Peel Back Time
Dr. Dennis Gross’s Skin-Changing Facial Peel Now Available in Professional Strength
Here’s a beauty-blog writer’s secret: When discussing a new product, usually we take as our working assumption that you (the reader) don’t know anything about what we’re talking about. Yes, you may know a lot about what we’re talking about, but to cover our bases for any readers who are unfamiliar, we play it safe and start from scratch to explain what the item is and why it’s so great (if it is).
Today, though, it feels a little tone deaf to start from scratch, because the product—Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peels—is a legitimate skin-care “cult favorite,” with a huge number of followers. Reviews for Alpha Beta at-home peels number in the thousands—often over-the-top enthusiastic, sometimes even poignant (especially when describing how the peels cleared up severe cases of acne), and many expressing a humorously extreme, you’re-going-to-have-to-take-these-from-my-cold-dead-hands theme: I’m aware the peels are pricey but I refuse to stop using them.
What’s also notable about the peels, even compared with other “cult” skincare products, is that users are from many different age groups (literal 12-year-olds to 70+) and they’re enthusiastic for completely different reasons: dramatic healing of cystic acne; brightening of age and sun-damage spots; shrinkage of large pores; and smoothing out of lines and wrinkles. It’s almost like they’re discussing different products.
“That actually makes sense,” says Ann Balaguera, The Red Door’s National Director of Esthetics. Balaguera was responsible for bringing a professional-grade version of Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal peel to Red Door, where clients can now incorporate it into any facial. She says that the peel has this chameleon-like, improves-everything quality because it contains two types of five different acids, each of which works on the skin differently. “Some of the acids, such as glycolic acid, are alpha-hydroxy acids, which are water loving,” says Balaguera. “They encourage the skin to retain moisture. Others are beta hydroxy, which are antiseptic. They close pores and heal acne.”
A sampler of acids—let alone the word “peel”—might sound scary, especially for anyone with sensitive skin or those who have experienced harsh chemical peels, but, Balaguera says, Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peels are super effective with a very low chance of irritation. More than that, the peels perform essential functions for the skin, which, we learned, are crucial for people hoping to improve the way aging skin looks and feels.
Why Peels Are Positive for the Skin (and Don’t Need to Cause Redness)
“There’s no downtime with the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peel,” says Balaguera, speaking of the professional-strength peel available in Red Door facials. “You can receive the peel today and go right to work with those great results—glowy.” Skin is moisturized, not dry or stripped.
But if the peel is so delicate, how does it work?
“The esthetician always has full control,” says Balaguera. “It’s a very smart technology. When you think of it—'Oh wow, five acids—that’s insane.’ But you’re able to use those acids because you have full control. It delivers the active ingredients without a harsh effect,” adds Balaguera, who’s careful to distance the Alpha Beta peels from other chemical peels that cause skin to “scream” red with inflammation.
During the treatment, a Red Door esthetician first cleans the skin twice, so the peel solution has direct contact with the skin (not lingering oils or makeup) and then applies the peel. When she does, the acids in the solution cause the pH of the skin to suddenly drop. The esthetician monitors the skin and asks for feedback from the guest about what the peel feels like. (Often when the pH plunges, you feel a tingling sensation.) When the esthetician determines that the peel has worked, she applies a neutralizing solution, and then another, which quickly raise the skin’s pH back up to the everyday level.
Younger-Looking Skin: Why the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel Reduces Signs of Aging
By plunging the pH of the skin and rapidly bringing it back up, the peel solution helps reduce signs of aging in separate ways. For one thing, the sudden change in pH tells the skin to wake up, Balaguera says—it’s a shock to the system that signals the skin to produce more collagen and elastin. Of course, as a peel, the solution also literally peels, removing the surface layer of dead skin. (With the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peel, most people won’t actually see peeling; it’s occurring on a microscopic level. In rare cases, however, if you have a lot of dead-cell buildup that needs sloughing off, you may see some peeling the next day, even though skin remains moisturized.) This exfoliation encourages skin to produce new skin cells, creating a more rapid cycle of turnover, rather than stagnant (wrinkled) skin.
Remove the Barrier That Prevents Other Anti-aging Products from Working
When I went to The Red Door a few weeks ago for another project, an older woman came up to me in the retail area and pointed to a shelf containing Dr. Dennis Gross’s at-home Alpha Beta Daily Peel pads. She was a retired Red Door esthetician, speaking off the cuff now, just there as a customer. “Do that peel first,” she told me, noticing the (very) dry skin on the back of my hands. “If you don’t, moisturizers won’t work.”
Balaguera echoes the same idea when speaking about the how the peel helps aging skin: “Basically, if you have dead-cell buildup, if you have this layer [on top of live skin cells], all the wonderful products you’re using—the amazing serum or moisturizer—they’re not getting in.” But after the peel exposes your live skin cells, she explains, your anti-aging products of choice “will be absorbed into the skin and stay there—they won’t evaporate.”
During the Red Door facial, estheticians focus on applying hydrating products for the skin to drink up after the peel: first a cooling and soothing mask and then a serum and moisturizer (selecting each based on the guest’s skin type and needs). A sunscreen is applied last for protection.
What Results to Expect from Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peels
Before she officially brought the professional-grade Alpha Beta peel to Red Door, Balaguera says, she sent samples to estheticians that she was close with at different Red Door locations and asked them if they’d like to try the peel at home and send in candid feedback.
When the reports came back, “the words that were so prominent were ‘glowy,’ ‘radiant,’ ‘smooth texture,’” Balaguera says. “And you can feel it, too—plump. There are so many benefits that you get right away. Most people will feel a tight feel—a facelift effect—but it’s not from dryness. It’s firmness.”
Why Follow-up at Home Matters
Balaguera recommends that for most guests, a professional-grade Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peel every four to six weeks is “the perfect timing,” but she says that regular use of Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily peel pads at home is also crucial for anti-aging effects—likening it to going to the dentist for a cleaning but still needing to brush your teeth every day. While the peel that’s administered in the spa is powerful, it’s important to frequently prod the skin to stay in motion, sloughing off dead skin cells and sending collagen and elastin to the surface so skin stays glowy (and plump).
The professional-strength Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Peel can be used in Red Door facials of any length. It’s offered as an enhancement ($75) to the 25-minute Mini facial ($75) and 50-minute Essential facial ($150) but comes included in the 80-minute Escape ($240). (In the Escape, guests seeking exfoliation can choose between either the Dr. Dennis Gross peel or microdermabrasion.)
As preparation for your peel, avoid tanning or prolonged sun exposure the day before; male guests should avoid shaving 4 hours before the treatment. After your peel, Balaguera recommends avoiding wearing heavy makeup for 24 hours (you probably won’t feel you need it, anyway) and says that applying an SPF 30-50 sunscreen in the days following your peel is a must.
For personal use, try the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, a blend of five acid types, or the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel, a blend of seven acids (both $88 for 30 treatments, available for sale at Red Door locations). Each two-step treatment includes a peel solution and a neutralizing solution infused in soft, fabric-like pads.
The Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta peel used in Red Door facials is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women. Speak with your doctor if you have concerns before choosing any spa treatment or retail product.