No7 Advanced Retinol Night Concentrate

No7 Retinol review: Smart mirror results reveal if the Complex Night Concentrate is really as good as Boots claims

25th June 2020 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

As is common with so many skincare products we’ve tried and tested over the years, the results very rarely fully live up to their promises. Sadly, the Boots No7 Retinol serum appears to follow suit. 

It did improve a number of our skin concerns, and we’re delighted it made a dent in our fine lines. We also bought the serum at its introductory price of £25, so got it for cheaper than what Boots thinks its worth. 

Yet, the danger of waitlists, product teasers and hyped up marketing only ends up setting our expectations higher than the product can live up to.

  • Small tube lasts a long time
  • Thin, but not runny, consistency absorbs well into the skin
  • Fine lines, pores and skin texture were all improved
  • Appearance of wrinkles seemingly got worse
  • Retinol can cause irritation if not used properly
Where to Buy
Boots £34.99
Prices are accurate at the time of publishing and are subject to change.

When Boots first teased its latest skincare breakthrough – the No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate – the hype it created resulted in a staggering 100,040 people signing up to its waitlist. We were one of them. 

This earned it the title of Boots’ largest-ever waiting list and is likely due to the successes of previous launches in the No7 range. 

According to Boots, the Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate is the first clinically proven concentration from its No7 to come with ten skin benefits, promising “maximum results with minimal irritation.”

READ NEXT: Boots sale: All the latest bargains in the Boots Health and Beauty sale

Exactly what those 10 specific benefits are is not entirely clear but Boots does promise that the concentrate “actively targets the visible sign of ageing and dullness to kick start surface skin renewal from the very first application, working night after night to deliver visibly younger looking skin.” 

The concentrate went on sale at on Thursday 28 May at an introductory price of £25 and it quickly sold out. It’s back in stock (at the time of writing) and is still selling for £25, although its RRP is actually £34. 

Buy now from Boots

Boots No7 Retinol concentrate review

For ease of use, we’re going to refer to the No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate as the No7 Retinol serum from this point on, and for the past month, we’ve been using the No7 Retinol every night as instructed. 

In a bid to cut through the marketing nonsense that often surrounds beauty products, we test skincare using a smart mirror. Before we start reviewing any product, we take a makeup free photo in front of a ring light on its highest setting, first thing in the morning, and have our skin analysed by this mirror.

It provides a percentage score for a number of skin concerns including the appearance of our pores, fine lines, wrinkles, redness, dark spots, roughness and dark circles

READ NEXT: Best anti-ageing cream

For the four weeks that follow, we introduce the product being tested – in this case the No7 Retinol concentrate – to our existing skincare routine without changing or adding anything else. 

At the end of the trial period, we take exactly the same type of photo as we did at the start and we then compare the percentage decreases, or increases.

This allows us to quantify any changes that we notice in our skin over this time, and in the below Boots No7 Retinol review, we reveal how the serum fared in these tests while also explaining a little more about why retinol is marketed as such as a wonder ingredient.  

You can learn more about how we test skincare in our guide. 

What is retinol? 

First developed in the 1970s as treatments for skin problems, retinoids – also known as retinol, retinoid or retinoic acid – are a derivative of Vitamin A have a number of science-based benefits. 

These include unclogging pores and as an effective treatment against the signs of ageing – including reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

However, the use of retinoids can cause skin problems from redness to increased sensitivity, particularly to the sun. This means wearing SPF is even more crucial than it is normally! 

You can read more about the benefits of retinoids in our guide to the acids in your skincare.

Products that contain retinoids will, typically, be accompanied by a percentage which refers to the concentration level of retinol found in that particular skincare range. For example, The Ordinary sells retinoids from concentrations of 0.2% up to 2%. 

It has, for a long time, been assumed that the higher the percentage of retinol in a product, the more effective it is. And when introducing any new acid to your skincare routine, we’re constantly being advised to start with a lower concentration and build up to this higher level.

It’s now thought that this may not be necessary. Many brands have been looking for ways to offer maximum impact with lower concentrations.

Avon, for instance, recently released its Anew Skin Reset Plumping Shots using a breakthrough formula called Protinol. This promises to offer all the benefits of retinol – such as restoring seven days of collagen in seven days – without the irritation. You can see whether it succeeds or not in our Avon Plumping Shots review. 

The Boots No7 Retinol promises similar. “Our breakthrough scientific research with our partners at the University of Manchester has found that 0.3% retinol delivers virtually the same age-defying benefits as a higher concentration retinol but with minimum irritation,” explained Dr Mike Bell, No7 Skincare Scientific Advisor. 

Buy now from Boots

No7 Retinol review: Application

According to Boots, the N07 Retinol concentrate has been created to form the first stage of your evening Age-Defying Regime.

