Because it’s never too late to start taking care of your skin and fight anti-aging.
Treating fine lines and wrinkles doesn’t necessarily require a trip to the dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon. Regularly using anti-aging products, such as night creams or eye creams, can make a real difference in how your skin looks and feels, and there are many excellent ones out there that don’t require a prescription (or cost a fortune).
“There are two categories of products out there: ones that actually treat and prevent wrinkles, and others that just minimize their appearance,” says Pennsylvania-based board-certified dermatologist Erum Ilyas, MD.
The first category of products contain legit anti-aging ingredients (think: retinol and glycolic acid, though not to be used together), while the second involve ingredients that excessively hydrate or temporarily swell the skin to make wrinkles seem less noticeable—but once you stop using it, your skin goes back to its regularly scheduled programming.
That’s not to say you should avoid the latter category. “These products serve a purpose of giving the appearance of ‘faster’ results, which is perfectly okay when you just want something that will make you look better for an event,” says Dr. Ilyas.
Bottom line: Know what you want out of your anti-aging creams before busting out your wallet. If you’re in it for the long haul and are looking for an anti-wrinkle cream that will keep up with you, there are several qualities that you should look out as you shop around.
How to choose the best anti-aging face cream
Scan the label: The dermatologists we talked to recommend products that contain the following ingredients:
- Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) promote cell turnover, stimulate collagen production, and help to even out skin tone.
- Peptides are another important anti-aging staple that help to repair skin damage.
- Antioxidants like vitamins C and E help in the fight against free radicals (unstable molecules that can do major damage to your cells).
- Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, royal jellyand other hydrators can boost and lock in moisture, which will help reduce the irritating effects of anti-aging ingredients.
- Glycolic Acid, to remove dead skin cells so that young new skin can absorb all the antioxidants and hydrators effectively
Know your skin type: “For those who have oily skin or live in humid climates, a lightweight cream with mattifying properties will prevent skin from becoming weighed down and shiny,” says Joel Schlessinger, MD, Omaha-based board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon. “On the other hand, if someone has dehydrated skin or lives in a dry, cold area, a rich cream is more appropriate for their regimen.”
Factor in sensitivities: If your skin is easily irritated, consider looking for anti-aging creams that contain bakuchiol instead of retinol. “It actually has the same effect as retinol topically, but it’s less irritating because it’s also an anti-inflammatory agent,” says Dr. Ilyas. Other potential irritants to avoid include fragrances, salicylic acid, artificial dyes, and even coconut oil or cocoa butter, which can clog pores and cause breakouts.
Look for prime packaging: Ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, and peptides can become unstable and degrade when exposed to air or light, so any products that contain them should be packaged in dark opaque tubes, preferably with air-tight pumps, says Lela Lankerani, DO, board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas.
But even with all of this intel in mind, sifting through all of the anti-aging creams to find the one that’s best for you can be overwhelming. Which ones do experts recommend most?
The best anti-aging creams to fight wrinkles
pH Beautiful Rejuvenist Daily Treatment with 10% Glycolic Acid Cream
Post-cleanse, it’s time for exfoliation. “This is where it’s important to note that what works for me may not work for you, so get to know what your skin can tolerate,” she advises. “My skin remains in harmony when I exfoliate two or three times a week; I also believe that exfoliating at night is key because it strips your skin of all impurities that accumulate throughout the day and creates a clear foundation for your skin to absorb the essential nutrients it needs to repair itself overnight.” preferring chemical exfoliants, her favorites being the Rejuvenist Daily Treatment with 10% glycolic acid which make the skin appear brighter while exfoliating.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair
Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer is a milder retinol product that helps bring new skin cells to the surface, while encouraging new collagen growth over time, says board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD. It is strong enough to be irritating, though, so start by applying a thin layer two nights a week and increase slowly as tolerated
Neocutis Lumiere Bio-Restorative Eye Cream
“With this cream, you don’t need to worry about whether or not it’s only going to help with puffiness or just improve crow’s feet, because it really does do it all,” says Dr. Schlessinger. Its formula utilizes powerful growth factors to smooth and firm the eye area, while caffeine improves the appearance of puffiness and dark circles. Best of all, it’s suitable for all skin types.
Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-A Sleeping Cream
This cream from Ole Henriksen is formulated with bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative that delivers similar benefits but is gentler on skin, says Dr. Ilyas. It’s also concentrated with AHAs and edelweiss stem cell (a flower that thrives in harsh conditions, much like yourself), ultimately helping your skin fight fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots while improving elasticity.
Naturopathica Argan & Retinol Wrinkle Repair Night Cream
“This is a nice product to use if you have sensitive skin and are looking for a retinol to include in your routine,” says Dr. Ilyas. Although there are less than a handful of studies directly testing argan’s anti-aging benefits, the results so far have been promising. “At the very least, it does hydrate the skin effectively to boost the benefits of retinol and reduce the potential irritation from its use,” she says.
Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturizer SPF 15
This anti-aging cream from Olay is jam-packed with vitamins (including 50 percent more vitamin E and double the amount of green tea extract found in previous iterations) to fight surface free radicals. The unique formula enhances the skin’s natural self-renewal process and delivers oodles of benefits, including replenishing moisture, evening skin tone, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, and reducing dark spots.
AcneFree Daily Skin Therapy Complexion Perfecting Cream
“Although marketed for acne, this is a nice retinol product that’s also anti-aging—and at around $9, it’s a very cost-effective way of including retinol in your skincare regimen,” says New York-based board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD. Bonus: It contains humectants and moisturizers to help offset the dryness that can come from using a retinol.
Roc Retinol Corrextion Deep Wrinkly Anti-Aging Retinol Night Cream
This is a product that Dr. Ilyas recommends often. “It has the needed retinol to treat and prevent wrinkles, along with effective hydrating ingredients to minimize the irritation that most will experience with retinol-containing products,” she says. It’s also oil-free and noncomedogenic, so you won’t have to worry about it causing breakouts. The fact that it’s affordable is icing on the cake.
Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
Not only does this cream contain hyaluronic acid to plump and hydrate the skin, it also contains amino-peptides to firm the skin, as well as vitamin B (niacinamide), a potent antioxidant that helps improve the appearance of enlarged pores and dullness, among other talents, says New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, author of Skin Rules.
CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream
“The ingredients in this moisturizer can achieve results of some much more expensive products,” says Dr. Jaliman. It contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid, making it an excellent moisturizer that helps to reduce the skin’s crepey appearance, while niacinamide helps even out skin tone. It’s a light formulation that won’t clog pores (and is super-easy on the wallet).
How to get the most out of your anti-aging creams
Layer in the correct order: You want your anti-aging products to complement each other, not work against one another. “Unless otherwise indicated, remember to apply anti-aging creams after all other skin care—except your daily sunscreen,” says Dr. Schlessinger. Applying a cream before a gel or serum, for example, may prevent them from properly penetrating the skin.
Make sure the ingredients get along: Many of us layer anti-aging products because we think this will increase the active ingredients that will help our skin, when in reality, we may be deactivating them by combining ingredients that clash—and retinoids are a good example of this.“Retinoids are some of the most proven topical options for anti-aging, but they’re often deactivated by alpha hydroxy acids and benzoyl peroxide,” says Dr. King. “So if you’re layering products and one contains AHA and one contains a retinoid, you may not benefit from the retinoid at all.” (They’re also degraded by sun exposure, which is why they’re typically found in night creams.)
Exfoliate: Oiliness and dead skin cells can clog pores and interfere with product penetration, says Dr. Schlessinger, who recommends using an exfoliator that contain glycolic acid once a week to make sure you’re scoring all the perks from your anti-aging creams.
Store your products properly: “Efficacy of anti-aging products is compromised when you don’t store your products in the appropriate place,” says Dr. Lankerani. Products with active ingredients, such as retinol and vitamin C, should be kept in a dark, cool environment to slow down the degradation of the active ingredients.
Be patient: “While the amount of time needed to see visible results varies from product to product, I recommend waiting 12 weeks to see results with most anti-aging creams,” suggests Dr. Schlessinger.