Last updated on Aug 22, 2019

The Best Wrinkle Creams

The science behind the anti-aging hype ​
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How We Found the Best Wrinkle Creams

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110 + Creams Evaluated

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3 Scientists Consulted

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6 Top Picks

The Best Wrinkle Creams

There’s no over-the-counter quick fix for wrinkles — nothing we can slather on one night and wake up crease-free the next morning. When it comes to testing even the best wrinkle creams, we invest in the routine and cross our fingers that 10 or 20 years from now we may look 10 or 20 years younger than we would have without them. So it’s good news that the science behind the most powerful wrinkle fighters — retinol, for one, but alpha hydroxy acids and humectants like hyaluronic acid too — says they do actually work to decrease the appearance of fine lines and signs of aging. The bad news: They don’t come cheap.

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The 6 Best Wrinkle Creams

    The Best Wrinkle Cream: Summed Up

    Application
    Consistency
    Scent
    Hyaluronic acid
    Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution
    Best All-In One
    Dropper
    Serum (thin
    Herbal
    La Prairie
    Best Splurge
    Pump-top
    Lightweight cream
    Unscented
    Dr. Dennis Gross Anti-Aging Moisturizer
    Most Pleasant Application
    Jar
    Lightweight cream
    Orange
    IT Cosmetics
    Good Ingredients, Poor Packaging
    Jar
    Lightweight cream
    Citrus
    RoC
    Budget Pick: Best Feel
    Squeeze tube
    Thicker cream
    Baby wipes
    The Ordinary
    Budget Pick: Strong Retinoids
    Dropper
    Serum (thin)
    Unscented

    Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution

    Best All In One
    Dr. Dennis Gross

    Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution

    Pros

    All three anti-aging ingredients
    Great packaging
    Easy application
    Lightweight formula

    Cons

    Thinner than other wrinkle creams

    Why we chose it

    All three anti-aging ingredients

    Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution succeeds where virtually every other wrinkle cream fails. In addition to having retinol and AHAs — bringing exfoliating and regenerative power to your daily routine — Dr. Dennis also includes sodium hyaluronate. This built-in moisturizer means you won’t have to add in a separate cream to keep your skin hydrated.

    Great packaging

    This wrinkle cream comes in an opaque bottle and can be applied without dipping your fingers into an open tub. Because retinoids are extremely fragile and degrade easily, we appreciated that the formula used packaging that minimizes exposure to light, air, and dirty fingers. Out of the 112 wrinkle creams we evaluated, the only other product that paired great packaging with our three key ingredients was La Prairie, a $530 wrinkle cream that made Dr. Dennis’ $68 price point seem like a steal.

    Easy application

    We also loved how easy it was to apply the Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution. The angled dropper allows you to precisely deposit small drops onto your face or finger and then rub it in. The package also includes a wrapped stack of microfiber pads if you’d prefer to apply this way.

    Lightweight formula

    We found the formula pleasantly lightweight when we tested it. It only took us about four drops to cover our entire faces, and the serum absorbs within a couple of minutes. Its scent is fairly light — you might have to focus to catch it, as opposed to Dermatologica’s knock-your-socks-off approach — and has herbal and medicinal tones that none of our testers objected to.

    Points to consider

    Thinner than other wrinkle creams

    Our one mild quibble is that Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution is not strictly a cream — it’s a serum, with a thin, oil-like consistency. If you like the skin-feel of lotion or thick cream, you may want to consider either La Prairie or one of our not-quite-perfect runners-up below.

    Dr-Dennis-Gross-Texture-Comparison-for-Wrinkle-Cream1
    Dr. Dennis Gross’ serum (left) is thinner than the lotions and creams offered by most of our finalists.

    La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night

    Best Splurge
    La Prairie

    La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night

    Pros

    All three anti-aging ingredients
    Luxurious feel
    Great packaging

    Cons

    Price

    Why we chose it

    All three anti-aging ingredients

    Along with Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution, La Prairie was the only other wrinkle cream out of 112 contenders that combined perfect packaging with the triple whammy of anti-aging products: retinoids and exfoliants to undo wrinkles and keep skin looking young and healthy, plus sodium hyaluronate — a super-charged moisturizer that helps skin stay plump and hydrated.

    Luxurious feel

    Testers adored its texture, both immediately after applying, and hours later. It’s a lightweight formula that absorbs nearly instantly, and rests almost invisibly on the skin. This is particularly impressive given that La Prairie also includes a host of moisturizing plant-based oils like jojoba and sunflower seed oil. These absorbed quickly when we applied in the evening, and helped soothe our skin so our faces felt refreshed and moisturized in the morning.

