Salicylic acid, niacinamide, and glycolic acid improve acne-prone skin in several ways at once
A little goes a long way
Soothes irritated skin with chamomile and aloe
Works on most skin types
Pump design makes it easy to dispense too much product
Doesn't work as well on cystic acne
Faint medical smell
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare DRx Blemish Solutions Acne Eliminating Gel
We put Dr. Dennis Gross' Acne Eliminating Gel to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.
Acne is always tricky, no matter its prominence or placement. And as a grooming expert and excessive product tester, I carry my own unique (if albeit less stressful) dilemma: I still get pimples. Shouldn’t I be immune to breakouts and blemishes, since I’m parading all of the solutions?
As an acne-prone person, I can vouch that my aggressive skincare regimen absolutely minimizes the problem. I use prescription retinol nightly, and deploy things like masks, exfoliating serums, topical Vitamin C, and night creams to keep my skin balanced, hydrated, clear, and toned.
And yet, I still get breakouts. They tend to happen for specific reasons—maybe I’m sleeping in a too-dry room, or I traveled and am reacting to some new foods or a disrupted regimen. I don’t typically read into it, because these incidents are far less frequent than before my grooming-pro days.
Recently, I flew to visit my long-distance boyfriend and, to my chagrin, I woke up with a new pimple or two... every single day for a week straight. I couldn’t place the problem. I had visited him plenty of times without issues. It was summer there, and humidity tends to be better for my skin. The long flight gave me no grief. I was eating way more eggs than usual: was it the eggs? It seems silly to think it was the eggs. But before I could arrive at a verdict, it stopped... and left about seven or eight red spots (of varying temperaments) in its wake.
Luckily, I had packed my trusty spot treatment in my carry-on: Dr. Dennis Gross' Acne Eliminating Gel. It’s powered by one of my favorite skincare ingredients, salicylic acid, which is masterful at calming pores, resurfacing healthy skin cells, and keeping skin clear. While I’m past the worst of it, I’m steadily working on the dark spots that the acne left behind. Luckily, the DDG acne gel helped mitigate the breakouts, preventing even bigger skin breaks, and is still helping to quickly scrub the dark spots from my skin. Keep reading for my honest review of the product.
Best for: Acne-prone skin. People with sensitive or dry skin should perform a spot test on a discreetly located patch of skin first.
Uses: Calming pimples, and reducing the dark spots they leave behind.
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid (2.0%).
Byrdie Clean?: Yes.
About the Brand: Dr. Dennis Gross prioritizes the scientific research that goes into each of his brand’s products, and wants them to have pharmaceutical-grade efficacy. All of his products are vegan, and free of cruelty, parabens, phthalates, and sulfates.
About My Skin: Oily to combination, acne-prone, and susceptible to sun/acne marks
Like many people with oilier skin types, I’m prone to a nice shiny film across my forehead by midday. I’d probably describe my skin more as combination, though (as opposed to oily through and through), since I tend to have drier cheeks and chin but a greasy forehead and nose.
Despite all the products I use to combat breakouts, I still get them from time to time based on fluctuations in my diet, hormones, environment, and the like. And once those momentary breakouts clear, they always take months to fully heal and disappear.
The Feel: A calming, cooling gel
There’s a coolness to Dr. Dennis Gross' Acne Eliminating Gel—perhaps due to the chamomile and aloe it contains—and it absorbs easily and quickly into freshly cleansed skin (even atop blemishes). It wears very light.
The Ingredients: A workhorse inside a tiny vessel
There are a lot of products working in your favor inside this 1 oz. tube. Of course, there’s the hero (and active) ingredient, salicylic acid, in a fairly light and gentle 2.0% concentration. It helps to unclog pores and buff away dead, discolored surface cells—aided by the resurfacing powers of glycolic acid, and the smoothing/toning/brightening capabilities of niacinamide. Retinol, in a low grade, works to smooth fine lines and prevent breakouts in the first place (though in a spot treatment, it’s more the former), while also speeding up the healing time of the blemish. Ferulic acid helps keep skin smooth by reducing the formation of dark spots and wrinkles.
