Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum Review

Reviews, Skin Care

dennis-gross-eye-treatmentWhile browsing through the online Sephora catalog (something that I do quite often; as somewhat of a skin care pundit, I have to keep up with new releases), I happened upon this eye serum. Usually, I ignore anything labeled as an “eye” product. However, I have to admit that the ferulic  acid in the title caught my attention just long enough for me to scan through the ingredients. And while I agree that by no means is ferulic acid one of the heavy-hitters, it does possess several of the same key characteristics found in the “best” antioxidants such as vitamins C, green tea, and pomegranate.

[Read More: Are Eye Creams Necessary?]

But anyways, after doing my little optical audit, I found myself rather impressed with the Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Triple Correction Eye Serum ($46.50, amazon.com). So without further ado, let’s examine the ingredients.

Something Old…


Ideal pH for Retinol Activation

The cardinal strength of this product stems from the inclusion of multiple documented ingredients. Chief among them is, of course, retinol. While the retinol concentration is not listed, it’s most likely present between 0.25-0.50%, which is well above the demonstrated bottom threshold of efficacy. Bottom line: retinol has been and is still quite revolutionary.

[Read More: Spotlight On: Tretinoin]

Ferulic Acid

The next featured ingredient is ferulic acid (FA), which, similar to retinol, has been shown in vivo to inhibit both UVA- and UVB-induced expression of various matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which degrade structures such as collagen. FA does this via the proteasome pathway, which in-turn, will degrade the various MMPs before they do significant damage. To further protect the skin, FA has been shown to upregulate the expression of various antioxidant compounds such as glutathione, and its peroxidase and catalase relatives (Photochemistry and PhotobiologyJournal of Nutritional Biochemistry).

Licorice Root Extract

Licorice Extract Skincare Benefits FutureDerm

The next important ingredient, which is present in even higher amounts than the two discussed above, is licorice root extract. A 1% and 2% licorice gel demonstrated a statistically significant reduction of swelling, itchiness, and redness (think anti-inflammatory) of those with atopic dermatitis (Journal of Dermatological Treatment). The main component of licorice root extract (glabridin) is most likely responsible for this attribute, as it also demonstrates skin-lightening properties similar to hydroquinone (HQ) by interfering with tyrosinase activity. Unlike HQ however, glabridin does this without the mediation of DNA synthesis (Pigment Cell Research).

Botanical and Vitamin-Based Cocktails

In addition, this product contains an aptly-named cocktail of botanical ingredients that are present in moderate to low concentrations. They include the skin-lightening ingredients arbutin (glucosylated HQ) and mulberry; calming willow bark and caffeine; as well as the quercetin antioxidant.

Finally, there are also low amounts of the antioxidants ubiquinone (CoQ10) and vitamin E (as a novel and unproven organophosphate salt). Rounding out this second “cocktail” are the hydrating panthenol (vitamin B5) and sodium hyaluronate water-binding agents.

Something Blu… New

As with most skin care releases, there’s always a few new(er) ingredients included in a formulation to boost interest and press. Fortunately, the marketing team behind this brand chose wisely to not focus on them. Another wise decision: to include new ingredients that actually have potential.

Centella Extract

As the non-vehicular ingredient that’s present in the highest amount, this extract does have some limited evidentiary support in terms of efficacy. When applied (in vitro) to human dermal fibroblasts, it was shown to reduce the hydrogen peroxide-induced repression of DNA replication (Experiemtnal Dermatology). This would have a theoretical positive effect in terms of reducing the effects of stress-induced premature senescence. Of course, none of this has been demonstrated in a statistically significant way in any clinical study. But hey, it’s better than nothing right?

Azelaic Amino Acid

Azelaic Acid.
Azelaic Acid.

