Ta Dah!

Dr Mike Bell

Dr Mike Bell, Skincare Boots Scientific Advisor, holds a BSc in Pharmacology (Hons 1st Class) and a Doctorate (DPhil) in Neurobiology from Oxford University, Christ Church.

His interests in skin science began in 1995 when he joined Procter & Gamble as a formulation scientist, working on projects including Olay’s Total Effects. In 2003 he took a break to teach science to secondary school children before returning to the cosmetics industry in 2007 with Boots UK in Nottingham and contributing to the success of the original No7 Protect & Perfect Serum and No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Serum.

Mike became Boots Skincare Scientific Advisor in 2010, responsible for leading the skin research programmes with universities and dermatologists and the scientific support behind No7’s products. He has led the scientific development programmes of ground-breaking launches from No7 including No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Day Cream with 5-star UVA protection, No7 Lift & Luminate Day & Night Serums and No7 Restore & Renew Day & Night Serum.

Dr Mike Bell
Professor Chris E.M. Griffiths

Professor Chris E.M. Griffiths MD FRCP FMedSci

The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK

Professor Griffiths gained a 1st Class Hons BSc in Anatomy and qualified in Medicine from St Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, London University. He trained in Dermatology at St Mary’s Hospital, London, and at the University of Michigan, USA. He was appointed to the Foundation Chair in Dermatology at The University of Manchester in 1994 and is an Honorary Consultant Dermatologist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. At The University of Manchester he has served variously as: Head of Medicine and Neuroscience; Head of the School of Translational Medicine; Medical School Research Dean and Director of the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre.

The Times of London named Chris as one of the UK’s Top 200 doctors in 2010. In 2011 he was appointed as an NIHR Senior Investigator and elected to Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Professor Griffiths is the current President of the International Psoriasis Council and a past President of: the British Association of Dermatologists; European Dermatology Forum and; British Society for Investigative Dermatology. He has published 480 Pubmed cited articles in scientific journals and is senior editor of Rook’s Textbook of Dermatology. Professor Griffiths has long-standing research interests in all aspects of ageing skin and the inflammatory skin disease psoriasis.


“Boots and No7 have carried out robust,clinical trials with study duration in line with our understanding of skin repair processes. The results are impressive.” Professor Griffiths, The University of Manchester

Professor Chris E.M. Griffiths MD FRCP FMedSci
The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK



The collaboration with Professor Griffiths’ department at The University of Manchester began in 2005.

During his time working in the States, examining the role of collagen in the skin ageing process, Professor Griffiths had developed his own patch test, an accelerated repair model that showed the long term skin effects of the gold standard prescription only trans-retinoic acid. After 12 days under an occlusive patch on the photoaged forearm, skin punch biopsies are taken to assess the changes in key skin proteins such as collagen and fibrillin. The effects of retinoic acid in this model were shown to be comparable to the effects of long term use on the face.

When Boots UK first approached Professor Griffiths to put No7 Protect & Perfect Serum on trial in 2005, he was sceptical as to its potential benefits. His 12-day patch test, he felt, would swiftly show that the product had no discernible effect on the mechanisms of skin repair.

When the tests showed the opposite (the first time for a cosmetic anti-ageing products) – that No7 Protect & Perfect Serum had serious potential and prompted repair of fibrillin within the skin, the partnership took off in earnest. At the end of 2006, a year-long study on No7 Protect & Protect Intense Serum began, to investigate what happened in the skin when the product was used regularly in the long term (in short, the study showed that the benefits to the skin went on getting better over time. With the clinical improvement in lines and wrinkles that was associated with an increase in fibrillin in the skin).

In 2009, Boots UK and The University of Manchester began a five-year research collaboration into the mechanisms of skin ageing, leading to more than 20 publications in leading medical journals and laying the foundations for the development of the new No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED Serum and the No7 Protect & Perfect Intense ADVANCED Serum. A key area of research was to investigate more deeply how the original No7 serums were working .

What next?

Now, another five-year collaboration period has begun, with a broader programme of investigation that will run until 2018 and a focus on unravelling the mechanisms of skin ageing across different skin ethnicities. This is key to understanding the diversity of skin across the world, and to studying potential repair solutions that work for all consumers. Building on the previous success, together Boots UK and The University of Manchester, will probe deeper into how the new serums are working, studying a broader array of skin markers across both the epidermis and dermis. Can we identify the conductors in orchestrated skin repair processes? Why do some people look younger for their age than others? How does geographical ancestry precisely affect the ageing process within the skin? These are some of the questions that Professor Griffiths and his team will be looking at.


