Poke around any beach town in America, and you’ll likely be confronted with at least a dozen kitschy signs that read, “The cure for anything is salt water.”
While I think we can all agree that the quote is undeniably cheesy (I’m pretty sure it was at the bottom of my AIM profile at some point circa 2002), if you ever dove into the ocean while you’re sad, hungover, or some combination of the two, you can also agree that it’s very, very true.
It was this exact ideology that dictated the redesign of the Seawater Spa at Gurney’s Resort in Montauk, NY, a summer hotspot located at the tip of the Hamptons. In May of last year, the hotel unveiled a $20 million dollar renovation of its iconic spa, which not only overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, but also harnesses its powers. The new “wellness destination” features a full salt-water bathhouse that includes four pools (two hot, two cold), all of which are fed with natural seawater. To top it all off, Gurneys partnered with famed dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD, to bring his signature hyaluronic marine facial treatments to its guests.
“Nature often inspires my research and passion for innovation, and I especially have a love for being by water,” says D. Gross, founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare. “The Seawater Spa, which is located just a few steps from the ocean, is the perfect place to offer my Hyaluronic Marine treatments which are rich in Japanese marine algae to enhance skin elasticity and moisturization.”
On a recent trip to the “End of the World,” I had a chance to visit the spa to test out one of Dr. Gross’s ocean-inspired facials for myself, and can confirm: Saltwater—or at least, a dip in a saltwater pool and some really potent skin-care actives— really can cure anything. Or at least, it can cure dry, dull-looking skin.
Keep reading to see how it went, plus how you can recreate the entire experience for yourself at home.
What it was like to get Dr. Dennis Gross’s High-Performance Resurfacing Facial
Imagine this: It’s a cold, rainy, October day and you’re in front of floor-to-ceiling beachfront windows, lounging in an indoor salt-water hot tub (which you only leave to take a quick dip into a cold tub before slipping back into the heat) while watching white-capped waves crash into the sand.
This was how my trip to the Seawater Spa began, and I can confirm that it was just as heavenly as it sounds. The wildest part, though? The actual treatment hadn’t even started yet.
When it came time for my Dr. Dennis Gross “High-Performance Resurfacing Facial,” my esthetician informed me that she would be using a combination of microcurrent and LED technology alongside the clinical-strength versions of some of Dr. Gross’s most popular products (cough cough, the Alpha-Beta Peel Pads our entire beauty team swears by). The treatment is designed to “prevent, correct, and maintain aging skin” (which felt perfect for my 30+ complexion), which it does by stimulating cellular health to firm skin, diminish the appearance of dark spots, and boost radiance.
The process started with a gentle double cleanse (as with any facial, a clean slate is key!), followed by an LED light treatment (which used red and blue lights to “reduce redness, clear blemishes, and support natural collagen production,” says Dr. Gross), a pro-grade Alpha-Beta exfoliating peel (which uses alpha and beta-hydroxy acids to resurface the skin), and a Hyaluronic Marine mask.
“Algin marine algae, sodium hyaluronate, which is in the family of hyaluronic acid, and magnesium are the all-star ingredients in your spa treatment,” says Dr. Gross of the top-billed active trio in the mask. “This mask treatment is great for all skin types—dry, oily, combo, sensitive—because it delivers intense hydration deep into the skin while restoring skin barrier function. All skin concerns—such as breakouts, redness, dullness, and flakiness—can improve from a strong, healthy skin barrier.”
After the treatment—which left me feeling completely zonked and zen—my skin looked brighter, more radiant, and so, so hydrated. Although I got to experience the pro-grade version of the facial as a pick-me-up for my post-summer skin (… the effects of sun damage are real, everyone!), its benefits extend long past the warm-weather months. This type of treatment can rejuvenate dry, winter skin, too, and its brightening, lifting, and firming benefits are great all year round. I know this, because I’ve spent the last few months repurposing the practice in my own bathroom—and even without the whirl in the oceanfront hot tub, the results are almost as good every time.
How to perform a Dennis Gross at-home facial
“To give yourself a facial at home, start with cleansing and removing all impurities,” says Dr. Gross. “I like to cleanse with a steamer because it simultaneously cleans pores while hydrating. It also improves circulation, which improves the absorption of ingredients applied afterward.”
According to Dr. Gross, this steamer simultneously cleanses pores, hydrates skin, and safely exfoliates. “The precise pressure of the water output, optimal temperature and micro steam allows for better penetration and increases the efficacy of all skincare products post-treatment,” he adds.
“I love to use this cleanser with the Pro Facial Steamer because it easily melts away dirt, debris and oil without stripping the natural skin barrier of healthy, moisturizing oils. It’s also rinse-free, making it perfect for travel or on the go,” says Dr. Gross. It cleanses skin without stripping it, and an infusion of marine ingredients and hyaluronic acid will leave your complexion quenched.
2. LED light therapy
According to Dr. Gross, this step comes before the rest of your products to ensure that everything can penetrate the skin properly. “Think of light as the thinnest (or lightest) skin-care ingredient and therefore should be applied before thicker, more dense treatments,” he says. “LED light can be particularly useful during skin-care treatments to diminish redness and inflammation, further reducing downtime and improving recovery time. LED has such a positive effect on the skin that it provides superior results when combined with other clinically proven treatments.”
Largely considered to be the best-of-the-best at-home LED treatment, this mask employs both blue and red lights to offer a one-two punch of skin benefits. “Blue light helps regulate oil production and kills acne-causing bacteria while red light stimulates your skin’s collagen production for anti-aging benefits,” says Dr. Gross. What’s more? A single session only takes three minutes to complete.
Next, it’s time for your targeted treatments, which can differ depending on your skin concerns. “Universally, everyone can benefit from a two-step chemical peel, which is why it has been a go-to for dermatologists and estheticians for decades,” says Dr. Gross. “A two-step chemical peel is actually the safest way to exfoliate because the second step stops any acid activity on the skin and delivers soothing ingredients. With my Alpha Beta Daily Peel, you will see better penetration of active ingredients post-treatment.” Then, follow up with a hydrating mask to ensure your complexion is optimally moisturized.
Beloved by our beauty editors, this two-step treatment—which involves an acid step and a neutralizing anti-aging step—will effectively resurface your skin. “Having two steps is crucial when it comes to peels. All professional peels, including your spa treatment, always have two steps—the second neutralizing step shuts off the acids in step one to avoid any irritation,” says Dr. Gross. “The Alpha Beta Daily Peel immediately lifts excess oil, impurities, and dead skin and with continued use, improves natural collagen production to diminish wrinkles, uneven texture, and crepiness.” The pads come in three strengths:—universal, extra, and ultra-gentle—which you can choose based on your skin’s tolerance
“This unique treatment mask molds to the skin, transitioning from a soft gel to a rubber, cushion texture that locks hydration directly into the skin,” says Dr. Gross. “After one use, skin immediately feels calm, smooth, and intensely hydrated.”
Of course, any good skin-care treatment isn’t complete without sun protection. “Sun protection every day will help to prevent accelerated aging and prolong your results,” says Dr. Gross. “Harmful rays from the sun actually break down our collagen structure—the building blocks of our skin. Daily SPF helps to prevent this damage in the first place.”
“I created this SPF to be oil-free and blendable into all skin tones,” says Dr. Gross. He recommends looking for mineral sunscreens (which this one is), which sit on top of the skin and use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to physically deflect UV rays before they can cause damage.