    Product Card image of La Prairie Wrinkle Cream

    Great packaging

    We also liked La Prairie’s packaging choice. Its completely opaque pump bottle carries an even smaller risk of exposure to oxygen and sunlight than Dr. Dennis’ eye dropper, and means you can precisely measure out how much cream you need. Testers also liked the sheer appearance of the bottle itself calling it “otherworldly.” It’s sleek, minimal, and futuristic.

    Points to consider

    Price

    La Prairie is almost six times the cost of our Dr. Dennis top pick (although it comes with 1.7 ounces of product to Dr. Dennis’ 1.0 ounces). If you want to see more before committing to $530, we were able to track it down at our local Nordstrom’s.

    Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer

    Most Pleasant Application

    Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer

    Pros

    All three anti-aging ingredients
    Pleasant application

    Cons

    Comes in a jar

    Why we chose it

    All three anti-aging ingredients

    Like our two top picks, Dr. Dennis Gross’s Ferulic Acid + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer has retinoids, AHAs, and sodium hyaluronate, which means that it will fight wrinkles by encouraging your skin to regenerate more quickly, while also moisturizing and plumping your skin.

    Pleasant application

    We truly did enjoy Dr. Dennis Gross’s Ferulic Acid + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer — the cousin cream to our top pick serum. Our testers enjoyed its rich creamy texture that absorbs quickly, and gentle orange scent.

    Points to consider

    Comes in a jar

    This wrinkle cream checked all the boxes on our ingredient wish list, but unfortunately came in the wrong packaging. Unlike squeeze tubes and pump bottles, a jar means that the entire cream is exposed to air, sun, and bacteria every time it’s used. But if you’re sold on the idea of a thick lotion or cream, it’s the closest competitor to the $530 La Prairie.

    It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream

    Good Ingredients, Poor Packaging
    IT Cosmetics

    It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream

    Pros

    All three anti-aging ingredients
    Price

    Cons

    Weaker retinoids
    Comes in a jar

    Why we chose it

    All three anti-aging ingredients

    Like Dr. Dennis and La Prairie, It Cosmetics’ Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream all three anti-aging ingredients we looked for: retinoids, AHAs, and sodium hyaluronate. That means it will prevent wrinkles while also moisturizing and drawing water into your skin cells to make it look more vibrant.

    Price

    The Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream was the cheapest wrinkle cream we saw that still contained all three key ingredients. It’s only $48 for two ounces, almost half the price of Dr. Dennis at $75 for 1.7 ounces.

    Points to consider

    Weaker retinoids

    While IT Cosmetics is a little cheaper than Dr. Dennis, it also uses a type of retinoid (retinyl retinoate) that’s weaker than the retinol that’s found in Dr. Dennis and La Prairie. This means it may take longer to see results but is less likely to irritate your skin, especially if you’re prone to sensitivity.

    Comes in a jar

    Like our other runner up pick, IT Cosmetics was docked primarily because of how it’s packaged. It comes in a jar, so every time you open it, all of the cream is exposed, leaving the key ingredients more vulnerable to degradation. More seriously, the cream can become a hotbed for bacteria if you’re not diligent about washing your hands before each use.

    RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

    Budget Pick Best Feel
    RoC

    RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

    Pros

    Luxurious feel
    Squeeze tube

    Cons

    Strong scent
    No hyaluronic acid

    Why we chose it

    Luxurious feel

    RoC’s Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream was rated highly by testers for its luxurious moisturizing feel — it has a texture similar to petroleum jelly, although it’s not sticky and absorbs much faster.

    Squeeze tube

    We also liked how ROC comes in a squeeze tube to protect the formula from light and oxygen. Along with pump-top bottles, this type of packing felt immensely more sanitary and controllable than creams that came in a jar.

    Points to consider

    Strong scent

    The main drawback to ROC is its scent, the strongest among our top picks. It reminded us of scented baby wipes, and testers were split on whether they’d be willing to tolerate the strong aroma and wear it nightly.

    No hyaluronic acid

    While ROC does contain retinoids and AHAs, the two most important anti-wrinkle ingredients, it’s missing sodium hyaluronate, our favorite moisturizing ingredient. An easy work-around is to add a face moisturizer to your routine — preferably one that does contain sodium hyaluronate. (Both our top picks for best face moisturizer feature it, if you need a recommendation.)