Like with the licorice root extract, while the azelaic amino acid content is present in lower concentrations than the Centella extract, its inclusion makes this product much more promising. Azelaic amino acid is obviously a derivative of the prescription-only drug azelaic acid, which is an excellent tool for those dealing with acne, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation. So if we can get some of the benefits of it in an OTC product, that’s pretty exciting. What’s even more exciting is that there’s actually been a study done on the efficacy of this particular derivative. At 5%, this ingredient (along with 1% of a water-binding agent) was shown to exhibit statistically significant improvements in rosacea sufferers in terms of redness and skin hydration (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology). And while there’s nowhere near 5% of azelaic amino acid (potassium azeloyl diglycinate), its high placement on the ingredients list suggests that at least decent amounts are present (hopefully).

Overall Rating: 85%

While the new ingredients are a welcome relief and may actually provide some benefit to the skin, the strengths of this product are still attributed to the inclusion of many well-documented ingredients, primarily retinol.

This product is fantastic for those with very sensitive skin (like rosacea), who want to try retinol.
This product is fantastic for those with very sensitive skin (i.e. rosacea or dermatitis-prone), who want to try retinol.

But what separates this from the other well-formulated and recommended retinol products available on the market? It’s the inclusion of such (relatively) high amounts of the licorice root extract. As shown above, licorice root extract is a very good anti-inflammatory ingredient. Combined with the potential ramifications of azelaic amino acid, this retinol product may allow people with traditionally-retinol-incompatible skin types, such as those with rosacea, to tolerate and receive the impressive benefits of retinol!

Furthermore, the inclusion of other anti-inflammatories and skin-lightening ingredients makes this an even more compelling product choice for those with more sensitive skin types, as they are more prone to postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.

So is this the “best” retinol product? Well, I wouldn’t say best is a good way to evaluate this product. Instead, I would say this is a more specialized, unique, or niche take on the traditional retinol product. I have yet to see a similar retinol product. But like I said, for those with more sensitive skin types (especially those with rosacea), this product may be a game-changer!


*Note that while this product does contain low amounts of the salicylic, glycolic, and mandelic acids, the relatively high pH of around 4.7 will not allow them to exfoliate. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about the low pH potentially reducing the efficacy of retinol. And while I wish the pH was slightly higher, the less-than-optimal pH (for retinol) was most likely chosen to help preserve the ferulic acid content, whose stability is dependent upon pH.


Water, Ethoxydiglycol, Propylene Glycol, Centella Asiatica Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract, Ferulic Acid, Retinol, Potassium Azeloyl Diglycinate, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Arbutin, Morus Alba Leaf Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Quercetin, Caffeine, Ubiquinone, Sodium Hyaluronate, Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Panthenol, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Disodium Lauriminodipropionate Tocopheryl Phosphates, Phospholipids, Tetrapeptide-21, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Disodium EDTA, PVM/MA Decadiene Crosspolymer, Urea, Polysorbate 20, Potassium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499).

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  • Jenn

    I’ve been using this eye serum for about 6 months and I love it. However, I just realized that it has both retinol and AHA and BHA together in it. I thought that mixing those was a no-no. Don’t the acids break down the retinol?

  • Carme

    Hello, has Dr. Gross made the amount of retinol in this formulation public? Many companies state 1% or what have you, but I am curious about this. (Everything with retinol I own says not to use near eyes, so I don’t really understand the “you don’t need an eye cream message”)
    Also, this sounds silly, but I am allergic to mulberry in bloom, should allergy sufferers in general avoid these botanicals topically?

  • BillieLA

    I was a little worried about using retinol, but the Lady Soma Renew Serum is the first product I’ve bought in which I can actually see real results – So happy! There’s no irritation or dryness. I’ve gotten so many compliments. Super smooth, even tone, pores appear smaller, blemishes gone, fine lines minimized….

  • ashley

    If you discourage dropper bottles, why are some of your branded products sold in dropper bottles?

  • KJ

    I just purchased this product for the second time (I love it!) but the bottle has the lid, but not a protective seal. SHould it come with a seal?

