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Meet the doctor brand that wants you to peel every day

Meet the doctor brand that wants you to peel every day

I'm with the brand

Text: Renée Batchelor


If you haven't yet heard of cult skincare brand Dr Dennis Gross, find out more from the brand's CEO Carrie Gross

We all now know and love doctor skincare brands today. In fact, doctor-led brands are one of the fastest growing skincare trends according to Net-A-Porter. But there was a time when they were not so prevalent and women were relying solely on the traditional big names in cosmetics, that had the corresponding big marketing budgets behind them. Today, both men and women are exposed to a variety of smaller brands, from conscious or organic ones, to ones that are formulated for maximum efficacy, pumping all their budgets into the products rather than the advertising. One of the cult skincare brands that has emerged in the past 10 years is Dr Dennis Gross, started by the New York City dermatologist and skin cancer researcher who lends his name to it.

Gross' wife Carrie acts as CEO of the brand, and co-created the brand when she was compelled to transform her husband's in-clinic formulations for use at home. Dr Dennis Gross is famous for advocating a peel every day — and creating super convenient single-use sachets (there's an acid and a neutraliser in each set) that are great for travel. Find out on why the good doctor believes this practice is beneficial for your skin and the other ingredients the brand advocates.

Why did your husband, Dr Gross, start the brand? Brand formulators and founders usually start a brand because they feel that there's something missing...
Hopefully, because you don't want to just create something that's not a game changer. So the brand was started when Dennis saw a flaw in the technology of peels. So back in the '90s, there were the birth of the pharmeuceutical category of products. A lot of spas and a lot of physicians were administering amino acid peels or a glycolic peel and everyone knows Samantha from Sex and the City, when she had her peel... Have you seen that? Oh you have to watch that. They were too aggressive on the skin. And Dennis loves acid, as a physician, as a skin cancer researcher, as a skin immunology expert and biologist — he knew that the skin responds so beautifully to acids if it's used correctly.

You don't want to injure the skin and you don't want the acids to be so aggressive that they cause cell death and that's when you actually have downtime and the skin is red, flaky and irritated. He blended multiple acids together at a low concentration which gave the skin this incredible instant radiance but over the long term, it built collagen. So it's a magnificent treatment. You can get this treatment on a day where you are going for a job interview, a first date or even getting married and you walk out immediately. His practice exploded. He created this Alpha Beta Peel and all of a sudden, just through word of mouth, beauty editors, fashion editors, CEOs, nurses... everyone was flocking to him.

The thing that was so remarkable about it is that people would come and tell us "My husband hasn't complimented my skin in 30 years and now he can't stop touching my skin" or models and actresses would come to get red-carpet ready skin. I'm his wife and I couldn’t get an appointment because the schedule was completely packed! And I was literally so frustrated I asked him to bring the peel home to me, and he did and I decided to start a business. I thought that if we created peels for people to use at home, we could bring this peel to everyone around the world.

And so what we did was we took the doctor's formula that is used in doctor-dispensed peels, then we created a version for aestheticians, and then we created a take home kit. If you're going to a Medispa clinic or to an aesthetician, and you then buy products at the drugstore, you're not protecting your investment in your skin. And you want to be doing something every day. You don't want to run a marathon and sit on the couch for the rest of your life! So the skin loves something every single day. We started with the Alpha Beta Peel, and then we were just doing peels and then slowly we became a brand. 

What was the approach in formulating the products?
So our approach is all about cocktailing multiple ingredients and creating very unique, specific delivery systems so that ingredients can get into the cell itself. Nothing should just be sitting on the surface. Dennis spends time in the lab, but he also understands his clients' lifestyle and their pressure, stress and the demanding modern world that we live in. So he wanted to create super effective, result-oriented skincare that was easy and simple. He didn't want to make it overly complicated, so it's a perfect modern, scientific brand.

The Alpha Beta Peel will never stop working: It takes two minutes, and it's packaged as such so that you don't have to worry about the dose. And it's so easy to use, you can always have it in your bag and you can travel with it. It's just ready-to-go. And clients love that. All of our moisturisers have very specific goals. Each product that we've created has a unique story to it, we have a retinol category, and we have an eye serum that is designed to be used under the eyes and the lid, all the way to the lash line to firm and smooth the skin. And it doesn't sting at all.

One of our best sellers is our vitamin C serum. A lot of clients complained about dull and tired skin, so Dennis created an energy complex in this vitamin C that super charges the cells' energy to build collagen. And building collagen is probably the most important thing that we need to do, because that's what gives our skin structure. So you could pinch your neck, and pinch your cheek and you can feel the difference of the density, and that's all about collagen. We have more density in our cheeks than in the neck, or under our eyes or even on the back of our hand, so building collagen is the holy grail. It's the most important thing you can do for your skin. The peels build collagen, vitamin C builds collagen... so does retinol.