    The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

    Budget Pick Strong Retinoids
    The Ordinary

    The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion

    Pros

    Stronger retinoid formula
    Dropper application

    Cons

    No hyaluronic acid

    Why we chose it

    Stronger retinoid formula

    Notably, The Ordinary is the only one of our finalists to have two types of retinoids on its ingredient list: a retinol and a retinoate. This means that it may be a little stronger than our other picks. And, in fact, it was the only formula where our testers noticed a light burning sensation after application. It’s not unusual for retinoids to cause stinging, itching, or tenderness, and it’s usually a sign to cut back on your use: Only apply the product once every two or three days while your skin adjusts, and monitor your reaction over the course of a few weeks. If your skin continues to react poorly, take it as a sign to choose a gentler formula or consult with your dermatologist for other options.

    Dropper application

    Like our top pick, Dr. Dennis, The Ordinary is applied with a dropper. Our testers preferred Dr. Dennis’ angled tip over The Ordinary’s straight one, which they found trickier to control, but it was still a huge step up from dipping a finger into a jar. It’s an emulsion, which is similar to a serum, with a consistency that put us in mind of liquified lotion.

    The Ordinary vs Dr Dennis Gross for Wrinkle Cream
    Like our top pick, The Ordinary’s anti-aging emulsion (left) has a thin texture that takes getting used to.

    Points to consider

    No hyaluronic acid

    Like ROC, The Ordinary lacks the humectant sodium hyaluronate, which draws water to your skin cells. That means you’ll want to be paired The Ordinary with a standalone moisturizer. You can check out our top picks for best face moisturizer, both of which contain hyaluronic acid.

    How We Chose the Best Wrinkle Cream

    Anti-aging serums made up a $130 billion market in 2017, a number that the Infinium Global Research Group projects will continue to rise. It’s a big business. Needless to say, there are a lot of formulas to choose from: Whole aisles in drugstores and department stores are devoted to combating wrinkles, fine lines, and sun-damaged skin.

    We began our search for the best wrinkle cream by pulling top-sellers from major retailers like Walgreens, Amazon, and Target, compiling a list of 112 creams, gels, and serums — everything from high end brands like Estee Lauder and Lancome to drugstore staples like Neutrogena and L’Oreal. From here, we reached out to cosmetic chemists and dermatologists: We wanted to find out which ingredients would help skin look youthful, and which weren’t worth the hype.

    Retinoids

    Retinoids are one of the most well-documented wrinkle fighters around, reversing the signs of aging in study after study (after study). A class of chemicals derived from vitamin A, retinoids work in two ways: First, they help your skin slough off old cells and make new ones — a process our bodies are good at when young, but which slows down as we age. Second, they spur collagen production, improving elasticity and filling in lines — another natural process that tends to slow down with age.

    “Retinol is a truly effective wrinkle reduction treatment. It is much better to have a product with retinol than without it.”


    Dr. Diane Ford, MD DSF Cosmetic and Medical Dermatology

    There are different kinds of retinoids, and they vary in strength. As cosmetic chemist Kevin Gallagher explained, this strength comes with a trade-off: the stronger the retinoid, the faster it works — and the harsher it is on skin. The strongest retinoids are only available with a prescription. But that’s not to say over-the-counter formulations are ineffective. A three-month, double-blind, randomized study of 34 women showed there was no significant difference in efficacy between an over-the-counter 1.1 percent retinol cream and 0.025 percent prescription tretinoin. In short: Retinoids work.

    They aren’t quite miracle ingredients — it may take a few months of routine use before you’ll see a difference — but they’re the closest we could find, and they represent your skin’s best shot at looking younger. We cut all formulas without them.

    Alpha hydroxy acids

    Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are usually derived from fruits (like apples and oranges) or sugars. They are exfoliation powerhouses, and multiple studies have demonstrated their effectiveness in improving the look of aging skin. Wrinkles form for a variety of reasons, but photoaging (damage to the skin from sunlight) is a big one. Sunlight breaks down collagen and elastin in the skin — two proteins which help the skin connect and remain flexible. As they break down, the skin slowly becomes weaker and less supple, leading to drooping.

    “Treatment with AHAs produced significant reversal of epidermal and dermal markers of photoaging.”

