Considering my respective affinities for Harry Styles (unique, I know), rock candy and Gavin & Stacey, I was quite optimistic about my chances of enjoying a beauty brand that also hailed from the UK. No7 had to have earnt its cult status for good reason, right?
Honestly, it was a pretty full circle moment for me, too – Boots (the UK pharmacy where the brand is a top seller) was actually the first place I ever bought skin care. And considering I went on to make trying different lotions and potions my life’s work, it’s safe to say the bug bit hard.
Where I started was probably where I should have always stayed in all honestly – pharmacy beauty buys have always been more my skin’s speed than anything too fancy. For the most part, my complexion (which runs dehydrated, sensitive and prone to redness-plagued reactions) is a simple gal satisfied by simple things. Throw in a few extra actives and we’re headed for trouble.
And so, when No 7’s HydraLuminous Water Surge Gel (Oil Free) ($27.99 at Priceline) blessed me with its humble yet seemingly hydrating presence, I was quite excited – I’d been eyeing the brand since its arrival onto Aussie shores/into Priceline stores, but hadn’t yet come across quite the right product for me.
As for the goal, the name sums up what it’s about pretty succinctly: it’s an oil-free gel that aims to leave you looking hydrated and luminous through delivering a surge of water to the skin. So, let’s see how it did…
First, can I just say that whilst I know judging a book by its cover (or a moisturiser by its pot colour) is wrong, something in my dry-skinned soul was encouraged by the fact the tub was bright blue. Chalk it up to the way beauty brands have conditioned me (or my longstanding obsession with Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost range), but I’ve long known to scan shelves for something of that shade when in search of calming hydration.
As for what was inside the pot, I was pretty pleased with that too. Dehydration and sensitivity (while often paired, whether by genetics or marketing) aren’t always aided by the same things. For example, when you think of what a thirsty complexion would be craving, you probably picture a thick, velvety cream, right? Well, my sensitivity could never – it’d be breakout, bump and redness central within a day.
Gel (which is hydrating without being heavy) is queen in my book – especially one with “the power of a nourishing cream” as No7 so eloquently put it. Just what the doctor (me) ordered.
As for the actual ingredients, the website revealed that the formula centres around “No7’s HydraDrench complex, powered by naturally derived plant hydrators”. Honestly, that’s a little vague and science-y for my liking, but I was still intrigued enough to apply…
Application wise, the instructions suggest simply smoothing onto the face and neck after cleansing, and I followed them to a tee. I applied it solo onto clean skin, too, to get a full picture of what it could/couldn’t do.
‘Weightless’ is pretty much the ultimate compliment that I can pay a gel moisturiser, and boy, was this one deserving of it. It’s featherlight (guess that’s the oil-free status for you), but goes on gloriously glossy.
The gloss did settle after a few minutes though – I was a smidge disappointed to see it go, but I figured that A) that meant the hydration was getting where it needed to go rather than sitting on the surface until my next cleanse, and B) it also wouldn’t be too shiny for anyone oil-prone. My skin was a tiny bit sticky to the touch throughout the day, but also felt far softer and smoother than usual, so I’ll happily take the trade off.
There’s no full-on fragrance (which I was delighted to discover); the stuff just smells fresh and clean, kind of like the office of a derm who’s really into clinical skin care and high quality disinfectant (but like, in a nice, refreshing way I swear).
My favourite feature was the delightfully soothing cooling sensation it left – it was particularly welcome fresh out of the shower, but it lingered long after the formula had sunk in. My face was definitely a little less red than usual after cleansing as well, which I filed in the ‘big win’ column.
The final verdict
If I’m honest I don’t ask too much of my skin care; I know it’s got its work well and truly cut out for it. Let’s just say I don’t exactly dream of being wildly dewy by morning light – I’d settle for ‘not red or itchy’, especially whenever sampling something new.
But believe me this, not only did my skin feel aptly hydrated a day or two in (and even more so after a week), but I swear it almost (like, one iota off; give me another seven days) looked topped up, too. Pretty good news considering I can top up my stash of it for just $27.99 (or $22.39 if you go snap up Priceline’s sale price right now).
The staying power of the ‘freshly hydrated’ feeling per individual application was stellar as well – since working from home I honestly don’t mind a midday hydration hit, but I reverted to the classic ‘A.M. and P.M. only’ applications with this guy because it was all I felt like I really needed. Quite impressive for a weightless gel, no?
It did seem to help with irritation a little as well – I have spots of eczema across my neck (which present themselves as dots of bright white, AKA my actual skin colour, every time I top up my tan), and I saw a slight decrease in the starkness of them since smearing the gel across that area, too.
All in all, I’d say this: it does the job. Are there any fancy bells and whistles? No. Did I want any? No. And that’s precisely why I rate it – instead of making lofty promises it could never keep, the formula sets and delivers on realistic goals (added hydration and glow) while still being lightweight and gentle enough to avoid any reactions. And for someone with my skin type/concerns, sometimes that’s all you can ask.
Long story short, I’d like to say cheers to the noble dry and sensitive-skinned souls of the UK – thanks for hyping the brand up enough to get it over here. My face/neck/gel obsession owe you one.
Main image credit: @dirtyboysgetclean