Retinoids: Peter Thomas Roth vs. Dr. Dennis Gross

I have mentioned before that I have been using Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Recovery Overnight Serum and loving it. I am on month 9 of using it and my skin just loves it. I have seen a reduction in uneven pigmentation, those perky fine lines, and my skin is in better shape than it was 5 years ago. I take really good care of my skin and make caring for it a priority. I've done so for more than 20 years and will continue to do so.




I also have mentioned that I am a big fan of products from Peter Thomas Roth. I use several PTR products, from the pumpkin scrub to the gold undereye patches. I faithfully use the Peter Thomas Roth night time retinol eye cream too. The products are really, really lovely. Several weeks ago, Influenster sent me a package of Peter Thomas Roth items, among them another retinol serum. I received the PRO Strength Retinoid Peptide Serum and have had a chance to try it out. Even though I am perfectly content with my Dr. Dennis Gross retinol product, I decided to try out the PTR because it sounded like a high quality formulation.

I was recently asked why I prefer one of these retinoids over the other, so I thought I would do a comparison for you.

What is Retinol?



When it comes to turning back the clock on the visible signs of skin aging, Retinol is the beauty industry gold standard ingredient. Backed by over four decades of scientific research, topical retinoids provide a visible reduction in the signs of skin aging.


Before we continue talking specifically about retinol, we need to discuss retinoids.

What exactly is a retinoid? A retinoid is a Vitamin A derivative that accelerates cell turnover, unclogs the pores, and stimulates collagen to reduce the look of fine lines.
The anti-aging benefits of retinoids were unknown back when it was first approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration. In fact, when the FDA first approved Tretinoin, it was for the treatment of acne. Tretinoin was patented in 1957 and approved for use five years later. The brand name you may be familiar with is prescription Retin-A. Since Retin-A, other brand names have come about including Renova, among others.

While acne treatment was its original claim to fame, dermatologists who prescribed it would later notice that patients who used it were experiencing skin with that looked younger and brighter as well.

Today, there are different classes of prescription retinoids, including adapalene and tazarotene. All three classes are quite effective -- they are just slightly different strengths. While we're talking about retinoids, Differin (adapalene) is now available OTC without a prescription for acne.



Retinol gradually converts to retinoic acid, which is the active ingredients in prescription retinoids) and it is VERY effective at treating the skin signs of aging. It just takes a bit longer. It is also gentler with fewer side effects.

Retinol enhances collagen production and s truly the most effective OTC anti-aging skincare ingredient available.


Retinol must be stabilized. Most “retinol” products contain esters of retinol, such as Retinyl Palmitate and Retinyl Acetate, which are the LEAST effective forms. You need to see Retinol on the label. If you use the derivatives I just mentioned, you will not be able to achieve the same results that you would with pure retinol.

Now that we have talked about retinoids a bit, let's compare two popular serums.

How do the two compare?


First, let's look at the Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Recovery Overnight Serum. This is a superb cocktail of Retinol, Ferulic Acid, and Niacinamide. Additionally, it contains Hyaluronic Acid (to help skin hold in moisture), Ellagic Acid (fights discoloration), Gallic Acid (astringent and brightening), and Green Tea (antioxidant). This formula contains zero artificial fragrances or dyes and was the first retinoid I used that not only was GENTLE on my skin, but yields a visible improvement in texture, toner, clarity, and the smoothing of fine lines.

Full ingredients list - Water, DiCaprylyl Carbonate, Niacinamide, Cetyl Alcohol, Propanediol, Isostearyl Alcohol, Jojoba Esters, Retinol, Ferulic Acid, Collagen Amino Acids, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hexylresorcinol, Ellagic Acid, Gallic Acid, Silybum Marianum Ethyl Ester, Tocopherol, Phospholipids, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Lactic Acid, Sodium PCA, Retinyl Palmitate/Carrot Polypeptide, Retinyl Palmitate, Glycerin, Evodia Rutaecarpa Fruit Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Acacia Decurrens Flower Wax, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polyglycerin-3, Tricaprylin, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Butylene Glycol, BHT, Butylene Glycol Cocoate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Xanthan Gum, Ethylcellulose, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Extract, Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Octoxynol-9, Phenoxyethanol


The Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength Retinoid Peptide Serum uses a newer retinoid known as HPR or Granactive Retinol. This is very mild and is believed to be gentlest on the skin for those searching for a retinoid with real results. It is a silicone based serum featuring anti-aging peptides and ceramides. Cucumber helps to soothe sensitive skin. There is ginger root in this, which I do not really like seeing in facial care products. While ginger contains an abundance of antioxidants, it is known to be irritating and I have never advocated applying it to the face.

Full ingredients list - C9-12 Alkane, Dimethicone, Isononyl Isononanoate, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Trisiloxane, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polysilicone-11, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-14, Ceramide Np, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Extract, Hordeum Vulgare (Barley) Extract, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber Extract), Laminaria Ochroleuca Extract, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Pca, Squalane, Tocopherol, Lecithin, Linoleic Acid, Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Stearic Acid, Hydroxystearic Acid, Triolein, Bisabolol, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Ethoxydiglycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Water/Aqua/Eau, Mica, Phenoxyethanol

So, which product is better?


I prefer the Dr. Dennis Gross -- and it is not even close. Here's why.

Dr. Dennis Gross uses Retinol and not Granactive Retinoid.

There are many types of retinoids out there. Some claim to be the fountain of youth, but the ONLY one with decades of solid research proving that it is effective at combating the visible signs of skin aging is Retinol. Yes, it has been around for ages. Yes, it might take a bit longer for Retinol to work than other ingredients, but the science is what convinces me that it continues to be the gold standard ingredient. I do not say that lightly. It is what I use and recommend.

The packaging is also something I have to mention. Dr. Dennis Gross uses an air tight pump amber opaque bottle to protect against air and light.

The type of bottle used for retinoids is key to maintaining the integrity of ingredients. 

The PTR comes in an amber bottle with a dropper -- but the amber is actually pretty transparent and you can see right through the bottle. This is a problem for two reasons. It's actually a big problem. Retinoids should not be exposed to air and light. That is one reason you will rarely see this type of product in a bottle that lets light travel right through it. 

According to Dr. Gary Fisher, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School, light and air alter "the chemical structure and composition of retinol, making it less biologically active." 

Every single time you open the serum bottle to dispense the product, you are damaging the integrity of its contents, rendering it less effective.

While the ingredients list is impressive and the texture feels really nice on the skin, it is not worth the price tag. I used this for 2.5 weeks straight and my skin did not look at supple as it did using the Dr. Dennis Gross. The 1-2-3 punch of Retinol, Ferulic Acid and Niacinamide really makes a difference and my skin was missing that when I wasn't using my Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Overnight Serum.

Ethically, Dr. Dennis Gross also has the edge, as this is a cruelty free and VEGAN product.

For these reasons, if you are looking for a high quality retinoid that delivers results, Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol is my top pick

Cost-wise, the lower priced option is the better product. The PRO Serum from PTR retails for $110 for 1 ounce. The Dr. Dennis Gross serum retails for $88, but you can buy it for $77 on QVC and take advantage of their Easy Pay, if you want to make smaller payments.

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