“Skin ageing research remains our number one priority at Boots and so I am really excited as we enter the next phase of scientific exploration with the world-leading Skin Research Team at The University of Manchester.

Together we work as one team, combining a deep scientific understanding of skin with our unrivalled understanding of our consumer, to develop the most effective solutions to every woman’s – and every man’s, skin ageing concerns.”

Dr Mike Bell,
Boots Skincare Scientific Advisor


Q&A with Dr Mike Bell, Boots Skincare Scientific Advisor

What is a serum?

A serum is a product that can be seen as the ‘treatment’ stage of a skincare regime. Of all the products in a skin care regime, a serum contains the highest concentration of active ingredients that sink well in to the skin. “Serums are designed to deliver the key ingredients into the skin more effectively,” says Dr Mike Bell, Boots Skincare Scientific Advisor. “Serums are not “all rounders” like day creams. They are targeted at very specific concerns such as lines and wrinkles in the case of the No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED Serums. The active ingredients and delivery system are focused on this concern and there are no superfluous ingredients.”

No7 serums should be used after cleansing the face, on dry skin, in the morning and again in the evening. Once the serum has been absorbed, it should be followed with an appropriate No7 anti-ageing moisturiser. For daytime, this would be a product that offers broad spectrum UV protection to prevent further premature ageing.

All four No7 anti-ageing day creams provide SPF15 and unbeatable 5-star UVA protection.


Why is it important to have a skincare regime, using both a serum and a cream?

You can think of a serum as a treatment that forms the backbone of your skincare regime, but your skin also has other needs, and this is where using a moisturising cream after your serum can help. The difference between moisturisers and serums is that moisturisers are formulated to keep the skin hydrated by putting a protective barrier between your skin and the outside world; serums however have a different purpose. Serums are lighter than creams, so they can be quickly absorbed to deliver the key ingredients into the skin effectively. All No7 clinically proven serums contain the highest levels of Matrixyl 3000 to help boost key components of the skin’s dermal architecture (e.g. proteins like collagen and fibrillin) to keep your skin looking plump and youthful. To maintain the serum repair combine it with broad spectrum UV protection delivered by all No7 SPF15 5-star UVA day creams. 


What is fibrillin? Why is it important?

Fibrillin is a vital protein in the skin. It forms beautiful, candelabra shaped structures and in the words of Dr Mike Sherratt, lecturer in Molecular Biochemistry at The University of Manchester and one of the world’s leading experts on this protein "fibrillin, together with elastin, makes elastic fibres which act like springs in the mattress of the skin".

The Skin Research Team at The University of Manchester has shown that, compared with other proteins such as collagen, fibrillin is particularly sensitive to damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, hence says Dr Sherratt "fibrillin breakdown acts like a canary in the coalmine of skin damage". As fibrillin performs many functions in skin, including communicating with skin cells, Dr Sherratt says that "breakdown of fibrillin may prompt an avalanche of tissue damage". Because of this, fibrillin – the extent of it, and the quality of it – is potentially even more important for middle-aged skin than collagen.


What are the key ingredients in the new products? Which ones are new and what do they do?

What we have done with the new No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED Serums is to build on the existing, clinically-proven formulas of the original No7 Protect & Perfect Serums and improve them in order to achieve the maximum effects in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, with ingredients carefully chosen for their ability to repair, enhance and protect the skin.

The repairing ingredients are specialised peptides. A peptide is a string of amino acids (which are the building blocks of proteins) and in very specific combinations, they have particular functions in the skin.

Matrixyl 3000 Plus - In the original serums, research with The University of Manchester proved that No7’s blend of peptides drives repair of fibrillin in the skin.  In the new No7 serums, levels of Matrixyl 3000 have been increased for new No7 Protect & Perfect Intense ADVANCED Serum and new No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED Serum.  In addition, Matrixyl 3000 has been combined with next generation di-peptide (see below) – this ingredient combination is called Matrixyl 3000 Plus.  New clinical trials show that the new advanced serums containing Matrixyl 3000 plus deliver are even more effective at reducing the appearance of lines and wrinkles

Acetyl di-peptide - Another peptide, which is a new ingredient in the new No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED Serums, is di-peptide (or acetyl-di-peptide). This is complementary to Matrixyl 3000 working to help provide more holistic skin repair. It helps reduce crosslinking in skin, a factor that gives rise to stiffer, less supple skin as it ages. Put together with Matrixyl 3000, it forms a unique peptide blend that stimulates collagen and fibrillin repair in the skin. In total the new combination of Matrixyl 3000 and di-peptide results in more than 30 times the repairing peptide concentration in both of the new No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED Serums when compared to the original serums.

