The Best Wrinkle Cream

Keep your skin looking younger as you get older
The 30-Second Review

According to the studies we researched, and the dermatologists and chemists we interviewed, the best wrinkle creams do work — as long as they’re made with the right stuff. Retinol is the only non-negotiable, but we scoured the ingredients lists of over 200 products looking for two other clinically proven anti-agers: alpha hydroxy acids and hyaluronate acid. Holy grail wrinkle creams do exist, but they definitely come at a price.

Top Picks
Best Overall (If You Can Afford It)

A super-light serum that contains all three powerhouse ingredients — retinol, AHAs, and hyaluronic — in a sleek pump bottle. At $520, it's five times as expensive as our other top picks, but it doesn't get much better.

The 3 Overall Best Wrinkle Creams

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 wrinkle creams, we invest in the routine (not to mention the product) 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 top pick is, unfortunately, the most expensive by far.

Sure, La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night is $520, but it’s the only wrinkle cream we found that not only includes the three best ingredients to fight signs of aging, but includes them in effective amounts. Plus, it comes in an airless pump bottle that eliminates any chance for the product inside to degrade, and it instantly absorbs, making it ideal to layer into your skincare routine. If you’re serious about results, and don’t want to go the prescription route, this is the product to splurge on.

Our runner-up, Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer, feels like a steal by comparison, but retinol is nearly two times lower on the ingredients list, so it’s just not as effective. It also comes in a pot, as opposed to a pump, making it more susceptible to contamination — and trickier to portion out. That said, it does contain all three ingredients that make the best wrinkle creams work, which is hard to find. If you’ll only apply it with clean hands and in a sunless room, this is a decent (and more affordable) option.

Our Drugstore Pick

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum For $314 less than the La Prairie, we can forgive its lack of alpha hydroxy acids.

When we stumbled onto Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, we were ecstatic. Voila: a product with even more retinol than La Prairie, in good packaging, for about $20. It has a pretty perfume-y fragrance, which will be a turnoff for some, and it doesn’t have any alpha hydroxy acids, which, after retinol, are the most effective wrinkle fighters. But if you can deal with the scent and load up on AHAs in other aspects of your skincare, this wrinkle cream is a perfect pick.

Our Picks for the Best Wrinkle Cream

Best Overall (If You Can Afford It)

La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night Retinol, AHAs, and hyaluronic, all in a sleek pump bottle.

We were pretty ticked that the best wrinkle cream is also the most expensive. We’re talking really expensive: over five times as much as any of our other top picks for slightly less product (only 1.35 oz). Come on. For $510, you can buy a roundtrip plane ticket to Cancun, where they sell prescription Retin-A in the airport for $35 (not that we’re recommending this…).

But La Prairie’s Cellular Power Charge Night has everything you want in an over-the-counter wrinkle cream: all three of our wishlist ingredients, plus a completely opaque bottle with a pump. The packaging has an otherworldly feel to it. It’s sleek, minimal, and futuristic. It looks like the wrinkle cream androids would use. The airless pump bottle means not only no contamination or oxygen degradation, but also that each portion is tightly controlled — you’re not at risk of over-serving by even a single drop.

Equally important as including all three ingredients is including enough of each. Retinol stood out here at spot 12 on the ingredient list — the second-highest of all the top picks, with Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum coming in first with retinol at number 11.

And the texture is sublime: It’s a very lightweight serum that absorbs instantly with no residue. One thing about these wrinkle treatments is that they can be drying, so there’s a temptation to add a heavy duty night cream on top. With the thicker wrinkle creams (like the ones we tested by Peter Thomas Roth and Dr. Dennis Gross), it’s cream overkill, but La Prairie’s practically invisible formulation lends itself to layering.

The serum felt good, and it smelled clean and crisp. Best of all, we felt no irritation upon application or the following morning, which we couldn’t say about many of the other creams. With each of the other top picks we woke up feeling something. Not pain necessarily, but definitely tightness. Not so with La Prairie. This is probably due to the addition of plenty of plant-based oils, which packed the top of the ingredient list. The other top picks listed a jumble of unpronounceable “-xanes” and “-xides” before getting to our wrinkle fighters. Something about seeing words like jojoba and sunflower seed oil up top soothed our minds as well as our skin.

We searched and searched for other options that did wrinkle cream as well as La Prairie, but couldn’t. This one just nails it. A brief survey of eBay reveals that there’s a hot second market for it (or for knockoffs) — and we found it on Amazon for closer to $200 — so we’re not alone in thinking the price tag is simply ridiculous. Elle Magazine also notes its effectiveness in the face of a blinding price tag. If you have the cash, you can feel confident spending it here, but if you’re just a regular person and not a cartoon oil tycoon, there are more reasonable alternatives.

Runner-Up in the Wrong Packaging

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer Good ingredients, but at lower levels — and unfortunately in a pot instead of a pump.

This wrinkle fighter came in a package that looked the most medicinal of all those we tried: It’s in an amber-tinted pot and the logo is a little cross like you see outside of pharmacies. You may think that’s some marketing sleight of hand (“Ooh, this looks like it came from an old-timey apothecary! It must be good!”), but Dr. Dennis Gross packs a punch in terms of ingredients. Retinol shows up the lowest on its ingredients list out of our three top picks (around 20th), so it won’t be quite as efficacious as La Prairie, but it does include both glycolic and lactic acid (which Neutrogena lacks), plus a hyaluronic element. It feels luxurious going on — a little thinner than a night cream, a little thicker than a moisturizer — and has a pleasantly light citrus and lavender scent.

