Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare

Alpha Beta Medi-Spa Peel

16.00 treatments for $ 110.00
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This at-home peel is "inspired by" in-office procedures, which makes it sound more potent and powerful than it really is. "Inspired by" doesn't mean "identical to", but that might be what comes to mind when you read that claim—so let's see why Alpha Beta Medi-Spa Peel isn't quite the same thing that a dermatologist can provide in an office setting.

This peel consists of two products: Multi-Acid Concentrate Pads (step 1) and a moisturizer named Firming Peptide Milk (step 2). There's a lot to like about both products, but the sticking point that led to the POOR rating is the amount of alcohol in the pads. It's the second ingredient, and this contains lesser but still potentially problematic amounts of fragrant plant extracts such as jasmine, lavender, and clove. A dermatologist should know better than to include such ingredients in a product, especially one like this that contains a high amount of acids (though exactly how much isn't revealed; more on that in a moment).

Adding to the irritant potential from the alcohol is the menthol-derived ingredient menthyl lactate. This provides a cooling, tingling sensation that may reinforce the spa-like treatment experience this product is striving for, but ultimately just ends up being another source of irritation. See More Info for the details on why a high amount of alcohol is particularly problematic for skin.

As for the exfoliating ability of this product, the pads themselves are textured enough so that swabbing this over your face instantly provides some degree of manual exfoliation, kind of like a really mild scrub. But the workhorse exfoliant ingredients include AHAs lactic and glycolic acid along with the lesser-used mandelic acid. At its core, this is an AHA peel but the pads do also contain a bit of BHA ingredient salicylic acid—and the pH of 4.1 allows exfoliation to occur (though ideally a lower pH would've made this closer to the kind of peel a dermatologist offers).

Other AHA or AHA-like ingredients are also included, though we suspect they're in the formula more for bragging rights "15 acids!" than effectiveness. From a formulary standpoint, you don't need more than one, maybe two, exfoliating acids to get great results. There's no research proving a blend of 15 is the best solution, but at least Dr. Gross Skincare isn't making that claim.

Step 2, the Firming Peptide Milk, is said to neutralize the action of the peel. Once the peel is applied, you're directed to wait 3–5 minutes before applying the Milk. This isn't a special formula; any moisturizer applied over a peel will help to neutralize its effect, as would rinsing with plain water. Firming Peptide Milk has a pH just over 7, which is essentially neutral.

As for the formula, Firming Peptide Milk has a silky, thin lotion texture that's easy to apply and, yes, gives you that "fresh from the spa" glow. It contains a bevy of anti-aging ingredients though we do have some concern about the arnica extract, as it's a known skin irritant and there's a potentially troublesome amount of it in this post-peel moisturizer.

In the end, despite some strong positives, this at-home peel isn't a great treatment to carry across your threshold and use as part of a weekly "exfoliation boosting" skin care treatment. Sadly, the irritants outweigh the potential benefits, not to mention this ends up being really pricey for just 16 uses!

  • The pH of the peel steeped onto the pads permits exfoliation to occur.
  • Contains a good amount of lactic and glycolic acids, the most well-researched AHA ingredients.
  • The Peptide Milk contains lots of very good anti-aging ingredients and feels great on skin (you will get that spa-like glow).
  • Amount of alcohol in the peel formula poses a strong risk of irritation.
  • Likelihood of irritation is compounded by fragrant plant extracts and a menthol derivative.
  • The moisturizer contains skin irritant arnica extract.
  • Expensive when you consider you only get 16 usesand this is not equivalent to the kind of peels a dermatologist can provide.
More Info:

Alcohol in skin-care products causes dryness and free-radical damage, and impairs the skin's ability to heal. The irritation it causes damages healthy collagen production and can stimulate oil production at the base of the pore, making oily skin worse (Sources: Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, May 2012, pages 1,410–1,419; Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, January 2011, pages 83–90; "Skin Care—From the Inside Out and Outside In," Tufts Daily, April 1, 2002; eMedicine Journal, May 8, 2002, volume 3, number 5, www.emedicine.com; Cutis, February 2001, pages 25–27; Contact Dermatitis, January 1996, pages 12–16; and http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-4/277-284.htm).

Jar Packaging: No
Tested on animals: No

A clinical-grade weekly peel, inspired by the service menu at Dr. Dennis Gross' NYC medi-spa, to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pores, even skintone, and resurface skin.

Step 1 Multi-Acid Concentrate Pads: Water, SD Alcohol 40-B, Lactic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Polysorbate 80, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Citric Acid, Malic Acid, Pyruvic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Gallic Acid, Ellagic Acid, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Lactobionic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Phytic Acid, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Hexylresorcinol, Rehmannia Glutinosa Root Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Jasminum Officinale (Jasmine) Flower/Leaf Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Eugenia Caryophyllus (Clove) Flower Extract, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Fruit Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium PCA, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Propanediol, Menthyl Lactate, Linalool, Disodium EDTA, Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate. Step 2 Firming Peptide Milk: Water, Dicaprylyl Ether, C14-22 Alkane, Propanediol, Squalane, Glycerin, Polyglyceryl-10 Mono/Dioleate, Polyglyceryl-3 Oleate, Cetyl Alcohol, Octyldodecanol, Tetrapeptide-21, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Collagen Amino Acids, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Arnica Montana Flower Extract, Retinol, Sphingolipids, Phospholipids, Saccharide Isomerate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Citrullus Lanatus (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Pichia/Resveratrol Ferment Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Water, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Juice, Sodium PCA, Sodium Bicarbonate, Butylene Glycol, Caprylyl Glycol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Glyceryl Cocoate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Cyclodextrin, Tetrasodium EDTA, Arachidyl Alcohol, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Phosphatidylglycerol, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Hexylene Glycol, Arachidyl Glucoside, Phenoxyethanol, Behenyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate.

Dr. Dennis GrossSkincare 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 whats 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 New York City, he claims that all of his products provide "maximum results without side effects," a statement any doctor should know better than to make. For instance, a consumer would logically assume, especially coming from a doctor, that "maximum results" means the products in question really will firm, lift, tighten, plump, or peel the skin. ButDr. Dennis GrossSkincare products don't provide maximum results, not in the least, and definitely not in any of the ways suggested by the marketing copy. In fact, although Gross includes some very impressive ingredients in his products, they cannot make good on the most enticing claims he makes for them.

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 everyDr. Dennis GrossSkincare 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 159161).

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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