Dr. Dennis Gross' Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin is a confusing product, because it presents a mix of both helpful and unhelpful qualities for skin. Odder still, those unhelpful qualities make this a treatment those with sensitive skin should avoid—the primary culprit being its mix of lingering fragrance extracts in Step 1 of this product's two-step process.
Per Dr. Dennis Gross' marketing messaging (and its name), this treatment is aimed at those with sensitive skin. Like the other iterations of the brand's Daily Peel collection, Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin is packaged in a box of individual packets of pre-soaked cloths—Step 1 is the exfoliant, while Step 2 is a "firm and lift" treatment that contains a mix of anti-irritants and other soothing agents. We'll take a closer look at the ingredients used in each.
Step 1: The peel, or alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) step, is a combination of witch hazel, lactic and mandelic acids, as well as a myriad of antioxidant and fragrant plant extracts. The AHA ingredients, lactic and mandelic acid, aren't at the right pH level here to be effective—this has a pH of 4.8, whereas the ideal pH range is 3.5-4.0 (Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2010). In other words, the "peel" potential you've paid for isn't there.
Dr. Dennis Gross added a few other antioxidants, but what was surprising, especially as this is marketed towards sensitive skin, is the number of fragrance extracts included—rosemary, bergamot, lemon, rosewood, lavender and jasmine. Fragrance is certainly to be avoided by those with sensitivity concerns (actually, in general, it's best to avoid such ingredients in your products). See More Info for additional info on fragrances in your skincare routine. From our perspective, it's surprising that the brand—that bears the name of the esteemed NY dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross—doesn't acknowledge the thoroughly research-demonstrated issues fragrance presents for those with sensitive skin.
Step 2: This step promises to "firm and lift," but lacks the ability to do either—in reality this has the potential to be a good toner that contains a nice blend of antioxidants, cell-communicating and reparative ingredients. Unfortunately, it does have some potential for sensitivity due to the seemingly higher-than-usual amount of polysorbate 20, an ingredient often used for its detergent ability. In leave on products, particularly toners, it can have beneficial and mild cleansing ability when used in tiny amounts (towards the end of the list). Here, however, such a high concentration of a detergent ingredient isn't ideal in a leave-on product for those with sensitive skin.
Ultimately, Dr. Dennis Gross' Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel for Sensitive Skin earned its rating for its mix of irritants, inappropriateness for sensitive skin and pH level (the latter stifling the ability of its AHA ingredients to exfoliate). Rather than spend the money on this unfortunate 2-step formula, do-si-do (two-step and do-si-do, get it?) over to our list of Best AHA Exfoliant alternatives, none of which share this products' shortcomings.
Irritation from High Amounts of Fragrance: Daily use of products that contain a high amount of fragrance, whether the fragrant ingredients are synthetic or natural, causes chronic irritation that can damage healthy collagen production, lead to or worsen dryness, and impair your skin's ability to heal. Fragrance-free is the best way for all skin types to go for all skin types (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).
The sneaky part about irritation is that research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it for your skin to suffer damage, and that damage may remain hidden for a long time (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
In fact, the effect of inflammation in the skin is cumulative, and repeated exposure to irritants contributes to a weakened skin barrier, slower healing (including of red marks from breakouts), and a dull, uneven complexion (Aging, 2012 & Chemical Immunology and Allergy, 2012).
Step 1: Water, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Rose Extract, Soy Isoflavones, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Prunus Persica (Peach) Fruit Extract, Aniba Rosaeodora (Rosewood) Wood Extract, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower Extract, Coriandrum Sativum (Coriander) Seed Extract, Cupressus Sempervirens Seed Extract, Fucus Vesiculosus Extract, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Copper PCA, Zinc PCA, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Alcohol Denat., Disodium EDTA, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate. Step 2: Water, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hyaluronate, Colloidal Oatmeal, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Soy Isoflavones, Phospholipids, Resveratrol, Ubiquinone, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Raphanus Sativus (Radish) Root Extract, Copper PCA, Sodium PCA, Zinc PCA, Lecithin, Octoxynol-9, Simethicone, Tetrasodium EDTA, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Bicarbonate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare At-A-Glance
Strengths: Almost all of the products are fragrance-free; several serums and moisturizers contain a brilliant assortment of beneficial skin-care ingredients; all of the sunscreens contain sufficient UVA protection; almost all of the antioxidant-rich products are packaged to ensure stability and potency.
Weaknesses: Expensive; no effective AHA or BHA products (including the at-home peel the line is "known" for); problematic toner; incomplete selection of products to treat acne, and what’s available is more irritating than helpful; a few "why bother?" products.
As you may have gleaned from the name, dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross created this skin-care line. Based in
As for the promise of "no side effects," that is easily refuted with a simple overview of his underachieving products. A quick summary: lavender oil can cause skin-cell death, sulfur is extremely irritating and drying to skin, ascorbic acid can be sensitizing, as can retinol, and the synthetic active sunscreen agents he uses can also present their share of problems. That's not to say that all of these ingredients are bad for skin (only the sulfur and lavender oil qualify for that description), but it's foolish to make a blanket statement that your cosmeceutical-type products are free of side effects. How could he possibly know what a person may react to?
Gross also asserts that he uses cutting-edge technology in his products, a point which I concede given the number of superior moisturizers and serums he offers, all of which compete nicely with other well-formulated products. His products are expensive, but if you're going to spend a lot of money on skin-care products, you should be purchasing state-of-the-art formulas, and these do rate. Of course, this technology (read: efficacious ingredients) doesn't extend to every Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare product, but overall this is one line whose formulas have improved considerably since the previous edition of this book, and that is excellent news!
Several of the products in this line contain emu oil. While there is research indicating that emu oil is a good emollient that can help heal skin, it is not that different from other oils that offer the same benefit, such as grape or olive or even mineral oil for that matter (Source: Australasian Journal of Dermatology, August 1996, pages 159–161).
Last, please ignore the tired claim that these products are your alternative to surgical procedures and that they use medical-grade ingredients. Concerning the latter, there is no such thing; Gross uses the same cosmetic and over-the-counter active ingredients found throughout the cosmetics industry. And although his line offers some remarkable products, none of them can provide results equivalent to Botox, dermal fillers, chemical peels, or laser treatments (and definitely not a face-lift).
Note: Unless mentioned otherwise, all MD Skincare products are fragrance-free.
For more information about Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, call (888) 830-7546 or visit the Web site at www.dgskincare.com.
NOTE: In Spring 2010, MD Skincare became Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.
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