Close-up of Dr. Dennis Gross Wrinkle Cream

Now, for the bad news: It’s in totally the wrong packaging. There is a white plastic liner inside the pot so the cream isn’t getting exposed to light at all times — but what about when you open the container? If you can trust yourself to either thoroughly wash your hands or use a spoon to take the product out of its pot (and to only do that far away from any windows), we say it’s worth trying. After La Prairie, $72 feels like a steal, but be warned: You only get 1.7 ounces and portion control can be tricky without a pump.

Best Drugstore Wrinkle Cream

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum The highest levels of retinol for the lowest price. Too bad there are no AHAs.

We were so happy to have found this stuff. Our other drugstore pick, RoC Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, did only so-so in our testing — which is especially surprising since the “R” in RoC stands for retinol. Out of Deep Wrinkle Night’s 35 ingredients, retinol was buried at 27th out of 35, and its best attempt at an AHA was 19th. “If you see the word ‘retinol’ listed in the first few ingredients, it will probably have a more significant effect. However, if it is listed as one of the last ingredients, it may not be as effective for anti-aging and wrinkles,” says Ford. When we realized we weren’t happy with any of the drugstore creams we’d been recommended, we set back out to CVS and read the ingredients list of literally every wrinkle fighter in the store to find a decent product for those of us with tighter budgets.

Close-up of Neutrogena Wrinkle Cream

According to its box, Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum is new to market, and we’re pretty sure this one is going to take off in a big way. Unfortunately, it lacks any AHAs — but it does include enough retinol and hyaluronic acid to be effective, and it comes in the right container. Best yet: It’s under $20.

It calls itself a serum, but the texture is more like a thin moisturizer — it’s quite creamy. That needn’t bother anyone too much, but if you’re a stickler for grammar, you might want to take a Sharpie to the packaging. The only other thing we disliked about it: its scent. The fragrance is strong. For a daytime treatment, that might be fine, but we’re not sure you’ll want to go to bed smelling like a perfume counter.

Other Wrinkle Creams to Consider

Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Night and Peter Thomas Roth Mega Rich Intensive Anti-Aging Cellular Creme. Packaging aside (more pots — we feel like a broken record) we liked both of these anti-wrinkle creams well enough. Un-Wrinkle has the most retinol (listed 12th) as well as some glycolic acid, but you’ll be shelling out over $100 for 1 oz of product that doesn’t have any coveted hyaluronate. Its counterpart, the Cellular Creme, is a more affordable $85 for 1.7 oz, but unsurprisingly its retinoid is much lower in the ingredients list and its hyaluronate is nearly last.

Philosophy Ultimate Miracle Worker Night ($80). It contains our three wishlist ingredients (although it has the least retinol of all our top picks) and is comparable in size and price to Dr. Dennis Gross, but the Ultimate Miracle Worker had some downsides. Denatured alcohol as one of the first ingredients which is ultra-drying in the bad way, plus you have to stir little “pearls” into the cream to “activate” it when you first open it — so gimmicky!

Did You Know?

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 (if you’ve read our review on the best sunscreen, you’ll have learned this lesson already). 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. Dr. Ford’s recommended routine: Apply your wrinkle cream in the evening; wash your face in the morning to remove the product; apply your sunscreen.

Only wear your wrinkle cream at night.

“Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E are particularly susceptible to UV damage,” says Reid. Retinol is vitamin A, and in addition to making your skin more sensitive to sun damage, its powers can be destroyed by sun exposure even when it’s already applied. With wrinkle cream price tags as high as they are, the risk of wasting even a day’s worth of product to the sun is scary.

Watch out for allergic reactions — but don’t despair.

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. (Of our top picks, only the Neutrogena is vitamin E-free.) 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 or consult with your physician. If you can’t handle all three, maybe you will tolerate a retinol-only product. Or maybe an AHA-only product. Think of it like an elimination diet that eventually informs you that the thing in your Caesar salad giving you hives isn’t the egg, but the anchovy.

The Bottom Line

Wrinkles are a fact of life. Protecting your skin at an early age is the best way to prevent them, but if you’re already there, find a product with retinol, AHAs, and hyaluronic acid and stick with it. It won’t be a quick fix, but over time, these wrinkle creams will keep your skin looking its best for years to come.

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Best Overall (If You Can Afford It)

La Prairie Cellular Power Charge Night It's (really) expensive, but wrinkle creams don't get any better.

Take it slow in the beginning. Because retinol and AHAs actually work in exfoliating and cell turnover, the amount of sensitivity can vary greatly from person to person. Dr. Ford recommends, especially for wrinkle cream newbies, 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.” Listen to your body, and only use wrinkle creams as often as is comfortable.

Stick with the program. “These products won’t work if you don’t use them consistently for several weeks,” says Dr. Ford. This is a tough one, because again, you won’t see results overnight and may not notice them at all for months — or even years. But with diligent use, you will look younger than you would have without them. “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.”

Talk to your dermatologist. Nowadays, many dermatology offices have rebranded to “med spas” and started selling over-the-counter products. These are usually higher-end products like Skinceuticals and Vi that have gone through rigorous testing — and that’s music to a doctor’s ears. Ask yours if they have a product or an ingredient they’d recommend for your skin type or particular issue. You might not even be a candidate for retinol (folks with skin conditions like rosacea or eczema sometimes have to avoid it altogether), or maybe you’ll see better results with a chemical peel or a prescription for Retin-A. Only your doctor knows for sure.