Editor's Note
  • February 22, 2018 - To stay current, we’ve updated our review by assessing a new list of 112 wrinkle creams. Our new top pick, Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution ($88), is considerably cheaper than our former favorite, La Prairie ($530), which remains a great option if you can afford it. We’ve also included four drugstore and department store runners-up.

The Best Wrinkle Cream

Wrinkle cream is the long con of skin care, a commitment to a daily routine that won’t show results for months, or even years. 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 even the best wrinkle creams, we invest in the routine and, to a certain extent, 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.

Our two overall favorites are Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution ($88) and, if you can afford it, La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night ($530). Out of 112 products, these were the only two that met all of our criteria. They contain 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. Because retinoids, in particular, are extremely fragile and degrade easily, we appreciated that both formulas also use packaging that minimizes exposure to light, air, and dirty fingers.

Dr-Dennis-vs-La-Prairie-for-Wrinkle-Cream

Our top picks for best wrinkle cream: Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution (left), and La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night.

The real difference between the two is texture: Dr. Dennis Gross Brightening Solution is a thin, lightweight serum applied via a dropper. La Prairie is a creamy, luxurious-feeling lotion with a faint citrus scent that we loved. Your choice comes down to your budget and personal preference.

We also found a number of runners-up that aren’t quite perfect, either because they come in tubs that expose the product to air and light (Dr. Dennis Gross Anti-Aging Moisturizer and It Cosmetics Moisturizing Super Cream), or because they lack sodium hyaluronate and will need to be paired with a standalone moisturizer (RoC Night Cream and The Ordinary Retinoid Emulsion). Still, if you want to shop around, these brands represent decent options at a range of price points.

Our Picks for the Best Wrinkle Cream

Best
Overall
Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution
Dr. Dennis Gross
A non-greasy serum with all three of our wishlist ingredients for smooth, fresh skin ($88).

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 includes sodium hyaluronate. This built-in moisturizer means you won’t have to add in a separate cream to keep your skin hydrated. The icing on the cake? It comes in an opaque bottle and can be applied without dipping your fingers into an open tub. Out of 112 finalists, the only other product that hit every single check box was La Prairie, a $530 wrinkle cream that made Dr. Dennis’ $88 price point seem like a steal.

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. That said, we found the formula easy to apply. 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.

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.

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.

We had high expectations for Dr. Dennis Gross after the brand also impressed us in our eye cream testing, so we were glad its wrinkle cream lived up to our expectations.

Best
Splurge
La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night
La Prairie
At $530, this lotion is pricey, but it boasts all three of our anti-aging must-haves plus a deliciously creamy texture that testers loved.

La Prairie was our top pick the first time we reviewed wrinkle creams, back in 2016. At the time was the only product we found that offered the triple whammy of retinoids, AHAs, and sodium hyaluronate. And there’s a lot to love about La Prairie. 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.

Close-up of La Prairie Wrinkle Cream

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. That said, 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 had good luck tracking it down at our local Nordstrom’s.

Other Wrinkle Creams to Consider

Right Ingredients, Wrong Packaging

A couple of creams checked all the boxes of our ingredient wish list but came in the wrong packaging. They both use jars. 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. If you’re sold on the idea of a thick lotion or cream, these runners-up are the closest competitors to the $530 La Prairie. And 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).

Runner-Up
Right Ingredients, Wrong Packaging
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer
Dr. Dennis Gross
A cream rather than a serum, but otherwise very similar to our top pick. Comes in a jar, which may reduce potency ($75).

We truly did enjoy Dr. Dennis Gross’s Ferulic Acid + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer — it’s the cousin cream to our top pick serum. It has a rich creamy texture that absorbs quickly, and a gentle orange scent. Like our two top picks, it 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. This cream is packaged in a jar, but it’s also less expensive than our two top picks, retailing at $75.

Runner-Up
Right Ingredients, Wrong Packaging
It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream
IT Cosmetics
Slightly cheaper than Dr. Dennis Gross, but with a weaker form of retinoid. May take longer to see anti-wrinkle effects. Comes in a jar ($48).

IT Cosmetics’ Confidence in a Cream Moisturizing Super Cream ($48) is another wrinkle cream in a jar that’s worth a mention. Like Dr. Dennis and La Prairie, it contains retinoids, AHAs, and sodium hyaluronate. It’s a little cheaper than Dr. Dennis, but 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. While it comes in a jar, testers liked its mild citrus scent and creamy formula.


Right Packaging, Not-Quite-Perfect Ingredients

A couple of affordable and readily available drugstore brands landed in this category. They contain retinoids and AHAs, the two most important anti-wrinkle ingredients. All they lack is sodium hyaluronate — our favorite moisturizer. An easy work-around is to add a face moisturizer to your routine — preferably one that does contain sodium hyaluronate. (Our top picks for best face moisturizer both feature it, if you need a recommendation.)

Runner-Up
Right Packaging, Not-Quite-Perfect Ingredients
RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
RoC
A gel that has 2 out of 3 of our wishlist ingredients, but no hyaluronic acid (a moisturizer). We'd suggest doubling up with a good face lotion.

RoC’s Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream ($24) 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. It comes in a squeeze tube to protect the formula from light and oxygen. The drawback is its scent, the strongest among our top pick. 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. Again: It has retinoids and AHAs, but no HA, so double up with a quality moisturizer.

Runner-Up
Right Packaging, Not-Quite-Perfect Ingredients
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
The Ordinary
A thin but potent emulsion. Like Roc, has everything but hyaluronic acid and should be paired with a face moisturizer ($10).

The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion ($10) had no real scent, smelling only like a mild lotion. It’s an emulsion, which is similar to a serum, with a consistency that put us in mind of liquified lotion. Like our top pick, Dr. Dennis, The Ordinary is applied with a dropper, but testers preferred Dr. Dennis’ angled tip over The Ordinary’s straight one, which they found trickier to control.

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.

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.

A Consistent Routine is Key for Good Results.

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.”

Don’t neglect the rest of your 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.

Our Wrinkle Cream Review: Summed Up