There is a rumor going around that Boots No 7 Restore & Renew, the US version of the British cream, Protect & Perfect that had women rioting in supermarkets for the last few bottles, are not exactly the same. Some people claim that Restore & Renew is not as strong as the original UK version and they are asking friends to bring over the apparently more potent Protect and Perfect.

My first reaction was cynical disbelief. The Boots website says they are the same thing. Surely, e-Bay entrepreneurs have spread this story so that they can jack up sales of Protect & Perfect to desperate American women. Then I thought, if cynical is my middle name, I should look into this one way or another. It turns out the rumor has some truth.


They both contain the active ingredient that got the British scientist to comment that his tests implied that Boots Restore & Renew was almost as good as a prescription cream with tretinoin: retinyl palmitate (a retinol or Vitamin A). They have a whole bunch of other things in common and they are mostly the kinds of things that makes a cream a cream (water and glycerin and so on). But there is one thing that Boots Protect & Perfect has that Boots Restore & Renew does not: my friend matrixyl.

Palmitoyle penapeptide-3, otherwise known as matrixyl, is a peptide with a good track record of clinical trials suggesting that it improves the skin. I don't know why it isn't in the US version, Restore & Renew, because matrixyl is perfectly legal here and exists in readily available potions and lotions. The combination of matrixyl and retinyl is potentially powerful, so claims that the UK cream is stronger may be correct.

Should we try to hunt Protect & Perfect down on e-bay then? Well, it also contains some other nice goodies such as ginseng and Vitamin E. But there is a snag. It is full of parabens. Restore & Renew has just one, methylparaben.  Protect & Perfect has that one plus another four!

Parabens are preservatives but they are not entirely benign and some people would rather stick pins their eyes than use a product containing them. This is largely because a study - one that was controversial and largely discredited - associated parabens with cancer. Even if they are not that harmful, there are two good reasons to avoid them. If multiple parabens are used, the risk of allergic reaction is much higher than if only one is used. Secondly, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that parabens may be getting into the sea via waste and damaging marine life.

On balance then, I'll stick with Restore & Renew and get my matrixyl fix from other sources. Matrixyl is contained in a serum I use by Skin Image, so I'm covered. I get Skin Image from my esthetician in New York, Ildi Pekar, as it isn't easy to find in the US.

Update: Feb 2008. I can finally confirm that the US product and UK one are more or less the same. Thanks to a reader, not the Boots website (which has still not been updated). I can only conclude that Boots - in its rush to get the cream to the US - sent a different formulation and the product has now been reformulated. Boots could have saved a lot of bother by letting its customers know what was going on.