Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Peel extra strength formula is a two-step daily face peel. It blends alpha and beta hydroxy acids and claims to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, uneven skin texture and enlarged pores while helping skin look more radiant. Thirty step one and two pads are wrapped in individual packets. This is for normal, breakout prone, combination, oily and less sensitive skin types.
Step One packets:
Ingredients: Water, Alcohol Denat., Glycolic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Salicylic Acid, Polysorbate 20, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Malic Acid, Citric Acid, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Methyl Lactate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Soy Isoflavones, Copper PCA, Zinc PCA, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance (Parfum), Sodium Benzoate.
The second ingredient is denatured alcohol. There is conflict in the literature, but this type of alcohol in skincare can be drying, cytotoxic, cause free radical damage even at low levels and may lead to apoptosis (cell death), though is dose- and time-dependent. This contains glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, malic acid and citric acid. These are alpha hydroxy acids (water soluble) that help remove dead skin cells, treat acne and photo damage and smooth and firm skin. AHAs can be irritating to the skin. This peel also has salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid (oil soluble) that penetrates deeper layers of the skin to exfoliate dead skin cells and oil buildup. Salicylic acid is an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, so is helpful in treating acne, blackheads and blemishes. This contains green tea and chamomile extracts and achillea millefolium extract (yarrow leaf) is used to speed wound healing and calm inflamed skin. Soy isoflavones can boost collagen and elastin. Copper PCA modulates the amount of oil on the skin and is involved in the synthesis of elastin. Zinc PCA reduces sebum on the skin and controls acne and is also considered moisturizing. This contains fragrance.
Step Two packets:
Ingredients: Water (aqua), Sodium Bicarbonate, Resveratrol, Retinol, Ascorbic Acid, Ubiquinone, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Soy Isoflavones, Achillea Millefolium Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Copper PCA, Sodium PCA, Zinc PCA, Octoxynol-9, Simethicone, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Phenoxyethanol.
The second ingredient is sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to neutralize the acids in step one. Baking soda can be irritating to the skin due to the alkalinity. Resveratrol and ubiquinone are antioxidants. Ascorbic acid and ascorbyl palmitate are forms of vitamin C. Retinol and retinyl palmitate are forms of vitamin A. Retinol is vitamin A in its whole form and is broken down into retinoic acid (Retin-A or tretinoin). It is gentler than retinoic acid as it is weaker. Retinoic acid is only available by prescription. Retinol promotes cell turnover in the skin, stimulates collagen and elastin, helping and preventing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and because of the cell turnover, new healthy skin is brought to the surface, healing old acne scars. Retinyl palmitate is the ester of retinol combined with palmitic acid, not considered to be the same as retinol, but is converted to retinol. Retinyl palmitate is considered to be more gentle than retinol. I will also mention that there is a concern that Retin-A can actually speed up the signs of aging because cells will reach the Hayflick limit faster. The Hayflick limit is the number of times a cell can divide before it dies (52 times). As in step one, step two contains soy isoflavones, green tea extract, yarrow leaf, zinc and copper. Sodium PCA can absorb moisture from the air. The preservative is phenoxyethanol. According to the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, in high concentrations it can be everything from an allergen, skin irritant, damaging to the brain and nervous system and a carcinogen. The CIR Expert Review Panel confirmed that phenoxyethanol is “safe as a cosmetic ingredient in the present practices of use and concentration.” In skincare this is generally used at 0.5-1% concentration.
I have oily skin. My skin has been somewhat less oily than usual as the weather has been colder. My skin is pretty resilient and isn’t easily irritated. I would most like to get rid of the blackheads on my nose and diminish the pores on my nose and cheeks. I used this product for 30 days in a row. After cleansing and drying the skin, I used the step one pad in small circular motions for about 2 minutes (until the pad was relatively dry), waited a couple minutes, then applied step two the same way. I didn’t follow this with anything until the last few days when I used a facial oil. Instructions say not to apply anything else with alcohol after using this. The fragrance is okay, maybe somewhat citrusy, though not in a natural way. I found the pads, both step one and step two, to sting and my skin became a bit rosy. The stinging lasted about a week as my skin got used to the product. After four or five days my skin got quite oily. About an hour after washing my face in the morning my skin got shiny and oily which usually happens in the summer. Sometimes if oily skin gets dry, it can produce more oil to compensate. I think this is what was happening to my skin. It was also around the 5-day mark that my skin started breaking out in places it doesn’t usually break out; my forehead, between and in my eyebrows, my chin. I thought my skin could be reacting to the new product, or maybe the breakouts could be due to a purging effect of the BHA. I can’t be certain. My skin isn’t new to AHAs, BHAs or retinol. The breakouts improved somewhat over time, but still occurred. Despite the extra oil on my skin in the beginning, my skin became quite dry. There was a bit of peeling on my nose, but overall my skin just felt dry and unbalanced. I used a facial oil for the last few evenings to help with this. Once the product was gone, I used the Pink Clay Mega Moisture Mask from Herbivore Botanicals to moisturize and rebalance my skin.
After 30 days of use, I actually wasn’t impressed by the results. My skin was smoother and brighter and some fine lines were reduced on my forehead. Perhaps pore size seemed a bit reduced on my cheeks beside my nose (hard to tell as the lighting is different) I think becuase my skin seemed really clean, but I didn’t see a difference in breakouts, scarring, blackheads or hyperpigmentation. I was quite surprised by the lack of results in the blackheads, especially after reading many positive reviews myself before purchasing the product.
This product is convenient to use and the actives stay fresh in individual packets, but for the results I got, the denatured alcohol as an ingredient and the expense of this product I wouldn’t purchase again. I actually got similar results from the Wild Berry Exfoliating Peel from Michael Todd that costs a lot less.
You can cut the Alpha Beta Peel pads in half and store in an airtight bag or container to prolong use. You may want to start out using this product once every few days and work your way up to every day. Even though the directions say this can be used in the morning or evening, I would recommend using in the evening, as the AHAs, BHAs and retinols make skin more photosensitive. Be sure to use sunscreen when using this product.