Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel review

You know how I always recommend you use glycolic acid and retinol on alternate nights? Dr Dennis Gross wants you to use them together. Well, not together together. Together one after the other.

Maybe I should start again?

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel is a dual step exfoliating treatment. Step 1 exfoliates and smoothes skin with Glycolic acid while step 2 is the anti-aging neutraliser packed with retinol.

So you’re using both ingredients on the same night, one after the other. When I heard about this, I thought, “mmmm, why would a dermatologist recommend something so harsh?” But then, derms are used to use harsh actives to treat severe conditions like cystic acne and rosacea.

But most of us aren’t dealing with that. We may have our fair share of fine lines or the occasional pimple, but they don’t require the big guns of the skincare world. If that’s you, should you really use something this powerful or is that taking things too far?

I’ve put this exfoliant to the test – it’s one of the most popular exfoliants on the market and I wouldn’t be a skincare fanatic if it hadn’t piqued my curiosity. But was I impressed? Mmmm… read on to find out:

About The Brand: Dr Dennis Gross

Founded by dermatologist and cancer researcher Dr Dennis Gross 25 years ago, Dr Dennis Gross skincare offers science-based formulations that promise to put the health of your skin first. The breakthrough product of the brand is the Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel I’m reviewing today. It’s said to be the first product of its kind to bring professional exfoliation outside of the dermatologist office and into the homes of consumers.

Key Ingredients in Step 1, Exfoliate & Smooth: What Makes It Work?

Step 1 of Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel is the peel. It uses a blend of six acids to do the job. They’re glycolic, salicylic, lactic, mandelic, malic and citric. Yep, Dr Dennis threw them all in. Why pick one if you can use them all? (I could personally think of overdose and irritation, but hey, they can be formulated to be gentle).

These acids work by dissolving the glue that holds skin cells together. Once the old, damaged dead cells shed off, they’re replaced by the younger, smoother cells underneath. Results? Skin looks softer, brighter and smoother.

A couple of these acids go the extra mile. Glycolic acid, for example, also hydrates skin and boosts collagen while salicylic acid unclogs pores and prevents breakouts.

The catch? The pH must be right, preferably around 3.5, to make these acids work their best. I haven’t measured the pH of this solution myself but Beautypedia reports it at 4.7. A little too high to do a good job. πŸ™ (FYI, this doesn’t mean the exfoliant doesn’t work. It means it doesn’t work as best as it would with a lower pH).

The other thing I don’t like about it? Alcohol. This stuff has a lot of alcohol. I’m not sure why. Exfoliation alone can be a little drying, especially when done daily. To add a huge dollop of a drying ingredient is just asking for trouble, in my opinion. πŸ™

P.S. In case you’re wondering where the name Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel comes from, salicylic acid is a Beta hydroxy acid while the others acids are members of the Alpha hydroxy acids family. πŸ˜‰

Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Should You Use?


Struggling to put together an anti-aging skincare routine that keeps wrinkles at bay and gives you a youthful glow? Download your FREE “Best Anti-Aging Skincare Routine” cheat sheet to get started. It features product recommendations + right application order:


Key Ingredients In Step 2, Anti-Aging Neutralizer: What Makes It Work?

I know, how cool is that. A neutraliser!… What the heck is that?! A solution that neutralises the acids so they stop doing their exfoliating job. Because if you exfoliate your skin daily, you don’t want to leave the acids on too long.

This step uses baking soda (yep, another harsh, drying ingredient) to do the job. The worst part? You DON’T need a neutraliser at all. Plain old cold tap water will do the job. 

It’s a shame Dr Dennis Gross felt the need to add baking soda here because I could really get on board with the rest of the formula. This stuff is full of antioxidants, like vitamin E and green tea, to prevent new wrinkles from forming and retinol to reduce the ones you already have.

Antioxidants work by fighting free radicals. It works like this: metabolic processes like breathing, unprotected sun exposure, and pollution cause free radicals, little molecules that destroy collagen, elastin, cellular DNA and all the good stuff that keeps your skin firm, young, and elastic.

Enter antioxidants. Think of them as your skin’s police. When they spot a free radicals, they neutralise it before it can start its pattern of destruction. Your collagen & co are saved, so your skin looks great for another day.

Retinol goes the extra mile. It doesn’t just prevent the degradation of collagen with its antioxidant properties. It also boosts the production of new collagen to reduce the wrinkles you already have. This is an anti-aging powerhouse everyone (apart from very sensitive skin) should add to their routine.