Interactions/Sensitivity: Two notes of caution
While this spot treatment is only applied to small patches of skin (likely on your face), it’s best to test it on a small patch of skin elsewhere. Because of the active salicylic acid and other aggressive ingredients like glycolic acid and retinol, it could cause adverse reactions on sensitive skin.
In my own experience (I don’t have sensitive skin), I noticed Dr. Dennis Gross' Acne Eliminating Gel was most reddening after I worked out (and sweated profusely), then showered. The sweat, despite being cleansed away, left my face more susceptible to the gel’s powers. Similarly, if I applied it in tandem with my bedtime tretinoin prescription, I also experienced some slight irritation—though it was always fine by morning.
The Results: Less-damaging acne, and/or faster-healing wounds
I can’t decide which of the two benefits this gel is doing better: it’s either making my acne far less potent by minimizing the blow-up and expediting shrinkage (and in turn, minimizing marks left behind), or it’s healing the blemish faster altogether, reducing the recovery time from a few months to a few weeks. Either way, after a couple weeks of twice-daily application, I’m thrilled to not be staring at these post-inflammatory spots on my face well into spring.
I had about eight to nine pimples that popped up in that week in early January. And by early February, just a couple dark spots remained—and barely. That's a victory for me: I'd otherwise be looking at these until April, and they would especially stand out against my winter skin.
The Value: A fair price
While $40 for a single ounce of product seems expensive, it all comes down to the product itself. With this one, you’re spritzing out a tiny glob twice a day (per blemish), so each tube can last a long time. If it were $40 for a 1-oz. night cream or daytime moisturizer, it would be another story. But the value here checks out.
Similar Products: You've got options
The Body Shop Tea Tree Targeted Gel: Tea tree oil is known for its antimicrobial abilities (it helps reduce bacterial breakouts), and for being a much gentler alternative to salicylic acid. The Body Shop's spot treatment ($10) is an easy pick-up—though I suggest getting it in addition to a more powerful, proactive salicylic acid treatment.
ZitSticka Killa Kit: If you're trying to combat cystic acne, ZitSticka's patches ($29 for 8) are what I swear by most. They combine salicylic acid with acne-fighting peptides, plus niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. Leave this clear patch on overnight at the first sign of a firm, painful bump, and it’ll prevent that sucker from growing bigger and badder—and from leaving a dark mark in the first place. If it’s too late for that, then try the brand’s Hyperfade patches, which amp up the niacinamide and hyaluronic acid for a two-hour spot treatment.
If you have acne-prone skin, it really helps to have a spot treatment of some kind, ready to deploy at first signs of a blemish. Dr. Dennis Gross' Acne Eliminating Gel is great for the standard-fare pimples and their darkened remains, and cystic acne might benefit more from an acne patch (to prevent budding deep-seated blemishes from turning into a volcano). Together, these will keep you armed against pimples that manage to break past your otherwise proactive regimen, and to help your skin rebound quickly, so they’re soon an afterthought.
- Product Name DRx Blemish Solutions Acne Eliminating Gel
- Product Brand Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare
- Price $40
- Weight 1 oz.
- Full Ingredient List Active Ingredient: Salicylic Acid 2.0%. Inactive Ingredients: Water/Aqua/Eau,Alcohol Denat. (SD Alcohol 40-B), Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, PVM/MA Decadiene Crosspolymer, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Hydroxide, Carnitine, Vitex Agnus-Castus Extract, Glutathione, Bisabolol, Niacinamide, Phytic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Ferulic Acid, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Retinol, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Farnesol, Sodium Pantothenate, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Phospholipids, Tocopheryl Acetate, Saccharide Isomerate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Soy Isoflavones, Zinc PCA, Ethoxydiglycol, Octoxynol-9, Disodium EDTA, Potassium Gluconate, Citric Acid, Pentasodium Pentetate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.