The first ingredient in this serum is squalane, an emollient that may be synthetic or derived from olives (or, in some cases, from sharks but that's typically not the case with cosmetics). Squalane is a very good emollient for dry skin, but the company claims this serum immediately minimizes the appearance of pores, which isn't possible with squalane so front-and-center.
That said, Active Vitamin D Serum-Oil is an impressive but ultimately flawed serum for those with dry to very dry skin. It contains antioxidants, cell-communicating retinol, and skin-repairing sodium hyaluronate. The tiny amount of arbutin is unlikely to improve dark spots to a noticeable degree and we're a bit leery of the "essential oil blend" (which is used as fragrance) because ideally, you should know what those fragrant oils are!
We persisted and, in time, the company let us know which fragrant "essential" oils were in this serum by sending us a more complete ingredient list than what you'll find on their website. As it turns out, all of the fragrant oils this contains have their share of problems for skin, hence this otherwise excellent serum's poor rating.
What about the vitamin D? Although there is far less research concerning topical application vs. oral consumption (think supplements or vitamin D-enriched foods) there is some information indicating that topical application of ergocalciferol (vitamin D2, the form of vitamin D this serum contains) can help protect skin from sun damage. That's great, but this benefit isn't unique to vitamin D. New reports have been focusing on this vitamin, but just because it's a media darling doesn't mean it's a skin care must-have or preferred to lots of other ingredients. It's just one more option to consider (Source: Photodermatology, Photoimmunology, and Photomedicine, October 2004, pages 215-223). If anything, topical vitamin D appears to have a positive role when topically applied to psoriasis lesions, but that's different from healthy, intact skin showing signs of wrinkles or sagging.
This serum-oil is a concentrated skincare treatment. Packed with Vitamin D and other reparative antioxidants and botanicals, it helps improve the appearance of skin elasticity, hydration and minimizes the appearance of pores—all immediately visible upon application.
Squalane, Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D), Tocopheryl Acetate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Retinol, Arbutin, Ferulic Acid, Ubiquinone, Sodium Hyaluronate, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Emblica Officinalis Fruit Powder, Linoleic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Lactic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Biotin, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Tribehenin, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Silica, Bentonite, Corn Starch Modified, Sorbitan Isostearate, Cyclodextrin, Phytic Acid
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.