Sure, wrinkle creams can't replace more invasive medical procedures, like Botox, but experts say the right combination of ingredients can actually improve the texture and appearance of your skin. So, how do you separate the standouts from the scams? Focus on the product's ingredients, rather than its flashy claims.
The most common ingredients in creams today are antioxidants, alpha hydroxy acids and vitamin A (also known as retinols). Preventative creams contain antioxidants to counteract the presence of free radicals. These environmental compounds wear on skin, damaging healthy cells over time---an occurrence which leads to wrinkles. Products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), on the other hand, specialize in treating existing issues like age spots. They work to slough off damaged cells to improve the appearance of skin.Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, naturally increases the body's production of skin-plumping collagen fibers to soften and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Retinol is more aggressive -- it works at a faster rate than AHAs. Treatments are available in over-the-counter and prescription strength preparations, though prescription products have been shown to be more effective. Some downsides: Many say retinol causes temporary irritation and increases sun sensitivity.
Formula aside, a product's packaging can also be key, since this factor has the ability to significantly degrade a cream's ingredients. For instance, some products, such as Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream (*Est. $25/1.7 oz.) and Olay Regenerist Night Recovery Treatment (*Est. $19/1.7 oz.), have excellent formulas but experts say this is ruined by their packaging. That's because antioxidants and retinol degrade in the presence of light and air, explain New York City doctors Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz, authors of the book, You Being Beautiful. And wrinkle creams in clear containers expose key ingredients to light and air every time they are used, rapidly minimizing their effectiveness. For best results, they say, look for products in opaque containers. Want to learn more? Check out our new report on wrinkle cream.