The other main difference? Antioxidants are usually well-tolerated, so everyone can use them. Retinol, on the other hand, often causes irritations and dryness when you first start using it. That’s why I still don’t recommend you use retinol with glycolic acid. Both ingredients can can use irritations and dryness when abused, used too often, or with other harsh actives. Only the most resistant of skin types can take this combo.

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol

dr dennis gross alpha beta extra strength daily peel 02

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!

STEP 1: EXFOLIATE AND SMOOTH

  • Water: The base and main solvent of the product, it dissolves other ingredients.
  • Potassium Hydroxide: It’s used to stabilise the pH of a product. This is key to make exfoliants work.
  • Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water: This water is distilled from different parts of the witch hazel plant, so the goodies in it change all the time depending on which parts were used. Either way, it has some antioxidant and soothing properties.
  • Polysorbate 20: An emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract: Derived from willow bark, it has antioxidant and soothing properties.
  • Menthone Glycerin Acetal: A menthol derivative that creates a cooling, fresh feeling on the skin. Sounds cool, but can be irritating.
  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract: The scientific name of green tea, a powerful antioxidants that fights free radicals and prevents sun damage.
  • Achillea Millefolium Extract: Known as yarrow, there’s a little research that shows it has soothing properties. I’m still waiting for more studies to show just how well it works.
  • Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Extract: Another mixed bag. You all know I’m sure that chamomile has powerful antioxidant and soothing properties. But it can also cause allergies in some people. Just because it’s natural, it doesn’t mean it’s safe for everyone.
  • Soy Isoflavones: An antioxidant that inhibits UV-induced redness. 
  • Copper PCA: A humectant that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Zinc PCA: It regulates oil production and limits the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria. But, it can be drying for dry skin.
  • Lecithin: It has several jobs in skincare. It acts as an emollient to make skin softer; it binds watery to your skin to keep it hydrated; and it keeps the water and oil ingredients from separating.
  • Disodium EDTA: It binds to the metal ions present in the water, so they can be neutralised. This helps the formula last longer.
  • Polysorbate 80: It’s an emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Fragrance (Parfum): It makes the product smell good. But it can be irritating for sensitive skin and cause allergies.
  • Linalool: Used to give products a floral scent, it can cause allergies and irritations. That’s why it needs to be listed separately from the fragrance (even though it’s a part of it).
  • Benzyl Salicylate: It gives products a pleasant floral scent. But it can be irritating for some people.
  • Benzoic Acid: It’s both a preservative and a pH adjuster that keeps your product working at its best.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that fights a wide range of bacteria, keeping your products safe and effective for longer.
  • Sodium Benzoate: It’s a preservative that keeps bacteria away from your products, so it’s safe to be used for longer.

