This fragrance-free serum is labeled "professional strength" but that's just a marketing term, not an established, agreed-upon standard that's subject to regulation. In essence, any skin-care product can be labeled "professional strength" and not have to prove what makes it so or overcome any hurdles to make the claim. Bottom line: the claim doesn't tell you anything reliable about what you're about to buy.
As it turns out, this is a very good, water-based serum that contains an intriguing blend of lightening and anti-aging ingredients. Somewhat medicinal in appearance and a bit inelegant in feel, this serum's mixes antioxidant protection with a bevy of ingredients known to lighten dark spots and uneven skin tone. Some of those ingredients have more research supporting their use, but the combination is intriguing and potentially effective.
The chief antioxidant is ferulic acid, and it's excellent for helping to boost skin's ability to defend itself from environmental damage (you still need sunscreen, though). This also contains retinol, though not in an amount that gives this serum the edge over lots of others. That’s a good thing, too: It's a mistaken notion that more retinol equals better results. With retinol, slow and steady wins the race to beautiful skin!
Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution also contains a mix of AHA ingredients plus the BHA salicylic acid but the formula's pH is above 4 (it's close to 4.7) which means these ingredients won't function as exfoliants, not to mention the combined amounts of them likely remain below what research has shown to be effective amounts.
In the end, this serum is best for all skin types concerned with dark spots and an uneven skin tone. It's among several excellent options, yet it's on the higher side of the price scale. As much as we admire this formula, you can find equally good options for less money (and many of these feel better on skin than this somewhat tacky serum does).
Note: This serum is dispensed via a dropper applicator. Although not the ideal method to dispense a serum that contains light- and air-sensitive ingredients, sometimes this type of packaging is necessary due to formulary requirements. When that’s the case, the goal is to keep the bottle opening as small as possible, the bottle should be opaque or specially coated to protect the contents from light, and you should use the serum up within three months of opening.
Introducing the latest breakthrough in Retinol research straight from the medical clinic of Dr. Dennis Gross. This professional strength solution is formulated with naturally derived actives that combat all types of uneven skin tone and dull skin.
Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Ferulic Acid, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Rhizome/Root, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Arbutin, Morus Alba Leaf Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Retinol, Hexylreorcinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Quercetin Caprylate, Disodium Lauriminodipropiante Tocopheryl Phosphates, Ubiquinone, Phospholipids, PVM/MA Decadience Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, Urea, Potassium Hydroxide, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol
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.