Dr Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense SPF 50

Our Rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by Marta on July 7, 2015


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.