing with a balm and using the moisturiser, that feeling has gone.
You don’t have to buy any of the recommendations and indeed Boots has unaffiliated beauty specialists in-store to help you shop across multiple brands. However, No7 tells us that you can try their products for four weeks in the No7 Challenge and if you don't see results they will give you your money back.
My verdict: The world of skincare has become crowded and confusing, and evidence from the survey suggests that we're often not getting it right. And as my own skin scan shows, that includes know-it-all-beauty editors such as me! Our environment, our lifestyle and the seasons change, all of which can affect how our skin behaves. The trusty cream that we've used forever, or the latest 'miracle' ingredient, may simply be a waste of money for our particular concerns. Having a personal shopper for your skin, armed with a truth-telling bit of tech, can only be a win.
We've seen the rise of online skin consultations in the past couple of years and I've had great experiences with them ( read my review here) . But there's nothing like face-to-face human contact, and of course, those Boots Advantage Card points too.
Find your nearest Boots offering No7 Pro Derm Scan.
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