Dennis Gross skincare vitamin C range

Can you share some of your travel skincare tips?
On the airplane, before I leave to travel, I do a hyaluronic acid mask. This is an incredible treatment, it's a gel mask that hardens and it moulds to your entire face. And what it does is create a barrier on the skin, and it drives the hyaluronic acid deep into the skin and when you peel it off, you're so dewy and it's very, very long-lasting. And I use this before I fly and when I get off the plane, especially after a long flight,  I find I have no dehydration. It's such a fantastic treatment, there's an endothermic reaction so you can feel a cooling sensation. So if you have any inflammation or flushing, it sucks the heat right out of your skin.

On the airplane also, I carry this eye treatment that contains hyaluronic acid and marine ingredients. It's an oil-free formula and you can put it on anytime throughout the day, even over your makeup — it soaks right in. What it does is it locks in moisture and builds density in our epidermis because the skin can become very thin and transparent around the eyes, and the veins will show.

Dr Dennis Gross Skincare advocates peeling. How often should you peel?
You do it once a day, maybe you do it twice if you're travelling because my skin is completely addicted to this Alpha Beta Peel — I've been using it since 1995. At first we launched with the original formula right here — the Universal — that has five acids in step one. Then we launched the Extra Strength which has seven acids, and then we launched the Ultra Gentle which has three acids. So if you're a client that has never tried a peel before, you can start with the Ultra Gentle and then you can move up to the Universal and you can have a discovery journey from trying all of these different peels.

When treating the skin, we suggest looking at your skin and deciding what you want to accomplish. Examine your lifestyle, genetics and even how your mum ages. I think that the most important thing is to be doing something that is highly efficacious every day. You really need to establish good habits and stick to it because if you buy products and they sit in the drawer, there's no point.

Tell us about the devices the brand has developed
We really solved the problem of why we end up with a device graveyard — it's because they are tedious and they are difficult to use and you are tied to the wall with an electrical cord and it doesn't make sense.

All our devices are all hands-free. And you charge them with a USB and you can travel with them. The SpectraLite is FDA-cleared to build collagen and it's so easy to use: Just four minutes a day. We launched this first because I witnessed so many young girls just going for the makeup, with smoky eyes, brows and lashes. And I just wanted to create something for them that would get them engaged in skincare.

It is really effective to treat the eye area that is the most delicate and the first part of the face to show signs of ageing. We also have a Spotlite for pimple emergencies. It is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and can reduce the look of post inflammatory marks on your skin.

Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Marine range

What would you recommend to a newbie of the brand?
One of our brand promises is that we want to give our clients an instant benefit. So I don't want them to wait four weeks, I want them to look into the mirror and see a change after one treatment. This was sort of the gold standard that we hold ourselves to in terms of advocacy. I just want skin that is touchable, radiant and dewy and so that is what all of these products do. They give you an instant, dewy glow but then over the long term, they're building collagen. And so you're preventing collagen breakdown, strengthening the skin barrier and helping rule out any kind of irritation or sensitivity.

How do your products complement in-office procedures like peels, Botox or lasers?
Everything that we offer to our clients is based on science. And if you go to the dermatologist, and you go for a laser treatment, a peel or a medical facial, and then you go to the drugstore, you're not protecting that investment.

Make sure you know how to read labels and do your research. Just as you would research a doctor to make sure he is talented and credible, you need to do the same with the products. Dennis puts his name on his products and his integrity and his reputation are critically important to anybody in this field and he has designed products specifically to enhance everything he does in his office. There are many people that are comfortable with the ageing process who don't do procedures necessarily, but want products that have active ingredients in them. All of these products have active ingredients combined with hydrating, soothing, and gentle ingredients, so you get the best of both worlds. So you get your natural botanicals and your antioxidants and your amino acids, and then you get your active ingredients like retinol and vitamin C.

What makes Dr Dennis Gross peels better?
The difference was that the old school peels were mono-acid. So with one acid, you have one benefit. So maybe if it's salicylic acid, it's to purge the pores, or if it's glycolic acid, it's for gradual exfoliation. With our peels, there's multiple acids and each one has a different benefit, so you're getting so much more from your peel. Lactic acid is a fantastic ingredient and it's a tiny molecule and it digs deeper into the skin. So you're getting different acids that are penetrating different layers of the epidermis and the dermis, and you're building collagen all throughout the skin structure.

When is the best time to do this peel step?
So here's my recommendation. Do it every morning. When you wake up, you can remove the dead cells that kind of accumulated in the past 24 hours. Secondly, you're polishing your skin so that you have radiance all day long and if you're wearing makeup, your makeup goes on perfectly. It's a smooth canvas and your makeup is going to stay longer. And you're leaving a veil of antioxidants on your skin to protect you from the environment all day. The other reason is that I have found by interviewing literally thousands of people, that if you establish your routine in the morning, you're more likely to do it. If you say "I'm doing to do that at night", you forget.

Dr Dennis Gross Skincare is available on Net-A-Porter

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