The New Dr. Dennis Gross Overnight Retinol Peel Gave Me Baby Soft, Glow-y Skin—Without Irritation

Photo: Getty Images/ David Espejo
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After dealing with adult acne for two years, I finally found a skin-care routine that doesn’t cause me to break out—a true miracle, IMHO. It includes using a gentle non-foaming cleanser, tons of hyaluronic acid, a water-based moisturizer, SPF (of course), and recently, the Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Overnight Texture Renewal Peel, ($78). It's the newest addition to my beauty regimen, and for good reason.

Derms have long touted the benefits of using retinol, including its ability to improve tone, texture, and pigmentation on a variety of skin types and conditions. “It works to minimize wrinkles by stimulating collagen in the superficial dermis,” board-certified dermatologist James Wang, MD, previously told W+G. “For acne, it helps to shrink the sebaceous glands, which help to decrease oil and sebum,” which is the cause of most breakouts.  But as transformative as the ingredient is, it sometimes can cause irritation and/or skin "purging" (aka, when excess oil and buried debris from your pores come to the surface as a result of increased cell turnover, which means...more zits). 

That said, I was a little nervous to try the peel for the first time. It includes not one, but two types of retinol (a proprietary Phyto Retinol Blend) to improve texture, fade dark spots, firm and hydrate your skin. But thankfully, the formula is extremely well-balanced, due to the high dose of ferulic acid (a plant-derived antioxidant that protects the skin from sun damage and counteracts irritation caused by retinol in this solution); and bakuchiol (a retinol alternative that locks in moisture). Rambutan is also added to the mix to enhance cell turnover and production. 

Alpha Beta Daily Peel vs. Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Peel

The peel is a huge step up from the brand's Alpha Beta Daily Peel. The daily peel works to remove dead skin and impurities on the surface of the skin, whereas the retinol peel exfoliates even deeper to improve its texture and color.

I was really excited to test the new Dr. Dennis Gross peel, since I was dealing with a pretty bad PMS-related breakout and wanted to see how my skin would react if I added in some of the vitamin A derivative. The hope was that the exfoliant would alleviate the inflammation and even out my skin tone. Tldr; I was really happy with the end result.

Testing the Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Peel

The peels are so super easy to apply since the solution is drenched onto each pad. All you have to do is rub it directly onto your face, and wait until the formula completely transfers from the peel to your skin. The entire process took about five minutes.

I didn't feel much during the application stage. The formula goes on pretty smoothly, and doesn't carry a strong odor. I also didn't experience any burning sensation despite the fact that I had two active zits on my face. There weren't any major changes to my skin immediately after, except for how smooth my skin felt. It was baby soft—seriously. I then applied a moisturizer to lock in my skin care before I went to bed. (The brand recommends using a serum or moisturizer after applying the peel.)

And the results were in come morning. I noticed some of the inflammation around my zits had subsided and there was a subtle glow to my complexion. All in all, it looked as if my skin got a nice little reset. It looked and felt a lot more hydrated, and evenly toned. I also didn't experience any irritation in the days that followed, which was a major relief for a first-time retinol user.

Keep in mind, this peel should be used only two to three times a week. Many derms also recommend using retinol less frequently so that your skin can warm up to it. For those with more eczema and more sensitive skin types, it's best to see a dermatologist before trying retinol. If you're pregnant (or think you might be pregnant), it's advised to avoid retinol completely.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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