  • @Kristina

    You are completely right that nothing topical can really take care of dark circles. 🙁

    As for milia just falling off… that’s like saying whiteheads on your face can just fall off lol! I’ve never heard or read that happening, at least without some type of external pressure.

    As for this product causing your milia, well it really just depends. See my response to @Erika above for more information. I’ll be doing a post soon (maybe this week) about ingredients that are commonly listed in these “pore-clogging lists,” so that you guys can get a better understanding of my position on this issue.

  • Kristina

    Thanks for asking John! I use the Replenix All Trans Retinol Eye Repair Cream primarily for dark circles and secondly for milia.

    I said it works “okay” because I honestly have not seen a change in my dark circles. Granted, my dark circles are genetic and I’ve come to learn that no product can really significantly reduce genetic dark circles :(. I did not have many wrinkles around my eyes in the first place so I can’t be a judge of whether or not the product works for wrinkles. For milia….it’s hard to say. At one point about 2 months into usage, I developed 2 milia on one of my eye circles. I stopped using the product and the milia went away on its own I believe (I’ve heard they can just fall off?? Not sure if this is true or not…). I continue to the product every so often but haven’t noticed an increase in milia or anything. But I do *suspect* that the product *may* have caused the milia? Especially now since I’ve learned that it’s indeed pore-clogging . Can’t be certain though!

    Do you have any thoughts about this?

  • @Tres

    Sure you’re welcome. I’m glad you read them and contibute to discussions!

    And every product has its pros and cons and I like a lot of them! I wouldn’t say I have a favorite though.

  • @janine

    No, the retinol cream is distinct from the one you’re using. Can I ask how you like it? Because if the ingredients on here are right: http://www.dermstore.com/product_Infusion+Eye+Repair+Serum_19940.htm, I personally don’t think it’s worth the high price tag. It’s got just two peptides and a few water-bind agents. It doesn’t even contain vitamin K as the description claims (though even that ingredient isn’t all that great); just a kelp extract (which is probably the source of the vitamin K). I don’t mean to interfere; I’m just curious.

    Thanks for pitching in your thoughts, though!

  • Tres

    What I meant was that I personally don’t care for this moisturizer. I am a huge fan of effective, non-irritating retinol products. Who isn’t, really. My comment was based on curiosity about Centella Asiatica because it does happen to be in so many firming products. Clearly, just because an ingredient is in a lot of products doesn’t mean that it actually works…But moving on. Yeah, I don’t know anyone who is a fan of dropper bottles either. What is your favorite anti-oxidant product?

    Thanks again for your post.

  • janine

    I use the Replenix Eye Repair cream and have for a few years. I believe Kristina is talking about the Replenix All Trans Retinol Eye cream which is different product. If I am wrong, someone please tell me!
    I like the Replenix Eye Repair and have never had any issues with the comedogenic ingredients. In fact, i find that this product may not be emollient enough for me and am intrigued by the possiblilty of using this Dr. Dennis Gross product first and then applying a balm-like product on top (open to suggestions…….).
    Anyway, just wanted to jump in there.

  • @Erika

    Well, the two ingredients you mention do increase the tendency of clogging pores (not to mention the coconut fatty acids, which is present in much higher concentrations). However, it really depends on a person’s skin type, the other ingredients in the product, and the rest of this person’s routine in order to decide if it will be a problem.

    Also, note that @Kristina seems to be saying that the Replenix product handles her milia “okay,” which to me suggests that it does reduce her milia, just not as much as she’d like; not that it causes more milia. However, you may be right as retinol should handle most if not all the milia (though salicylic acid would work better). It could be that the retinol is helping the milia, while the the pore-clogging ingredients we mentioned are worsening the problem; they neutralize each other so to speak. This is one of the reasons why I asked @Kristina to give me further details on her experience with the replenix product.

    Does that all make sense?

  • @Kristina

    That sounds great! The Replenix Retinol Cream is rather promising too in terms of the ingredients. What do you mean by “it works okay.” What do/don’t like about it?

