When it comes to anti-aging benefit, manufacturers of wrinkle creams tend to promise the sun, moon and stars but deliver much more down-to-earth results -- if any. Because many consumers are seduced by empty claims, experts suggest looking at a wrinkle cream's ingredient list first. The most effective formulas usually contain some combination of antioxidants, alpha hydroxy acids and/or retinol.
Experts say the best wrinkle creams contain antioxidants, which are your best bet, in addition to a good sunscreen during daylight hours, at preventing the fine lines and wrinkles associated with aging. There are literally hundreds of antioxidants, but some of the more notable ones include vitamins C and E, green tea, coenzyme Q10, and grape seed and soy extracts. Antioxidants work to stabilize free radicals -- unstable molecules caused by pollution, stress and the sun -- that attach themselves to cells and result in the breakdown of collagen.
Although it is unlikely that antioxidants can reverse the signs of aging, studies show that they can work as a shield against these environmental detriments to prevent skin damage that results in sagging, fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration. Be aware that antioxidants begin to break down in the presence of oxygen and sunlight. Therefore, it is imperative that products containing these ingredients are packaged in containers that limit their exposure to air and light. For this reason, experts suggest looking for antioxidant wrinkle creams packaged in opaque bottles or tubes with pump dispensers or small openings, rather than wide-mouthed, clear containers.
Overall, we found products from the Olay Regenerist line to be among the most popular wrinkle creams containing a variety of antioxidants. Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum (*Est. $20 for 1.7 oz.) is chosen as the best more often than any other wrinkle cream, by both experts and consumers. It is praised for its luxurious texture and feel on skin, which comes from the silicone (a substance derived from minerals found in sandstone, clay and granite) in the formula. Silicone also serves to increase the water content of the skin and impart moisture.
Paula Begoun, skin care expert and author of 20 books including, "Don't Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," says that Olay's Regenerating Serum "contains a fairly broad complement of beneficial ingredients for all skin types." These ingredients include antioxidants in the form of vitamin E and green tea (which protect skin from the damaging effects of the environment) as well as niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that can reduce water loss and increase hydration levels, according to Begoun, reviving parched or dull-looking skin.
Several users at TotalBeauty.com, Amazon.com and Drugstore.com note improved appearance and texture of skin, but say that results come with consistent daily usage of Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum over the course of at least three weeks. Other reviewers claim to see a slight reduction in fine lines around the eyes as well as reduced pore size and age spots. Then again, other users say this lightweight serum made no difference at all. Differences in results may vary greatly based on skin type, condition and the combination of other products used. Most users, however, agree that Olay Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum leaves skin soft and that makeup goes on smoothly over it (most likely due to the high silicone content). Regenerist Daily Regenerating Serum in the fragrance-free formula (*Est. $20 for 1.7 oz.) is identical to the fragranced product.
If you want something that feels thicker and more like a typical night cream, Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream (*Est. $24 for 1.7 oz.) contains similar ingredients as the Regenerating Serum, but in a thicker base. It's praised by editors at Health and Allure magazines for containing lots of good-for-skin ingredients -- namely amino-peptides which help strengthen the skin's moisture barrier and hyaluronic acid which has a plumping effect on skin. Begoun is critical of the formula, however, because it comes in jar packaging which allows light and air to compromise the potency of the antioxidants.
Users at Amazon.com and Drugtore.com have mixed opinions about the cream's efficacy. Some say Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream effectively firms skin along the jawline, while others say it doesn't make much of a difference at all. We ultimately chose Olay's Regenerating Serum as a Best Reviewed product because it's a better overall value and contains many of the same ingredients in stable packaging.
It's important to note that all anti-wrinkle creams take time to show results. Before you decide whether a wrinkle cream is working for you, experts suggest sticking with the formula for at least 12 weeks and using it according to the manufacturer's directions. Experts say that because most wrinkle creams don't include sunscreen, you should apply them at night. For daytime use, you either need to apply sunscreen separately, or use a daily facial moisturizer with sunscreen. That's because protecting your skin from sun will do more to prevent wrinkles than anything else. For more information about facial moisturizers for daytime use, see our report on facial moisturizers.