STEP 2: ANTI-AGING NEUTRALIZER

  • Water: The base and main solvent of the product, it dissolves other ingredients.
  • Resveratrol: An antioxidant derived from grapes, it fights free radicals and prevents UVB-induced damage to keep skin younger-looking.
  • Ascorbic Acid: The pure form of Vitamin C, it fights free radicals, brightens the complexion, and fights dark spots. I usually recommend you use this ingredient in the morning because it boosts the sun protection of your sunscreen, but this solution has retinol too, and that’s strictly for night time use. It’s a great antioxidant, but if you’re using a Vitamin C serum in the morning, you don’t really need an extra dose in the evening.
  • Ubiquinone: Also known as coenzyme Q10, it’s naturally found in the body. It has powerful antioxidant properties that help your skin stay younger for longer.
  • Ascorbyl Palmitate: A derivative of Ascorbic Acid, it fights free radicals to keep your skin younger for longer. It’s gentler than Ascorbic Acid, so even sensitive skin can tolerate it well.
  • Phospholipids: A bunch of fats that occur naturally in the human body, they have humectant and antioxidant properties. They draw moisture from the air into your skin, helping to keep it hydrated, and fight the free radicals that cause wrinkles.
  • Retinyl Palmitate: A gentler form of retinol that’s supposed to fight free radicals and boost collagen. In reality, it’s so gentle, it doesn’t really do much of anything.
  • Tocopheryl Acetate: A form of Vitamin E with antioxidant and moisturising properties.
  • Soy Isoflavones: An antioxidant that inhibits UV-induced redness. 
  • Achillea Millefolium Extract: Known as yarrow, there’s a little research that shows it has soothing properties. I’m still waiting for more studies to show just how well it works.
  • Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract: The scientific name of green tea, a powerful antioxidants that fights free radicals and prevents sun damage.
  • Raphanus Sativus (Radish) Root Extract: A powerful antioxidant that fight free radicals, the molecules that give you premature wrinkles.
  • Copper PCA: A humectant that makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Sodium PCA: Another humectant that draws water from the air into your skin, helping it to stay hydrated for longer.
  • Zinc PCA: It regulates oil production and limits the proliferation of acne-causing bacteria. But, it can be drying for dry skin.
  • Lecithin: It has several jobs in skincare. It acts as an emollient to make skin softer; it binds watery to your skin to keep it hydrated; and it keeps the water and oil ingredients from separating.
  • Polysorbate 20: An emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Polysorbate 80: It’s an emulsifier that prevents the oily and watery parts of a formula from separating.
  • Alcohol: It helps other ingredients dissolve. In high concentrations, it can be drying and irritating.
  • BHT: A synthetic antioxidant used to help stabilize light- and air-sensitive ingredients like retinol.
  • Octoxynol-9: It helps to form emulsions, so all the ingredients mesh well together.
  • Simethicone: A type of silicones that makes formula easier to spread, resulting in a nicer application.
  • Tetrasodium EDTA: It prevents the metal ions in the water from bonding – and thus spoiling – to the other ingredients.
  • Sodium Benzoate: It’s a preservative that keeps bacteria away from your products, so it’s safe to be used for longer.
  • Phenoxyethanol: A preservative that fights a wide range of bacteria, keeping your products safe and effective for longer.

Texture

These pads are soaked in the liquid solution. Their texture is soft to the touch, so they don’t scratch skin when you pat the solution on. I appreciate how gentle they feel on my skin (if only the solution itself was that gentle! But I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that soon).

Fragrance

Here’s another problem I have with this exfoliant: the scent. It’s floral, subtle, and frankly quite forgettable. Yet, if you like your skincare products to smell nice, you’ll be pleased with it. Fragrance-free products smell like their individual ingredients and they’re not always pleasant. So I get it why Dr Dennis Gross decided to add a fragrance here.

But, this exfoliant already contains all the most powerful skincare ingredients you can think of, like Glycolic acid, retinol, and ascorbic acid. Plus, a few irritants you don’t need, like a menthol derivative and baking soda. All these ingredients have the potential to irritate sensitive skin. Fragrance is another very irritating ingredient for sensitive skin.

Do you see where I’m going with this? In an effort to throw everything at your skin to slow down premature aging, Dr Dennis Gross has created a formula with so many irritants, it’s a minefield for sensitive skin or anyone with a broken protective barrier! Less is more when it comes to skincare, Dennis!

How Do You Use Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel?

I personally recommend you DON’T. But if you want to use it anyway, at least use it the right way.

Dr Dennis Gross recommends you massage each step on your skin for about two minutes. That works for normal and resistant skin types. If yours is more sensitive, massage them for less. If your skin is red after the peel, you’ve massaged them on for too long.

Don’t use this peel more than 3 times a week! Exfoliating is NOT a daily job. Don’t trust those who tell you otherwise. And, as you get both exfoliation and retinol, you should not use other exfoliants or retinol products in your routine. Ever.

One more: apply this straight after cleansing. Both exfoliating acids and retinol may be applied as close to your skin as possible to work their magic.

Related: How Often Should You Exfoliate With AHAs/BHA?

dr dennis gross alpha beta extra strength daily peel 01

Packaging

I have mixed feelings about individual pads (each box contains 30). I like that each step is packaged in its own ratchet, which makes them so travel-friendly. If you’re travelling, you can just throw 3 or 4 (or however many you need) in your carry-on and be ready to go. What I don’t like is the environmental impact. Do we really need all the extra unnecessary packaging? Mmm…

Performance & Personal Opinion

Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel aren’t the gentlest of exfoliants. That Extra Strength in the name is there for a reason. Luckily, I didn’t experience any dryness, tingling or irritation. But then my skin is used to these ingredients.

If you’ve never used them before, your skin may react differently. If your skin is sensitive, please don’t go anywhere near these. Powerful ingredients like retinol coupled with drying stuff like alcohol can do some serious irritating damage to your delicate skin.