  • @Josephine

    That’s really cool. I hope you guys are consorting about us. 😉 Lol!

  • Erika

    @ Kristina…

    The Replenix Eye Repair cream has Myristyl Myristate and Myristyl Laurate which are highly comedogenic (http://www.zerozits.com/Articles/acnedetect.htm).

    If milia is the problem, I think applying the Replenix eye cream can exacerbate the milia problem

    @ John…. thoughts on this?

  • Kristina

    Hmmm…I’ll have to try this product. I currently use Replenix All Trans Retinol Eye Repair Cream to prevent wrinkles and treat my dark circles (though no product really can!) and milia and it works okay. I’ll let you know how the Dr. Gross one goes!

  • Josephine

    I have three housemates that all read Futurederm. Or they used to. Tres is a few doors down. Anyway…if you or Nicki get around to those new products that would be super cool.

  • @Lucas

    I’d love to hear your thoughts after you’ve tried the product. Note that while this isn’t the only way to help increase retinol tolerance (you could use a lot of another anti-inflammatory like green tea), it’s still a great option.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Lucas

    It’s very thoughtful of you to review a retinol product for those who have sensitive skin!
    If I wasn’t making it work with tretinoin, I would definitely try this for my rosacea skin.

  • @Greta

    Well you shouldn’t be suspicious!

    Here’s why: almost every single product from the best to the worst; most hated to most beloved, have these types of ingredients at the beginning of the list. That’s because all the beneficial ingredients (like antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, chemical exfoliants, hormones) require a vehicle or carrier in which they must be suspended, so that they can be applied to the skin evenly. So whether it’s a silicone (such as dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxane), non-fragrant plant oil (such as jojoba oil or olive oil), or any of the other thousands of possible ingredients, every skin care product WILL contain these types of ingredients.

    Each vehicle can be different, and there are many components to vehicles in general. In this case, propylene glycol is simply one of the main solvents. Along with ethoxydiglycol, it helps stabilize, solubilize, and emulsify the many beneficial ingredients in the formulation as a whole.

    Does that all make sense?

    Besides, propylene glycol is the 3rd (not 1st) ingredient if I’m not mistaken. 😉

  • @Josephine

    Lol! Don’t worry about the name correction. Your IP address remains the same, so I know it’s you!

    I’ll put these on a list and reviews some to all of them if I can. I may split up where I publish them between here and my personal blog, so stay tuned. 😉 Also, Paula Begoun via beautypedia.com gives reviews of a lot of these products too. You may want to check those out.

  • @Tres

    Well, it’s okay that you don’t care about this moisturizer. But someone else may fall in love with it, especially if he/she has thus far, been unable to find a non-irritating retinol product.

    And I know that Centella Asiatica has been around forever. When I referred to it as a “new” ingredient, I meant that the research behind it in terms of efficacy in topical formulations is relatively new and unconfirmed. I thought that this concept was clear as all the ingredients in the “old” section have marginally to significantly more documentation demonstrating efficacy compared to those in the “new” section. But perhaps I was wrong, and I apologize. Thank you for pointing that out!

    And just because something is in a lot of firming products, doesn’t mean it works. I mean, wouldn’t all said users have firm skin then? I mean, caffeine is in virtually every anti-cellulite product… But moving on. 🙂

    As I mentioned to @Jahn above, I really don’t like anything packaged in a dropper bottle. So I wouldn’t recommend either Skinceuticals product. But if I HAD to pick one, I’d choose the CE Ferulic because there’s more research behind vitamin E compared to phloretin.

    Does that make sense?

  • @Jahn

    I usually get pH values from http://www.beautypedia.com, which is ran by Paula Begoun. I’m sure her team has access to accurate pH measuring equipment. But anyway, she hasn’t actually reviewed this eye serum yet, but she did review the face version that I referred to at the end of the article. And as I noted above, since these two products have virtually identical ingredients lists, it seemed appropriate to assume that they have the same (or very close) pH value(s).