The company advises applying two pumps evenly onto a cleansed face – avoiding the eye, outer eye and lip area – and allowing the product to completely absorb into the skin before applying your usual serum, followed by a night cream. 

Unsurprisingly, Boots recommends the best results come if you use other No7 products before and after, but we used the Wishful Skin Clean Genie cleansing balm, a personalised serum from Dermatica (if you haven’t checked out this service, it’s brilliant!), followed by the PRAI 24K Night Creme. 

Despite the claims made by Dr Bell regarding minimum irritation, No7 still suggests limiting the initial use of its No7 Retinol concentrate to one or twice a week, on non-consecutive nights, before gradually increasing the frequency to every other night. It can then be used every night as tolerated. As a guide, Boots claims it will normally take at least four weeks to reach nightly use. 

As our skin is used to higher concentrations of retinol, we went straight in and used it nightly and we didn’t experience any sensitivity. However, if your skin is prone to sensitivity normally, or you don’t currently use retinoid products, we recommend you gradually up your dosage, as advised. 

The No7 Retinol concentrate has a thin, but not runny consistency that absorbs quickly; almost melting into the skin as your massage it in. 

We found that two pumps wasn’t quite enough to feel like it was really covering our face, neck and décolletage (the skin on your chest and on your boobs) so upped the dose to three pumps from day three. However, if you’re only concentrating on your face, two pumps should be more than enough. 

What’s more, even by increasing the amount of concentrate we used, we’ve only used what appears to be around 75% of the small, 30ml tube – if that – meaning we’d expect it to last for at least another couple of weeks minimum. 

Buy now from Boots

No7 Retinol review: Results 

If we were ranking the No7 Retinol concentrate based purely on how our skin looked and felt, we’d rate it as OK. Not a huge, noticeable improvement but our skin does feel softer since using it and feels more plump to the touch. 

We didn’t see a significant difference in our wrinkles – although we’re fortunate to not have any deep-set wrinkles yet – and our fine lines look about the same. Not quite the “visibly younger looking skin” as promised by No7. 

READ NEXT: Serum vs moisturiser: Which one do I need?

These results were also confirmed by the smart mirror analysis. For there to be a positive improvement in any of the measured skin conditions, the number in the Difference column needs to be positive, rather than negative. A negative number in this column suggests that particular concern got worse during the four-week period.

Any percentage difference is significant, but the higher the number the greater the difference. As a guide, these readings rarely move up or down by more than 1% with any product we test. 

As you can see in the table below, using the Boots No7 Retinol serum for four weeks improved the appearance of dark circles, red spots, pores, fine lines and roughness. The latter improvement being incredibly high at 1.38%. 

We’re pleased that our pores appear smaller and that our fine lines are less noticeable. 

Sadly, the area we were hoping to see the most improvement on seemingly got worse – our wrinkles. Over the four-week period, they increased by 0.11%. Not a huge increase, but an increase nonetheless for a product that promises to reduce their appearance. 


Boots No7 Retinol
  Before % After % Difference
Dark circles 12.97 12.57 0.4
Red spots 2.06 1.82 0.24
Pores 2.13 2.02 0.11
Dark spots 3.35 3.37 -0.02
Wrinkles 0.57 0.68 -0.11
Fine Lines 5.59 5.31 0.28
Roughness 23.86 22.48 1.38

As we explained in our Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum Crystal Elixir review, the issue with any skincare review is that it’s not possible to qualify, let alone quantify, whether or not our wrinkles would have become even more apparent if we hadn’t used the serum or moisturiser at all. 

This suggests that instead of the No7 Retinol serum improving our wrinkles, it may have simply stemmed the tide and they’re not as bad as they could have been.

We can’t imagine – and we’d like to assume that – a product formulated to improve our skin wouldn’t make it worse so we’re giving Boots the benefit of the doubt, but we can’t completely rule it out. 

It would also be interesting to see the results on someone whose wrinkles, fine lines or other skin conditions are more pressing or more noticeable than ours. 

No7 Retinol review: Verdict 

As is common with so many skincare products we’ve tried and tested over the years, the results very rarely fully live up to their promises. Sadly, the Boots No7 Retinol serum appears to follow suit. 

It did improve a number of our skin concerns, and we’re delighted it made a dent in our fine lines. We also bought the serum at its introductory price of £25, so got it for cheaper than what Boots thinks its worth. 

Yet, the danger of waitlists, product teasers and hyped up marketing only ends up setting our expectations higher than the product can live up to.

Buy now from Boots

Don’t miss out! Sign up for the mamabella newsletter today


This site contains affiliate links to recommended products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. We will not recommend anything we don't believe in and we are not paid by brands to include specific products unless explicitly stated.