If you, like me, are fond of exfoliation and its many benefits, then you have more than likely, at one point or another, thrown caution to the wind and slapped layers of AHAs, BHAs, retinol – what have you – on your face. The result is never pleasant. We spoke with Dr. Dennis Gross, NYC-based dermatologist and founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, about his latest retinol-based peel, the benefits of ferulic acid, and the right way to use more than one active skincare ingredient at a time – because it can be done. 

What is different about the retinol products today verses the retinol products of 30 years ago? Thirty years ago, retinol was only available by prescription and was very harsh. It was used primarily for acne. As more learned about the chemistry of the ingredient, over the counter Retinol was invented. Retinoic Acid is still available by prescription and can be drying and irritating depending on skin type. Retinol, like Retinoic Acid is also derived from Vitamin A, but only Retinol goes on the skin inactive and is then activated once inside the skin. This unique property makes a tremendous difference helping Retinol be more gentle on the skin.

How does the addition of ferulic acid work to minimize the redness and peeling people usually report from retinol use? Having the right formulation of ingredients will maximize the effectiveness of any product. Ferulic Acid is a plant-based antioxidant that enhances properties of other vitamins (like Vitamin A!) for healthy skin and supplies sun damage protection. By adding Ferulic Acid to retinol, I have created a unique delivery system that gives a new dimension of benefits to retinol. There is a duality to this ingredient: as an antioxidant, it’s fighting free radicals that cause inflammation and break collagen down while protecting the collagen that you have. Ferulic acid is also making retinol more gentle and more tolerable because it negates effects of inflammation or redness that some might experience with use of retinol on its own. Together, Ferulic Acid and retinol are an incredible combination.

How does the type of exfoliation from the Retinol Peel differ from the exfoliation from your Alpha Beta Peel? The new Ferulic Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Peel ($110, at sephora.ca) is our brand new way to peel. It’s working in a completely different way than our iconic Alpha Beta peels and the new Wrinkle Recovery Peel offers a new, enhanced delivery of retinol. The delivery method and concentration allows retinol to act in two ways: as a peel and an anti-ager. My Alpha Beta Daily Peels are meant to be used every day as they gently detach dead skin and debris from the surface level of the skin. This method of exfoliation is working from the top layer of the skin down. The new Wrinkle Recovery Peel is a completely different method of exfoliation and designed to be pulsed into your routine 2-3 times a week in the evening for a heavy boost of collagen and cell turnover that’s working from the bottom layer of the epidermis up. Conventional peeling works synergistically with retinol to penetrate more effectively.

Can you use the two peels together? Both the Alpha Beta and Ferulic Retinol Peel can be used together – on the same day even (morning and night). They are operating by different methods to provide incremental results without irritation. It’s all about pulsing these peels into your weekly routine. In a similar fashion of switching up how you might exercise and work out your muscles, you also want to switch up what and how you’re delivering actives and powerful ingredients to your skin. You can continue to use your Alpha Beta Daily Peel on a daily basis – there is no “overdoing it” – these two peels are working in completely different mechanisms to exfoliate and treat signs of aging in a powerfully gentle way. Alpha Beta is working from the top down to exfoliate, while Wrinkle Recovery Peel is working from the bottom up. The system of cell migration is generated from two different directions so there is no conflicting reaction or irritation. There is a gentleness built into both formulations: in step two of Alpha Beta, the acids are neutralized, and in the retinol peel, the ferulic acid makes retinol gentle. The benefit of using both is simple: both stimulate collagen by increasing cell turnover in the epidermis – anytime you do this, you boost collagen production which is the key to anti-aging.

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