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This celebrity dermatologist beloved by Emily Ratajkowski, Zoë Kravitz and Selena Gomez shares his tips on how to prevent and treat hyperpigmentation

"My history in skin cancer research and study in cell biology is what drives my innovation," says board-certified dermatologist and dermatological surgeon, Dr Dennis Gross. "When I first started out as a skin cancer researcher, I was completely focused on research in the lab – I didn’t have a practice or see patients. I knew I wanted to be more hands on and actually see and help people, so I opened my dermatology practice. I started seeing patients regularly and began to notice the lack of efficacious skincare. There were a lot of products on the market, but they were mostly moisturisers and didn’t do anything for skin beyond hydration. The market was really lacking clinical skincare with active ingredients."

Determined to fill that void, he founded an eponymous skincare line alongside his wife, Carrie Gross in 2002. In the last two decades, his skincare products have achieved global popularity for its impressive efficacy. "To this day, Carrie and I are still inspired by my patients and using their feedback to create at-home skin health solutions," he adds. 

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Tatler Asia
Above Dr Dennis Gross

In this e-mail interview with Tatler, the highly respected dermatologist shares his tips on how to prevent and treat hyperpigmentation.

"Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that is a response to sun exposure or injury of the skin. It can be triggered by hormones like melasma, environmental aggressors like sun exposure or pollution and skin injuries like eczema or acne," he says. 

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Is it true that Asian skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation? Does the heat and humidity of our climate play a part in this?

Darker skin tones in general are more prone to hyperpigmentation. Darker skin tones have more melanin (the natural skin pigment that determines skin tone). Because darker skin tones are already producing more melanin, when there is an over-production of melanin as a result of sun exposure or skin injury, they are more likely to develop hyperpigmentation or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Warmer climates generally means there is greater sun exposure and UVA/UVB intensity. Remember: the sun is the number one cause of hyperpigmentation!

See also: 9 Lightweight Sunscreens For Everyday Skin Protection

What is the best way to prevent hyperpigmentation?

Prevention is key because hyperpigmentation is notoriously difficult to treat.The most important factor is always going to be wearing your SPF. You do not need to reach the point of redness in order for there to have been damage done. 

Other tips:

  • Do not pick at pimples or scars, this can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
  • Do not use any irritating products if your skin is sensitive – this can also lead to inflammation and hyperpigmentation.

In addition to that, you want to be sure that you are incorporating a gentle chemical exfoliation into your daily skincare routine, like my Alpha Beta Daily Peels. My peels are a gentle chemical exfoliant that removes the top layer of dead, dull skin, helps to speed up cellular turnover and get rid of dark spots to reveal the vibrant skin underneath.

But chemical peels are associated with drying out the skin, redness, irritation and increased sensitivity. What makes Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare’s at-home peels safe for everyday use? 

I created the Professional Alpha Beta Peel for patients at my practice after seeing the damage harsh, single acid peels were causing. I don’t believe in injuring the skin to “improve” it. You wouldn’t injure your lungs to breathe better—why would you do that to your skin?

The Professional Alpha Beta Peel was different in that I created it with a cocktail of acids at lower concentrations which add up to a meaningful dose of alpha and beta hydroxy acids. They work on different layers of the skin to target multiple concerns more effectively for a beautiful glow—all without downtime or irritation. Seeing the demand for the professional peel at my practice, Carrie knew that there was potential to create an at-home version so everyone could achieve the same professional results from the comfort of their homes. 

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Alpha Beta Daily Peel is a two-step treatment. Daily usage will reveal even tone, texture and prevent breakouts. Step one delivers powerful anti-aging ingredients to firm fine lines and wrinkles, texture and dark spots, among other benefits. Step two is the neutraliser plus anti-aging ingredients, which penetrates deeper into the skin because of the exfoliation in step one.

Having two steps is crucial when it comes to peels. All professional peels always have two steps. The second neutralising step shuts off the acids in step one to avoid any irritation, so you do not need to worry about acids being leftover on the face and coming into contact with the sun or other ingredients in your other products which could cause irritation. It lifts excess oil, impurities and dead skin. 

We launched the Alpha Beta Daily Peels over 20 years ago and it is still our number one product. Today, my patients have 3 options based on their skin needs—Alpha Beta Ultra Gentle Daily Peel, Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel, and Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel

What are the benefits of LED light therapy? How does the DRX Spectralite FaceWare Pro Mask help with this skin issue?

There are amazing benefits to LED light therapy for hyperpigmentation, as well as other skin concerns such as oil production and breakouts. Red LED stimulates collagen production, diminishes hyperpigmentation and reduces inflammation while blue LED kills acne-causing bacteria. LED is similar to topical ingredients in that your cells can become saturated–meaning there is a limit to how much LED your cells can absorb and put to use. The FaceWare Pro is specifically designed so that the 162 lights lay flush to the face, giving you the maximum benefits in 3 minutes.

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When it comes to skincare, what are the most common mistakes that people make?

There is this common misconception that the higher percentage of acids a product has, the better the results. Not only is this simply not true, but it can actually be harmful for skin. Another mistake I see my patients make is waiting until they are 30 years old or older to start implementing an anti-aging skincare routine. When we are young, skin is vibrant and produces more collagen than when we are older. Keeping cells revved up and stimulated is preferable to letting the cell machinery run down and then trying to revive it later.

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What is the ideal Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare routine for people living in tropical climates?

High humid environments can be great for those with dry skin, but for those with oily/combination skin it can contribute to an overproduction of oil, which leads to more congestion and breakouts. An average tropical skin care routine typically consists of a cleanser, exfoliation peel, antioxidant serum, oil-free moisturiser and sunscreen. It is more important to have a routine you can stick to every day and night rather than trying a bunch of different products every so often. I created the products below so those with oily/combination skin can use products that help to regulate their oil production and balancing the skin:

  • Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel: Every routine has to start with a clean canvas. I developed this cleansing gel to help remove impurities, wash away bacteria, and decongest pores without compromising the skin’s moisture barrier.
  • Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel: Incorporating a daily, chemical exfoliator will help cellular turnover, prevent clogged pores and reveal the radiant, glowing skin underneath.
  • Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting & Refining Serum: This serum penetrates deep into the skin to dissolve waxy buildup within the pore walls and flushes away impurities.
  • Hyaluronic Marine Oil-Free Moisture Cushion combines antioxidants, aloe, hyaluronic acid and marine algae to soothe, hydrate and balance the skin without clogging pores.
  • All-Physical Lightweight Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30: Sunscreens are known to clog pores, especially for oily skin in humid weather, so its always important to go for oil-free formulations. Look for physical (sometimes referred to as mineral) sunscreens which won’t be absorbed into the bloodstream, but rather sit on the skin and deflect UVA/UVB rays.

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At night, swap your serum for one that targets breakouts and signs of ageing, such as the Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Overnight Serum and Professional Grade IPL Dark Spot Concentrated Serum.

My upcoming product, Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum, is great for oily, acne-prone complexions looking to treat enlarged pores, blemishes and bumpy skin texture. It addresses two physiological events the skin undergoes at night: cellular repair and water loss through evaporation. This phyto-retinol blend helps to facilitate cell turnover while bakuchiol supports our moisture barrier by reducing any irritating effects of retinol. 

  • ImagesCourtesy of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare