Co-founder of Dr. Dennis Gross, Carrie Gross, on good pores, celebrity clients, and how to do a chemical peel right

Co-founder of Dr. Dennis Gross, Carrie Gross, on good pores, celebrity clients, and how to do a chemical peel right

Skin story

Text: Emily Heng

Image: Instagram | @drdennisgross

Carrie Gross has a living, breathing, real-life Instagram filter plastered over her skin. It's the only explanation for her virtually poreless visage, unmarked by the passage of time or the effects of the sun. We'd like to think that it has to do with genetics, or even her marriage with illustrious celebrity dermatologist, Dennis Gross — but she is quick to credit her flawless complexion to two things: discipline, and a line-up of Dr. Dennis Gross products.

While it's expected for Gross to be an advocate of a brand she helped create, it's rare to hear anyone speak with such passion and technical know-how of all things skin. At one point, she even whips out a pen and paper to sketch the goings-on of the epidermis. In our hour-long interview, she rattles off facts on barrier function; cites skin-statistics off the top of her head; and delves deep into the technology of Dr. Dennis Gross's latest offering.

Hearing this, it's hard to believe that she has no formal dermatological training — and that she didn't start wearing sunscreen until she was 15. We sat down with the skincare luminary to find out more, from the science behind a good chemical peel to what it's like having Beyoncé back their goods.

So Carrie, how did your interest in skincare start?
Well, I was in fashion. I grew up in California, where it's kind of... I don't know, have you been to California?

Okay, so there's an outdoorsy culture about California. Growing up, I'd just be out in the sun a lot. Playing tennis, riding my bike... and my parents were really pushing sunscreen. But I just wasn't using it, because that just wasn't how it was done back in the day. I mean, people used baby oil to tan their skin during that period [Laughs]. So anyway, I moved to New York when I was 32, and I just began seeing the effects of sun damage on my skin. And that was right when I met Dennis, and it was also a time where I was going to multiple estheticians to try to find a solution to no avail.

And I remember stealing my mother's La Praire and thinking that it was great, but it didn't address my issues. In fact, there were no products on the market that had active ingredients in it. So, on the first day (that) I met Dennis, I just started asking him on all these questions. It's a dream, really, because I get to go on a date with a smart, handsome guy and talk about skin and makeup [Laughs]. He started telling me, then, about cosmetic dermatology, and how we were going to have ingredients that we can apply topically to improve skin health. This was back in a time where there wasn't even Botox or fillers, mind. He told me more, and I was just hooked.

That's amazing. Tell me about how you guys work together.
It's just us, sitting at the kitchen table with our tea at 6am having derm talks, basically [Laughs]. I question him a lot because I'm the ultimate consumer. I used to be an influencer, and it was my job to try everything. Because of that, I just became really passionate about products that work. That's why it's so important to me that our products worked.

You've succeeded in that front, if all the rave reviews Dr. Dennis Gross products receive is any indication.
It has a lot to do with how much thought we put into our products. Everything we do is so intentional, you know? We hand select every ingredient; we don't use fillers. Every product has its own unique delivery system and there's a reason why behind it. It goes back to when Dennis was a research scientist and cell biologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering. It's a Global Cancer Centre based in New York, and he was working with tissue cultures of cells, as well as on boosting antibodies to improve upon the immune system of cancer patients. And to do that, he needed to get ingredients to penetrate the cell wall. That's when he figured you need specific delivery systems to get ingredients into the cell, like a lipid delivery system to transport lipids. It's a theory we apply to our serums and treatments.

Yes, I hear Dennis has a clinic based in New York. How's that going?
He sees patients every day. On any given day, there's somebody from Singapore, or China, or Mexico City... I swear, he's a wealth of information and he's got this crazy, crazy way of looking at skin and almost seeing right through it. You know, like he's looking at you but he's thinking about your skin [Laughs]. It's like, I will be out to dinner and he will like, peer, at me. And it's just like: stop looking at me! Leave me alone.

I know many of his customers personally as friends, and he just diagnoses the craziest stuff just by looking at them. Like an allergy to mangos, or something. The things he can figure out about skin is pretty remarkable.

I also hear that Hollywood A-listers are a fan of the brand. Has there ever been a moment when you just felt utterly star-struck?

Oh man, I love that Chrissy Teigen is a fan. She did a post just about three weeks ago, where she was making dinner at home for John and her kids, and she took this selfie... and the Internet just blew up. They were asking how she got her skin looking so gorgeous, and she was just said, "It's Dr. Dennis Gross." It was awesome. Jimmy Fallon, Constance Wu, and even Beyoncé — and her mum — uses our Dr. Dennis Gross pills. Catherine Zeta Jones, too: she posted about us when she was getting ready for the Oscars.

What would you say is the secret behind your success?
Well, there's the formulations, where we give you meaningful doses of active ingredients balanced with soothing agents and botanicals. We use these incredible, very complex and potent antioxidants that come from plants, and they do the job. It helps that Dennis is really down-to-earth, and just so calming when he interacts with his patients.

I think what we do more than anything — whether it's with our retail products or in his practice — is that everything is customised. So there's not really a cookie-cutter approach to skin. Even with our daily chemical peels, there are just different levels you can opt for depending on your skin type.

Are there any common misconceptions about chemical peels that drive you crazy?
So, I have girlfriends that over the years who are like, "I'm just going to use step one of the Dr. Dennis Gross Daily Peel without step two" because they want a more radiant glow. That's just missing the whole point. You see, step two is what's going to help you build collagen. And that's the most important thing we want to do. Another misconception is that, well my skin is going to become thin and fragile after a chemical peel. But it's the exact opposite with our product — you don't get that fragility.

So, the Dr. Dennis Gross Daily Peels do the opposite of thinning the skin?
Yeah. It builds density in the skin. That's why we recommend people do it daily. Aggressive isn't healthy for the skin. Just do something every day incrementally to see the best results. It's kind of like working out. Like, you're not going to go and run 15 miles every single day, right? You're going to do your daily workout for maintenance because it's better to just be consistent.

And what about your latest product, the Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum?
It is designed to exfoliate, dissolve waxy plugs, increase cell turnover, regulate oil production... all that good stuff.

Lastly — what's one dream product you're dying to develop, but haven't got around to yet?
We definitely want to do more with our Drx Faceware Pro Domestic, because there's still so much more to do in the LED category. And then we have a couple other products that we're going to be launching that are just personal passion projects for me. I find that people are now really focused on wellness, on being conscious and mindful, so we're definitely working on something in that realm.

Dennis is also really interested in scalp health, because scalp is skin, right? It's actually almost identical to what we have on our face. To take good care of your scalp, you need to build collagen, because you want to hold on to your hair. So yes, thinning hair and scalp health. We'll see!

Check out Dr. Dennis Gross products here.