Everyone else, does this work? Yes…ish. My skin was a little brighter after using the peel. My pores looked tighter too and my skin was softer to the touch.

But, now that my skin’s on the dry side, I feel using it daily can make it feel a little tight and uncomfortable (that’s a sign of a damaged protective barrier). πŸ™

I don’t think these pads are totally useless. But there are better and gentler ways to get the same results. I’m all about gentle skincare. You won’t look good with irritated red cheeks!

How Does Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Compare To The Other Dr Dennis Gross Peels?

When a product because so popular, the brand will usually create different version for different skin types. So how does Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel compare to its offspring? Let’s find out:

  • Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($88.00): The main difference is the inclusion of 5 exfoliating acid instead of 7. It’s a little gentler than the Extra Strength and better for normal to combination skin. But it also has a lot of the problems of the Extra Strength too, so I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel ($88.00): It only has the 3 gentlest exfoliating acids (salicylic, magic, and lactic) and lots of soothing ingredients to reduce redness and irritation. This makes it a better option for most skin types, but it still has its fair share of irritants. *sighs*

What I Like About Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

  • The pads are soft to the touch.
  • Exfoliates well, leaves skin brighter and softer.
  • My pores looked smaller after the peel.
  • Travel-friendly.

What I DON’T Like About Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

  • Too many strong and irritating ingredients.
  • Contains fragrance.
  • May irritate sensitive skin (and other skin types, when used too often).
  • Packaging is not environmentally friendly.

Who Should Use This?

This peel is suitable only for resistant, mature skin that can tolerate all the most powerful skincare ingredients thrown together at it. Instead, I DON’T recommend it for:

  • Acne-prone skin: Acne is an inflammatory disease. Anything irritating could inflame it – this peel is loaded with irritants. Stay away.
  • Oily skin: You’re better off with a Salicylic Acid exfoliant that gives results without the risk of irritation.
  • Sensitive skin: Just no. Your skin can’t take all the irritants.
  • Very dry skin: Your protective barrier is damaged. All the irritants in here can only cause more trouble for your skin.

Does Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Live Up To Its Claims?

CLAIM TRUE?
A fast-acting, two-step daily treatment for clinical results at home. You can’t get the same results at home that you get at the doctor’s office (but you knew that already. πŸ˜‰ ).
Our strongest dose of 7 acids plus antioxidants and vitamins lift away dead skin along with excess oil & impurities, while improving uneven tone & texure. True.

Is Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel Cruelty-Free?

Yes. The brand doesn’t test on animals, doesn’t outsource this process to any third-parties, and doesn’t sell in countries where animal testing is required by law.

Price & Availability

$88.00/Β£77.00 at Cult Beauty and Sephora

Verdict: Should You Buy It?

Nope. I appreciate the brand wanted to make this exfoliant as powerful as possible, but there are just too many ingredients that could cause trouble for your skin, especially if it’s sensitive. With so many gentler and still very effective exfoliants on the market, there’s no need to subject your skin to this.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Treatment ($90.00): A powerful exfoliant with Glycolic Acid, Salicylic Acid, and Lactic Acid to exfoliate skin and pores – and it’s free or irritants! Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA ($37.00): It has Glycolic, Lactic, Salicylic, Malic, and Tartaric Acid to exfoliate skin, brighten complexion and treat acne. Plus soothing agents to reduce the irritating potential of exfoliation. Available at Cult Beauty, Paula’s Choice, Selfridges, and SpaceNK.

Step 1 Ingredients

Water, Alcohol Denat. (SD Alcohol 40-B), Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Menthone Glycerin Acetal, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Anthemis Nobilis (Chamomile) Flower Extract, Soy Isoflavones, Copper PCA, Zinc PCA, Lecithin, Disodium EDTA, Alcohol, Polysorbate 80, Fragrance (Parfum), Linalool, Benzyl Salicylate, Benzoic Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate.

Step Two Ingredients

Water, Sodium Bicarbonate, Resveratrol, Retinol, Ascorbic Acid, Ubiquinone, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Soy Isoflavones, Achillea Millefolium Extract , Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Raphanus Sativus (Radish) Root Extract, Copper PCA, Sodium PCA, Zinc PCA, Lecithin, Polysorbate 20, Polysorbate 80, Alcohol, BHT, Octoxynol-9, Simethicone, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol.