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Dr Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense SPF 50

Dr Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense SPF 50 Review

is a Solution for:
Sun Protection for Face, Sun Spots
Reviewed by Marta July 7, 2015 12 Comments
TRU Rating


Treats and prevents hyperpigmentation as well blocks UV


A couple of controversial ingredients including BHT
At last an intelligent sunscreen formula

I have a love hate relationship with sunscreen. I’m allergic to most chemical sunscreens, aware of the health controversies around them and, while exclusively opting for a mineral sunscreen, dislike having to use makeup to camouflage the inevitable ghostly cast. To get my attention, a mineral sunscreen has to be cosmetically acceptable and offer more than mere UV defense. And that’s exactly what I got from Dr Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense SPF 50 ($42 in the shop).

Dr Dennis Gross has created a mineral sunscreen with a serious SPF of 50 without it being liquid chalk. As I understand it, this has been achieved by a special dispersal technology that helps create even and effective protection within a cosmetically acceptable formula. Now it is true, that this sunscreen requires massaging in to the skin before it completely disappears. But disappear it does. And it plays nice with makeup – no pilling.

Dark Spot Sun Defense SPF 50 is also a standout amongst other sunscreens for the ingredients that have been chosen to actually treat and prevent hyperpigmentation. I really like the idea of minimizing existing sun spots while preventing future damage.

A thoughtful inclusion is melatonin. Studies have also shown melatonin’s ability to counteract the harmful effect of UV rays, so I was hoping to see it pop up as an ingredient in a sunscreen – and now my wait is over.  Melatonin does this by suppressing oxidative damage. It also protects keratinocytes against cell death, while stimulating the growth of fibroblasts.

In the same vein, I was pleased to see nordihydroguaiaretic acid. This comes from a desert-dwelling creosote bush and was actually used by Native Americans as a sunscreen and a protective agent against keratosis caused by exposure to UV rays. This wonderful, but still uncommon ingredient, is also an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and acne treatment.

Another heavy hitter is palmitoyl tripeptide-38, which is the newest power peptide from the makers of Matrixyl. This one goes by the name of Synth’6 and is supposed to stimulate six major constituents in the skin matrix. In addition, there are three types of vitamin C and vitamin E.

I love it when an ingredient list forces me to go and look up something new to me. Boerhavia diffusa root extract is a plant used in traditional Indian medicine that is coming to recognized as a useful antioxidant that can play an important role in protecting the human body against free radicals (source). There’s also bis-ethylhexyl hydroxydimethoxy benzylmalonate, an antioxidant that controls oily skin (source).

That this sunscreen does the basic job is a given. For daily, city use it provides enough protection for the day. For more outdoorsy days, I found that with top ups it protected face, neck, arms and hands. As for the dark spots, I fancy that it is having an impact - albeit a subtle one so far.

With soothing and nourishing oils and skin hydrators such as phospholipids and sodium hyaluronate, the good in Dr Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense SPF 50 far outweighs the bad. It would be remiss of me, however, to fail to point out that I don’t like the inclusion of BHT, a controversial ingredient that is linked to cancer by some studies. And there are the other usual suspects in the preservative department. Nonetheless, there is nothing to stand in the way of this being my go-to daily sunscreen from now on.

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  • October 8, 2015

    by Michele Watson

    Hi Marta given that you know Dr Gross could you ask him to take the BHT out perhaps? This really does look good - I have spent an hour comparing it to other formulations but you rightly flagged BHT. Why do they need this ingredient (I read your other article on this - very informative btw.) Thanks to you I am more dilligent in educating myself on ingredrients than before. I had no idea BHT was so controversial! Are you still using this? Also how is it under a primer (or could one put maybe over a primer tio prevent the BHT from being an issue?)

  • September 30, 2015

    by Marta

    Melatonin is a hormone that regulates our circadian rhythms. The article above has a link to more details. Perhaps you are thinking of melanin.

  • September 30, 2015

    by Michele Watson

    Hi Marta I am also confused by melatonin. I have read it drives pigmentation (and I certainly had this experience taking it as a supplement) but I have also read it's a UV protectant. I guess the good doc would have done all his homework though so I am willing to try it. Its taken me 6 months to see progress on the sun spots on my legs which suddenly appeared out the blue so here's hoping this sunscreen will fade not promote pigmentation!

  • July 24, 2015

    by Marta

    I am happy to report that this sunscreen is now available in the Truth In Aging store:

  • July 23, 2015

    by Marta

    Just got back from a peel with 6 AHA/BHAs at Dr Gross' office. Amazing experience - fast, tingly but not overly so and no downtime. I also got to spend time chatting with Dr Gross (along with TIA community member, Kim, who we invited along. He is utterly charming and we had a fascinating conversation about water, heavy metal toxins and why he is formulating with chelating ingredients. I'll be sharing that with you all in an article to come.

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