Wrinkle creams can improve the look of your skin in several ways
Their name makes them sound like they're just for seniors, but, in fact, wrinkle creams should be a part of everyone's skin care regimen from a fairly young age. A more appropriate name, and one many manufacturers use, is "anti-aging." These anti-aging products run the gamut from formulations to prevent damage that can make your skin look older, to products that help to reverse some damage you may already have.
When used in conjunction with a top facial cleanser and facial moisturizer (which we cover in separate reports), a good wrinkle cream can minimize fine lines and wrinkles, diminish age spots, and brighten your skin for better skin tone and a youthful glow.
Experts agree that price is no indicator of the overall effectiveness of wrinkle creams. In fact, many of the best wrinkle creams can be found at the drugstore -- and we encountered more reviews for these affordable brands than we did for expensive department-store wrinkle creams. Although many of those pricey products feel more luxurious on the skin, experts say the vast majority work no better than budget formulas with the same active ingredients.
Some wrinkle creams can be worn all day, but most are designed to be applied at night. That's because they typically don't contain sunscreen and some of their most powerful ingredients, such as retinol, easily degrade in daylight and can make skin extra sensitive to the sun. Still, there are wrinkle creams that people put on in the morning and wear all day, under makeup or another moisturizer or both. Remember, experts say you should always wear a moisturizer containing sunscreen on your face during the day to protect your skin from the aging properties of the sun and other types of environmental damage -- otherwise, you're negating the effect of the wrinkle cream.
Retinol or no retinol, that is the question
Retinol is the scientific term for vitamin A and has been proven to increase the production of skin-plumping collagen, thus increasing the firmness and elasticity of skin and softening the depth and overall appearance of wrinkles over time. Additionally, retinol is an antioxidant that helps to counteract the effects of free radicals, which damage skin cells.
Although there's no doubt that retinol is an anti-aging superstar, not everyone can use it. Retinol tends to cause more irritation and reactions in people with sensitive skin. It's also not recommended for use during the day.
The three types of wrinkle cream
Wrinkle cream without retinol. In spite of retinol's proven results, retinol is not the only game in town. Many non-retinol wrinkle creams contain antioxidants, which can prevent the fine lines and wrinkles associated with aging. Many of these products contain ingredients that plump the skin, minimize skin damage, and even, in some cases, reverse it. Although, sometimes that can be subtle -- there is no magic potion that will make your wrinkles disappear overnight, or prevent all wrinkles. These antioxidants can sooth irritated skin and make your skin smoother and softer all over, which can also make skin look younger.
Wrinkle creams with retinol. If you're looking for a potion that will really help reduce your fine lines and wrinkles and other sign of aging, look for a product containing retinol. There are prescription-strength creams available that are stronger, but tend to cause more irritation, with redness that can last for days. Over the counter creams are gentler, although they can still be irritating. Some reviewers recommend starting out by using creams with retinol every other day to begin with and easing yourself into a daily regimen. Keep in mind that because of the way retinol reacts to sunlight, these wrinkle creams are best used as a night time product or under a product with a full-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Wrinkle creams for men. Men may not be the main target market for wrinkle creams, or any skin care product for that matter, but it's just as important that they take care of their skin for the same reasons women do -- to look and feel younger and to radiate a healthy glow. All of the products in any of our skin care reports can be used by men as well, although some fragranced products are probably best suited to women. There are only a few expert sources for skin products for men, but we have some recommendations based upon our research and a little bit of common sense.
How we found the best wrinkle creams
There are a lot of good wrinkle creams on the market, but most of them have very similar ingredients. This means that an expensive, $100 tube of serum probably has the same ingredients as that drugstore gel for $10 -- and both will work just as well.
We found Paula'sChoice.com to be a top reference in our search for the best wrinkle creams. Site owner and beauty products expert Paula Begoun and her staff review virtually every beauty product on the market, in the BeautyPedia section. Hands on testing is not done, but reviews are updated frequently and the ingredients and the manufacturers claims are scrutinized and evaluated based upon the consensus of experts in the beauty field and scientific community. We also consulted the beauty product awards and roundups from sources such as Allure.com and TotalBeauty.com, because they study beauty and they know what works for their customers and readers.
