Strengths: Inexpensive; the Expert skin care line offers many outstanding options for sensitive skin; some great cleansers, including a few without fragrance; all sunscreens provide sufficient UVA protection; a smoothing, soothing lip balm; the only mass-market makeup line with testers for almost every product; mostly impressive foundation shades; very good powders; powder blush; great sheer lipstick; the Botanics Gloss; a handful of good mascaras.
Weaknesses: Abundance of ordinary formulas; Botanics line products contain few botanical ingredients; Time Dimensions line lacks sunscreen and provides more shine than proven anti-aging formulas for skin; repetitive formulas and a penchant for including the good stuff in amounts too small to be all that helpful; majority of products are surprisingly average; no effective AHA or BHA products; no products to help battle blemishes or lighten skin discolorations; jar packaging; foundations are more expensive than the competition, but do not best them; No7 and Botanics makeup products have several similarities, except the Botanics include plant extracts that have no impact on performance; mostly disappointing eyeshadows; average to poor eye, brow, and lip pencils; inferior makeup brushes; superfluous or just plain unattractive specialty products.
How do you begin discussing a cosmetics line that's named after a type of footwear? Although the name is odd, Boots is a well-known brand, at least outside the United States. Originating in England, it's named after founder John Boot, and it already had a worldwide presence before its 2004 pilot launch in the U.S. retail market through select Target and CVS drugstores. Its success in these stores led to a full-scale launch in spring 2007. Boots has been part of England's cosmetic history since 1839, and now over 1,500 freestanding Boots stores dot the British landscape. Of course, history has its place, but Boots, on the basis of their longevity, believes that it offers consumers the best products full of quality ingredients and also at a value price. Although it's true that Boots' price point is lower than many other drugstore lines (at least those whose products make similar claims and have the same target audience), their formulas are not nearly as impressive as their lineage might suggest. Antioxidants, retinol, and peptides are popular ingredients in each Boots product line, and the claims surrounding them are standard antiwrinkle, skin-firming fare. However, the amount of the beneficial ingredients is more often than not minuscule, and not a single Boots product contains pure retinol. Instead, they contain retinyl palmitate, a fatty acid ester form of vitamin A that is similar to retinol. Retinyl palmitate is not by any means a throwaway ingredient for skin, but it should not be passed off as pure retinol for those looking for it. Even if Boots did put copious amounts of this or other antioxidants in their products, their potency would suffer due to their pervasive use of jars or translucent glass bottle packaging. Boots does offer a handful of products in better packaging, but these products don't contain enough light- or air-sensitive ingredients to earn state-of-the-art status, though the opacity and smaller openings do help.
Another drawback for those who choose to be Boots-exclusive is that despite dozens of (mostly repetitive) products, there are no effective options for those dealing with blemishes, skin discolorations, or skin whose barrier function is compromised by age or environmental damage. Their sunscreens provide sufficient UVA protection, but several have SPF ratings below the benchmark SPF 15, and all of them have base formulas that will leave sun-exposed skin wanting more. And although there are dozens of moisturizers available, the similarities among them are shocking, as is the fact that only a few of them approach meeting the criteria for what makes a great moisturizer. Reading the product descriptions says otherwise, but keep in mind that wordplay doesn't translate into perfected, lineless skin. As it turns out, although Boots has a prodigious amount of products, very little of their assembly is worth cheering for. You'll find some great options for cleansers, scrubs, sunless tanners, and treatments for dry, chapped lips, all at fair prices, and that's good news. What's not as good, regardless of what country you're in shopping for Boots products, is that assembling a skin-care routine around this line leaves several important pieces of the skin-care puzzle missing. The "top health and beauty experts" responsible for developing the Boots products missed some fundamentals, glossed over much of the current research as to what skin needs to function optimally, and must believe that, at least in the case of moisturizers, standard emollients and thickening agents along with shimmer pigments are the answer to making wrinkles and other signs of aging a thing of the past. Of course that isn't true in the least, but it is nevertheless the story that most of Boots' formulas tell, though the claims serve as teasers to convince you the product you're considering is revolutionary skin care.
For more information about Boots, call (866) 752-6687 or visit www.boots.com.
Note: Boots No7 and Botanics brands (only) are sold in Canada at Shoppers Drug Mart stores.
Does England's #1 mass-market beauty brand have what it takes to assemble a beautiful makeup wardrobe? Sadly, no. Although there are some great products to consider either from the Boots' No7 collection (which is supposed to be more makeup artist–oriented but doesn't distinguish itself in that manner) or their Botanics line, we were surprised that such a popular (at least according to company press releases) and widely distributed line didn't have more compelling color products. A frustrating element of trying to shop Boots makeup is that it is needlessly huge. There is no reason the best products from Botanics couldn't be added to the No7 collection or vice versa. As is, there are many similarities between the two that appear to have more to do with marketing than with creating truly different products from a performance standpoint. Yes, the Botanics makeup products have some plant extracts and oils included to support the name, but more often than not these don't affect the outcome. The No7 line, for all its sleek, curvy packaging, isn't a makeup artist's dream come true (though you could cherry-pick the best products and be pleased, whether you're an artist or not).
Without question, the most exciting feature of Boots makeup is that their displays (at least those in Target; we did not view this line in CVS stores) include testers for almost every product. Finally! I wish more drugstore and mass-market lines would follow suit, but we'll take what we can get, right? Along with the testers you'll find built-ins for tissues, disposable applicators, and a trash receptacle. Thank you, Boots, for making this available (but please rethink the structural elements of your product displays, most of which were falling apart or hard to retrieve product from).
The top choices from the Boots color collections include several foundations with reliable sunscreens, some powders with beautifully smooth, light textures, reliable matte blush options, mostly good lipsticks and lip glosses, and a few impressive mascaras (though none that beat those from L'Oreal, Maybelline New York, Revlon, or Almay). Disappointments are peppered throughout the line, including products in nearly every category with unappealing textures or poor colors. Expecting No7 or Botanics makeup from Boots to meet your every need is expecting too much; expecting to find select products to enhance your features without blowing your budget is more realistic.