    Ditre et al, 1996, “Effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on photoaged skin: a pilot clinical, histologic, and ultrastructural study,” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology

    AHAs save the day by dissolving lipids, the adhesive that clings to old cells. This exfoliation process allows old cells to be sloughed away and alerts our bodies to make new cells as a replacement, resulting in fresher, younger-looking skin. There are many types of AHAs in nature, but glycolic acid and lactic acid have the ability to penetrate skin, so those are the two we targeted to find the best anti-aging cream.

    AHAs on their own will help improve the appearance of your skin, but by selecting a product with both a retinoid and an AHA, you’re getting two of the best clinically proven anti-aging ingredients in one.

    No sunscreen

    Four of our remaining wrinkle creams advertised sunscreen built in: L’Oreal, Neutrogena, Philosophy, and StriVectin. Retinoids degrade very quickly in the sunlight, losing their potency. More worryingly, the 2010 handbook of Cosmetic Dermatology Products and Procedures suggests that retinoids may release free radicals as they degrade — molecules that harm your skin rather than helping it. Because of this, the handbook concludes, “it is still recommended to avoid UV exposure when using topical retinoids” (312). Sunblock does slow retinoid degradation, according to a 2008 study, but the retinoids still degrade to some extent. Ultimately, this wasn’t a risk we felt comfortable taking. Until there’s been more extensive research on the topic, we’ve opted to skip all sunscreen-containing products.

    Hyaluronic acid

    Hyaluronic acid (HA) gives you short-term benefits while you wait patiently for retinoids and AHAs to kick in. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, and works by drawing water into the cells, making skin look plumper and more full of life. And hyaluronic acid is the latest and greatest humectant out there, each of its molecules capable of holding 800 to 1,000 times their weight in water. That’s a lot of plumping power. Even more effective than HA is sodium hyaluronate, a derivative that has smaller molecules, making it better at sinking deeply into the skin.

    “There’s been a renaissance in skin care products, particularly topical ones, which now include a number of ingredients to improve wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid is one of those ingredients now available topically.”


    Dr. Diane Ford, MD DSF Cosmetic and Medical Dermatology

    We wanted an anti-aging cream with a full arsenal of defenses, so we required our top picks to contain hyaluronic acid of some type. But we opted to bring all 8 of our remaining contenders into the office for hands-on testing — four with HA and four without. This allowed us to check out drugstore runners-up like RoC, which are a lot cheaper and easier to find than brands like La Prairie (and can be paired with a best face moisturizer containing HA).

    What we tested:

    Wrinkle Creams with Hyaluronic Acid:

    • Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer
    • Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution
    • IT Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream
    • La Prairie Anti Aging Rapid Response Booster

    Wrinkle Creams without Hyaluronic Acid:

    • Algenist Retinol Firming & Lifting Serum
    • Dermalogica Age Smart MultiVitamin Power Firm
    • RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
    • The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid* 2% Emulsion
    Finalists-for-Wrinkle-Cream

    Packaging

    Since retinoids are so sensitive to sunlight, leaving a clear glass jar of wrinkle cream by your bathroom window could render it ineffective. So the first thing we did was double-check that none of our 12 finalists came in clear packaging, a test they passed without difficulty.

    But we weren’t done. To ensure safety and efficacy, we also preferred wrinkle creams that came in tubes or pump-tops rather than tubs or jars. Chemist Jennifer Reid explains, “Sticking your fingers directly into the product can introduce bacteria, and open tubs also expose a large surface area of the product to oxygen.” Like UV rays, oxygen can degrade the effectiveness of our key ingredients. But bacteria is a whole other mess.

    Studies have shown contaminated beauty products contain nasty bacteria like staph and E. coli. How do they get in there? Your fingers. Sure, you might wash your hands and face before applying your wrinkle cream, but what if you don’t get every particle of dirt out from under your nails? Boom: bacteria. Some jars come with applicators: little spoons that you’re supposed to use to take dollops of the product out. Maybe you’re the type that can always follow the rules (we’re not) — so while we didn’t declare tubs a deal breaker, we did consider it.

    Close-up of Dr. Dennis Gross Wrinkle Cream
    We loved Dr. Dennis Gross’ moisturizing cream, but we were disappointed that it came in a jar.

    Comfort and absorbency

    The best wrinkle cream should be pleasant to put on and wear. You’re committing to a long-term routine, after all. Keeping in mind that everyone’s skin is different, we looked for any glaringly obvious issues in the immediate aftermath of use. Testers found most of the creams delightfully soothing, with textures ranging from the thin serums of The Ordinary to the petroleum jelly consistency of Dermalogica. They typically came with light citrus smells, or no scent at all.

