This daily facial treatment is pricey, but it’s the only thing that’s helped to prevent and clear up my cystic acne and uneven skin

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Dr. Dennis Gross

As a teen, I really hoped adulthood would be better to my dry, sensitive, acne-prone skin. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been too kind.

Even at 27, I still deal with bouts of cystic hormonal acne – the painful kind that sits deep under the skin but never really comes to a head. I also have rosacea (albeit pretty minor), which causes redness, roughness, and all-around uneven skin, and a sensitivity to a lot of products. It’s not a great combination.

Needless to say, when I find something that works to clear up my acne and my redness and my roughness and my unevenness all at once, I cling to it for dear life. Even if it costs me an arm and a leg.

Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha Beta Peel is the only product I’ve found that can do all of those things. It is exorbitantly expensive at $88 per package of 30 treatments, but boy is it worth the money.


Dr. Dennis Gross

Though its packaging would have you believe it’s simply an anti-aging treatment, tightening up fine lines and wrinkles is just one of the things these peels are effective at. They also drastically reduce unevenness in texture and tone, clear up and prevent acne with regular use, and minimize pores. I now use mine daily (followed by a lot of sunscreen), and I’ve noticed a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of my breakouts, redness, unevenness, and dryness.

Here’s why they work:

The peels contain both alpha and beta hydroxy acids which gently exfoliate the skin and, according to Dr. Dennis Gross, “weaken the connection between dead skin cells.” This helps to accelerate the shedding process and remove bacteria and buildup, keeping dead skin cells from getting trapped in your pores (which is the main cause of acne).

They also have potent ingredients like retinol, which has been proved to increase collagen production and skin cell turnover, and resveratrol, which essentially prevents free radicals from damaging the skin.


Dr. Dennis Gross

Here’s how to use them:

The Alpha Beta Peel comes in treatment packets that contain two pre-soaked cotton towelettes. When it comes to the extra-strength kind, the first packet is marked “Exfolliate and Smooth” and the other is called the “Anti-Aging Neutralizer.”

You’ll need to apply them on dry, clean skin, starting with the Exfolliate and Smooth towelette. The instructions say to swipe it all over your face until the cloth is pretty much dry. This one is more intense and may leave your skin looking red at first, but the next layer will help calm it down.

Once you’ve finished the first towelette, let it soak in and dry for a few minutes before opening the second one. Then repeat with the Anti-Aging Neutralizer until it’s essentially dry. Make sure to wear sunscreen during the day even if you do the treatment at night, since the hydroxy acids can make your skin more prone to sunburns.

If you want to see the full benefits of the treatment, you should use one of these pretty much every day. I used to go long periods of time between use, only taking them out when my skin was experiencing a bout of hormonal acne – mostly because they’re so costly that I was hesitant to use them up too quickly. But I’ve since realized that long-term use is key to not just treating but preventing breakouts over time.


Dr. Dennis Gross

Deciding which type to buy:

The peel comes in three versions – extra-strength, original, and ultra-gentle. I use the extra-strength kind, but if your skin is particularly sensitive, I recommend at least starting with ultra-gentle and working your way up.

Honestly, the first time I used the extra-strength version, my skin turned bright red and felt hot to the touch – so keep in mind that it may take some getting used to if you go for a heavy-duty peel. As recommended on the box, I started out slow with two treatments a week until my sensitive skin was finally acclimated to regular use.

Overall, this is my most sworn-by product for dealing with acne and redness. It’s expensive, yes, but if you’re going to spend good money on skin care, it might as well be on something that actually works.

Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha Beta Peel 30-pack, available on Amazon, $86.95

Also available at Sephora (35 for $88) or Nordstrom (60 plus a liquid peel for $130).