    I also get most ingredients lists from there or http://www.sephora.com.

    And yes, I always discourage dropper packaging. For example, I love the research behind the Skinceuticals Vitamin C poducts, but the packaging really turns me off, which is why I never personally recommend them. The same concept applies for the Obagi serum. Both Vitamin C and HQ are very sensitive to air exposure. I don’t care what companies tell me about how they have “stabilized” any given formulation that’s packaged in a jar or droppr bottle. Nothing in the world can completely halt degradation over time. Ultimately I ask myself (and others), why would I spend all that $$$ for a product that will no matter what, decrease in efficacy much faster than if it were packaged properly?

    Does that all make sense?

  • @Eileen

    I’m makes me quite elated that you think I write well!

    I completely agree about the packaging issue. I mean, does a jar or dropper bottle really look THAT much better than tubes or pump bottles?! Because other than a cosmetic issue, I cannot fathom why companies still use jars and dropper bottles… Sigh.

  • @janine

    Yep, I’d definitely recommend using this product during the nighttime.

    And ooh thanks for the Sephora heads up! Double points! 🙂

  • Greta

    hi – I’m always suspicious of a product that has “propylene glycol” as its first ingredient; it seems like an expensive product shouldn’t have that much ‘filler.’ What is your opinion of this?

  • Josephine

    Sorry that phine not phone, lol…and the AminoGenesis Cocoon Total Body Moisturizing Lotion http://www.aminogenesis.com/Cocoon-For-All-Over-Body-Use-NEW-IMPROVED_p_22.html#

  • Josephone

    Can you guys review the following:
    La Roche-Posay Substiane + and Substaine [+] Eyes (Linactyl 4% + Proxylane 5%)
    Perricone Formula 15
    Perricone Blue Plasma
    StriVectin–AR Advanced Retinol Night Treatment
    Strivectin–SD Advanced Overnight Resurfacing Serum
    La Mer The Moisturizing Soft Cream
    Kate Somerville D-Scar, RetAsphere, and Cytocell P299
    Bliss Firm Baby Firm
    MAC Volcanic Ash Thermal Mask
    Anything by Christine Chin

  • Tres

    I could care less about this eye product but the not new Centella Asiatica (gotu kola,antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory) has been around for freakin ever, and is in a plethora of products, most notably, in almost ALL of the skin “firming” products I have ever used in my entire life. All the way back to when I first used Skinceutical Firming Cream 10+ years ago.

    Ferulic Acid not a heavy hitter. OK, so if you had to choose between Skinceuticals CE Ferulic and CF Phloretin, which would it be?

    What anti-oxidant product do you use daily?

  • Jahn

    Hi John, how do you know a product’s pH value unless stated otherwise?

    Also, do you discourage products in dropper packaging? One particular product I’m eyeing is Obagi’s Clarifying serum (4% HQ + Vit C). I remember in one of your posts you mentioned that skin lightening works better when multiple actives are utilized. Thanks!

  • Eileen

    Another excellent article, John. And thank you for all the links. They give us more detailed information without detracting from the flow of your clearly written, consumer friendly article.

    It still amazes me that companies go to so much time and expense on research and development only to put light and air sensitive ingredients in jars and dropper bottles. Like you, I’d rather pay more for the better packaging and preserve the efficacy of the product as long as possible.

  • janine

    Does the inclusion of retinol in this product preclude it from daytime use?
    Also worth pointing out: Sephora is offering double rewards points through 1/22 to VIB members and Sephora happens to be about the only place online to find this product right now!

    • Nicki Zevola

      Hi @Janine,

      Sorry for the long overdue response. (Very long overdue!)

      When you start using retinoids, they temporarily thin the skin, making it more photosensitive. However, after a few weeks, your skin may start to increase its production of collagen, which in turn makes the skin more thick, not less, counteracting this effect.

      Honestly, I don’t use retinoids during the day. I don’t see the reason to.

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