Beauty product retail sites like Ulta.com, MakeupAlley.com and Sephora.com are invaluable in gauging real-world results from these wrinkle creams. Users posting on those sites tend to be very knowledgeable about beauty products, including specific ingredients and how they work, and their input is sharp and focused. Because so many of our top choices are available at drugstores and large retailers, feedback from customers at places like Amazon.com and Drugstore.com often offer a look at how more typical users of some of these products react to their performance and price.
Wrinkle creams without retinol brighten and smooth skin
There are few anti-aging creams that get the kind of praise that Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum (Est. $15 for 1.7 oz.) does. It gets a perfect 5-star rating from Paula Begoun at PaulasChoice.com because of its "broad complement of beneficial ingredients for all skin types." It's won several beauty awards and on user-review sites, it is one of the highest-rated by serums aimed at wrinkles that we found.
Users say Olay Regenerist makes their skin look and feels hydrated, and, over time, they can see improvements in firmness, smoothness, and overall skin tone. It glides on skin and covers very well without having to use a lot, and is reported as feeling "lightweight and silky." While it's primary purpose is as a night cream, since it lacks SPF, many users say they use it daily, layering it under a moisturizer that contains sunscreen and, often, under makeup as well. It's so light that it does not seem as if it's adding bulk or layers, they say. Begoun says, "It has an elegant texture that makes skin feel silky; yet with a powder-like finish."
Unlike many anti-aging creams, Olay Regenerist does not contain retinol, which is a proven wrinkle-fighter. However, that works in its favor as the omission of retinol, plus a lack of fragrance, make it suitable for even the most sensitive skin. Many users say this is the only product they can use that does not make them break out or cause irritation or allergic reactions.
Estee Lauder Perfectionist CP+R Wrinkle Lifting Serum (Est. $90 for 1.7oz) is another anti-wrinkle serum that gets raves from experts and users, but its much higher price tab keeps it out of our top spot. Begoun calls it, "...a formidable, ultra-silky serum to consider in the battle against signs of aging." It's loaded with ingredients that will repair and improve the look and feel of your skin. Many users say they have used it for years and that they have seen their lines and wrinkles improve, and quite a few say they often get comments on their beautifully smooth skin. Many who have spot-specific wrinkles -- such as crow's feet, nose crinkles or smile lines -- say they've seen a noticeable improvement over time. Even immediately, some say, they notice softer, more hydrated skin, although Begoun says this is not a good choice for dry skin as it's not as emollient as some.
Like Olay, Estee Lauder Perfectionist does not contain retinol or fragrance so it's a good choice for sensitive skin. Because it contains no sunscreen, it should not be used as a daily moisturizing lotion unless it's used under an SPF-rated product, such as a daily facial moisturizer. However, many users say they use it day and night, layering it under other products.
Although RoC Multi Correxion Lift Anti-Gravity Day Moisturizer (Est. $25 for 1.3 oz.) is technically a facial moisturizer, and not marketed specifically as a wrinkle cream, it gets a nod from the experts at Good Housekeeping in their annual roundup of the Best Skincare Products. They name this RoC day moisturizer as the best "Anti-Wrinkle" moisturizer, saying that it reduced fine lines in lab tests. The fact that it has an SPF of 30 means that it will also prevent more fine lines from sun damage. Users love it too, saying that it has a light, creamy feel that absorbs quickly so that you don't have to wait to put on your makeup. A few prefer a lighter SPF rating, say 15 or so, especially those who are sensitive to sunscreens.
At a fraction of the price of any of the other wrinkle creams in this category, but just as popular with users, Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Sensitive Skin Creme (Est. $9 for 1.7 oz.) is also praised by Begoun for its "well-documented antioxidants in a light yet creamy base formula." However, she gives it only two stars because of its packaging -- it comes in jar form only. The downside of jar packaging is that it does not provide the more stable environment of tube or pump packaging, because it lets in too much light and air when opened. In addition, there is a greater chance of introducing bacteria from scooping it out with your fingers. However, Eucerin products are perennially popular, and if you store and use this properly, out of bright light, and wash your hands before using, it could be a great budget choice for everyday skin care, especially if your skin is sensitive or very dry. Eucerin Q10 does not contain sunscreen, so is best used under an SPF containing moisturizer.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best Wrinkle Creams with Retinol | Wrinkle Cream for Men | Buying Guide | Our Sources