    The one thing we didn’t test for was results. Even high-quality wrinkle creams can take months of consistent use before you notice any changes. Instead, we looked for products offering the best combination of must-have ingredients, practical packaging, and no noxious smells.

    How to Get the Most Out of Your Wrinkle Cream

    Don’t overdo it

    It can be tempting to layer on lots of cream, especially if you’re excited about trying out a new product. But everyone’s sensitivity to retinol and AHAs is different, so it’s best to be cautious until you know how well your skin will tolerate the product. Dr. Ford recommends a graduated approach: “We tell our patients to begin using retinol on Mondays and Thursdays for a few weeks, then up it to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a few more weeks, and eventually you’ll just be taking weekends off. Some people can tolerate these products every day of the week.”

    Don’t give up

    It’s tough to be consistent when you won’t see results for weeks, months, or sometimes even years. But keep the faith. A wrinkle cream with the right ingredients will ultimately keep you looking younger. “These products won’t work if you don’t use them consistently for several weeks,” says Dr. Ford. “Try taking a selfie at the beginning of treatment and again at 90 days,” she recommends. “See if change is occurring: your freckles should be lighter, wrinkles should be less noticeable, and your skin more radiant.”

    Stick to a routine

    This includes the obvious: Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser. If you wear heavy eye makeup, invest in a dedicated eye makeup remover to avoid tugging at the delicate skin around your eyes more than necessary. You may also want to explore eye creams, which use many of the same ingredients found in wrinkle creams, but in gentle doses intended for the very thin skin under your eyes.

    Wear sunscreen

    The very best way to tackle wrinkles is to prevent them in the first place. Everyone we spoke to — dermatologists and chemists alike — noted that the most important wrinkle-fighting product you should own is sunscreen. And not just any sunscreen: a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 (as we learned when reviewing the best sunscreen). Stick with SPF 30; wear it every single day; and reapply as often as the instructions tell you to.

    Skin tone doesn’t matter; season doesn’t matter; and being indoors most of the day doesn’t matter — you are still exposed to UV rays, which break down collagen and elastin fibers in the skin, accounting for 80 percent(!) of wrinkles. The best wrinkle creams work to combat those effects by boosting collagen production, but they don’t have to work so hard if sunscreen is helping them out.

    And, this is very important to note: If you are using retinol and/or AHAs, be it in a wrinkle cream or other skincare product, your skin will be more sensitive to the sun. Wearing an effective sunblock daily becomes even more crucial.

    Wrinkle cream FAQ

    How should I store my wrinkle cream?

    Wrinkle creams that come in tubes or pump-tops can be stored in a medicine cabinet or drawer with the rest of your cosmetics. But if you do opt for a wrinkle cream in a jar, we’d suggest the following precautions: Wash your hands thoroughly or use a clean applicator wand for each use, and keep your cream in the fridge (bacteria grow more slowly in the cold).

    What’s the best age to start using anti-aging products?

    Most people can start using anti-aging skin care products as early as 21. By the time you’re in your 30s, a lot of damage will already be done to your skin. The earlier you get regenerative ingredients like retinoids and AHAs into your routine, the less likely you’ll be to develop wrinkles in the first place.

    What if I’m allergic to my wrinkle cream?

    After using a wrinkle cream, “patients sometimes break out and think that means they’re allergic to the product as a whole as opposed to just one ingredient,” says Dr. Ford. The most likely culprit in these anti-aging products, she says, is actually vitamin E, an irritant that also showed up a lot in our review on the best lip balm. So before you bag wrinkle creams altogether, look for products that don’t contain vitamin E, commonly listed as tocopherol. If you find that you’re still having a bad reaction, Dr. Ford advises that you try a product that has just one of the powerhouse anti-agers.

    What about wrinkle creams with peptides?

    Like retinoids, peptides encourage the skin to regenerate. But they work even more slowly than retinoids, and are a more recent discovery with fewer clinical trials to support their efficacy. Their main draw is their gentleness: This is why, when we reviewed the best eye creams, we looked at a number of peptide formulas. But the skin around the rest of the face is less delicate than the very fragile eye area, so this isn’t a precaution most people need to take with a wrinkle cream. We opted to focus just on retinoid-based wrinkle creams.

    Our Other Skin Product Reviews

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    About the Authors

    The Reviews.com staff is dedicated to providing you with all the deep-dive details. Our writers, researchers, and editors came together from Charlotte, Seattle, San Juan, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, and Chicago to put this review together.