Salicylic acid - This is a new addition to the No7 Protect & Perfect ADVANCED Serum. Salicylic acid helps exfoliate the skin by gently dissolving the bonds that hold old dead skin cells in place on the skin’s surface. This helps to keep pores clear, resulting in clearer and blemish free skin, important benefits for the younger consumer just getting into anti-ageing.

Hyaluronic acid (HA) - Hyaluronic acid is a natural component of the skin, responsible for providing volume or ‘stuffing’ in the skin by virtue of its ability to bind water into the skin. In ageing, Hyaluronic Acid is lost from the skin. It is a new ingredient in the new No7 Protect & Perfect Intense ADVANCED Serum and is included because of its water-binding ability. This means it helps to provide surface firming of the skin.

Patented Antioxidant complex - Everyone is encouraged to eat more antioxidants for the sake of their health. In skincare, as well as everyday diets, antioxidants are vital to neutralise unstable free radical molecules generated by environmental aggression, such as the sun’s UV, pollution and stress. The antioxidant complex contains Vitamin C, extracts of mulberry and ginseng for wide-ranging antioxidant protection. In vitro models have shown that this complex is effective at protecting fibrillin from UV damage.

Rice peptide and alfalfa complex - This protects the skin by inhibiting the action of Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs) - enzymes which break down structural proteins such as collagen and fibrillin within the skin.

Put together, all these ingredients mean the two new formulas are even more powerful. Clinical studies and consumer trials prove just how effective - click through to the Results section for the details.


What exactly does ‘clinically proven’ mean?

In skincare, clinical studies are conducted to establish the efficacy of a product, to work out how well it works. This is done in order to support claims made on behalf of the product.

A clinical study is a controlled, scientific experiment, a piece of research that follows a specific protocol. Properly conducted, the trial will provide solid evidence to show – in the case of skincare – just what difference a product can make to the skin, and how great that difference is. Ideally, a clinical study should be:

  • Single or Double blind - in single blind studies the investigator does not know what has been used on each site they are measuring or observing. The participants, if they are in the test product group, for example, will know that they are using a product – but do not know what it is. In double blind studies, where typically a test and a control product will be used, neither the participants nor the investigator measuring the effects know which site has been treated with the test product and which received the control product.
  • Controlled - many studies still compare results at different time points back to baseline measurements. Whilst this is a useful measure of benefit, it does not take into account the effect that time alone (i.e. seasonal changes) or just being on a trial may have on the skin or on the volunteer’s behaviour. Therefore it is best practice to include a control group (either using a comparative product, a product similar to the test product but without key active ingredients, or no treatment) to which the test group is compared at each time point so that it is clear that any difference is driven by the test product itself.
  • Randomised – participants are allocated randomly to the treatment they receive by computer-generated randomisation programmes.

There are also a number of other elements that need to be taken into account:

Validated techniques – any assessment or measures used need to validated, so that the data generated can be trusted as a true measure of the product’s performance and not generated in error.

Appropriate study duration - the study should be of a length that matches the skin’s natural timelines for improvement. For true anti-ageing effects, we know that restoring key skin components or activity will take weeks or months, not days, so it is important to measure product benefits over weeks or months.

Relevant product usage - products are used in the same way by volunteers in the study as those who have bought the product are directed to use it at home.

Relevant volunteer groups – volunteers should be used who are similar to the consumers who will eventually use the product, and on enough volunteers for the results, through statistical testing, to be considered representative of that larger number of consumers.

Because of the care that needs to be taken throughout, a clinical study is a lengthy and expensive procedure. Participants are selected with care, and are recalled frequently to check on their progress and ensure excellent compliance.

Interestingly, while in consumer trials where there is less control over usage and larger numbers of participants are required to enable conclusions over product benefits, in clinical studies not so many participants are required in order to produce a compelling result. If the product benefits are large enough, robust, clinically significant results can be achieved with panel sizes of between 50 and 100 people


What are No7’s principles when it comes to creating clinically proven products?

When the scientists at No7 say a product is ‘clinically proven’, it means they have submitted the products to blind (double blind if possible), randomised, controlled clinical studies (explained above), for a rigorous and clinical assessment of whether they do the job they were designed to do, and live up to their claims.

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