Finding the right skincare regimen for you is a lot like finding your ideal partner. There’s a lot of trial and error involved: Products might attract with their pretty packaging, only to have a dud on the inside. Or, you’ll discover that something works — and you love it! — for a long time, only to have its powers (or your interest in it) fizzle out over time. I’m no stranger to these experiences. But there’s one product that (not unlike a past fling!) I’ve returned to time and time again over the course of the past six years: the Dr. Dennis Gross® Alpha Beta® Universal Daily Peel ($17 for 5 treatments, or $150 for 60).
Let me be clear: for someone who gets to try different formulas for a living (and has hoarding tendencies), a six-year relationship with a product is quite a long one. But the reason I’ve stuck with the Dr. Gross peels is not only because they work well, but because they are so simple to use.
Like all chemical peels, the product is designed to exfoliate away dead, dull skin cells to promote cellular turnover. (You’re meant to use it on a freshly-washed face, but I admit that I regularly use it when wearing light makeup and still see results. But really, cleanse first.) However, unlike most peels on the market, it is a set of two small face wipes to use in tandem, rather than a traditional liquid solution or topical cream.
I chalk the Alpha Beta peels’ skill in sloughing away old cells up to these two steps. Just wipe one towelette across your clean face (and neck, chest, and hands if you like), wait two minutes, and then do the same with the second towelette. And yes, you have to use both of them. In step one of the Universal peel, the star ingredients include a mix of alpha-hydroxy acids, namely glycolic (sourced from sugar cane), malic (from apples), lactic (from milk), and citric (from citrus fruits, naturally). It also contains salicylic acid — a beta-hydroxy acid. (Get the name now?)
The second step is just as critical, because not only does it neutralize the acids of the first step (making it unnecessary to “remove” the peel by washing your face), but it also provides an extra boost in treatment. In fact, I consider it to be like a treatment serum. That’s because after you wipe down your face with step two, you don’t wash your face. Rather, you just apply your remaining skincare regimen on top.
To be more specific, the second step boasts a host of antioxidants, including ubiquinone, resveratrol, and green tea, as well as anti-aging powerhouse retinol. And despite this veritable cocktail of actives, I’ve never experienced any irritation from using this product — though I do make sure to use it at night to avoid any potential photosensitivity.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
Due to this running list of notable ingredients throughout both steps, it may not surprise you that in summer — when my skin needs less coddling — I simply rely on Alpha Beta peels and a lightweight moisturizer as my evening skincare routine. I like to think that this lets the actives go to work, while a boost in hydration helps nourish the fresh, newly-revealed cells. In colder months, I do slather on a few more layers of moisture, such as the SkinMedica HA5® Rejuvenating Hydrator ($142), to ensure my skin never feels stripped.
As for the results the Alpha Beta peels offer? Yes, I still have some skin concerns overall (largely congestion on my chin and nose). However — not to be overly confident — I have been getting regular compliments on my complexion’s clarity, luminosity, and overall appearance for the past six years from doctors and friends alike. I have no doubt that I have these two perfectly easy and lazy steps to thank.
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SkinMedica® is an Allergan-owned skincare line.