Dr. Dennis Gross SkincareDark Spot Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50
1.7 fl. oz. for $42
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Dr. Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is an unfortunate product for two reasons. First, it contains a number of fragrance irritants, some that have phototoxic potential for skin. Second, the brand prevents you from knowing how much of any ingredient it contains—beneficial or irritant—due to the fact its ingredients are listed in alphabetical order rather than by descending order of concentration. See More Info for additional details.

In terms of how this functions as a sunscreen, it provides broad-spectrum protection via its blend of mineral actives, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. At SPF 50, it would have been a good choice for daily UV protection, if it didn't also include a few citrus oils with phototoxic potential (see More Info).

As is a mineral sunscreen, it has some degree of white cast (we know, the first question everyone asks is "does it have a white cast"—all mineral sunscreens have a white cast), but here it's mitigated as much as is possible so that it's only slightly visible on most skin tones.

So far as the claim to help even out skin tone and improve the health of skin, just being a broad-spectrum sunscreen at an SPF 50 will accomplish some of these goals. Protecting your skin from UV exposure every day, without exception, will help speed the healing of an uneven skin tone, especially when you include other treatments like retinols, or leave-on AHA or BHA exfoliants.

This does include a few beneficial antioxidants, such as two forms of vitamin C (ascorbyl glucoside and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate), reparative ingredients and non-fragrant plant oils for moisture.

There is some research showing ascorbyl glucoside can help improve discolorations in skin, but what does exist has only demonstrated effectiveness when combined with niacinamide—thus, you really don't know how beneficial this form of vitamin C is on its own (Journal of Cutaneous & Aesthetic Surgery, 2013 and Skin Research & Technology, 2006). Fortunately, this does include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, which is a proven agent for improving the appearance of discolorations.

Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, you have absolutely no idea how much of any of these ingredients are present. There could be a decent amount, or they could all be present in miniscule degrees. Why spend $40+ on a flip of the coin when there are plenty of products available on the market who aren't making you guess at their benefit? That fact aside, the reality that this also includes a few citrus oils with phototoxic potential means we can't come up with any reasons to recommend Dr. Dennis Gross' Dark Spot Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50. Instead, consider any of the dozens of better options in the Best Daytime Moisturizers with Sunscreen section.

  • Provides broad spectrum SPF 50 in a mineral-based formula.
  • Includes beneficial antioxidants and reparative ingredients.
  • Includes fragrant citrus oils/extracts, some of which have phototoxic potential.
  • Lists inactive ingredients in alphabetical order, preventing you from knowing how much of any is present.
More Info:

Ingredients Listed in Alphabetical Order: This product lists its inactive ingredients alphabetical order rather than in descending order of concentration. Although this is an accepted standard due to the fact it is regulated in the United States as an over-the-counter drug, we have more respect for companies that choose to list their inactive ingredients in descending order of concentration. When brands list ingredients in descending order of concentration, the consumer is better informed about the potency of the ingredients that they are putting on their skin, just like with any other skincare or makeup product.

With a product like this, one that makes specific anti-aging claims, it is critical that you know how much of any beneficial ingredients it contains so you know whether it can make good on its claims. In addition, when the product contains irritants (as this one does), it is important to know their approximate amount so you can determine your degree of risk.

Ingredients that Have Phototoxic Potential: This product contains specific essential oils or extracts, like orange or lemon-peel derived oils/juice, that are loaded with a class of substances known as furanocoumarins (psoralen) and coumarins. These substances are primarily responsible for what's known as a phototoxic reaction when skin is exposed to the sun. The potential result of UV exposure while wearing this product—even when wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen, as none are 100% effective—is that skin may become discolored (Journal of Food and Agriculture, 2013 and Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 2007).

That's aside from the irritation potential of these essential oils, which is a result of their fragrance compounds (fragrance-free is the best way for all skin types to go for all skin types) that can damage healthy collagen production and impair skin's ability to heal (Food and Chemical Toxicology, 2008 & American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003).

Last Updated:08.18.2015
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:No
Community Reviews

An antiaging sunscreen cream with a state-of-the-art antioxidant complex to help prevent damage from UVA/UVB rays, protect against photo-aging, and even skin’s texture and tone.


Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 4.9%, Zinc Oxide 4.42%. Inactive Ingredients: Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Aluminum Hydroxide, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Benzyl Alcohol, BHT, Bis-ethylhexyl Hydroxydimethoxy Benzylmalonate, Boerhavia Diffusa Root Extract, Butylene Glycol, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Citric Acid, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Extract, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Coconut Alkanes, Disodium EDTA, Echium Plantagineum Seed Oil, Glycerin, Glycolic Acid, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Isohexadecane, Isononyl Isononanoate, Isopropyl Titanium Triisostearate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Melatonin, Nordihydroguaiaretic Acid, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Oleanolic Acid, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Extract, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, PEG-60 Almond Glycerides, Pentylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Phospholipids, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Polysorbate 60, Potassium Sorbate, Propanediol , Saccharide Isomerate, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium PCA, Sphingolipids, Stearic Acid, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Tocopherol, Water, Xanthan Gum, Zinc PCA.

Brand Overview

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 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. But Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare 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 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.

About the Experts

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