Their name makes them sound like they're just for old folks, 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 say price plays no part in 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 most 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.
Wrinkle cream without retinol. 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. However, 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 not magic potion that will make your wrinkles disappear overnight, or prevent all wrinkles. These antioxidants also 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 cream that will really help reduce your fine lines and wrinkles and other sign of aging, look for a product containing retinol. 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. There are prescription-strength creams 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 using it 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 sunscreen.
Skin brighteners/dark-spot correctors. As we age, our skin tends to lose moisture which can make it lose sheen and seem dull. In addition, years of exposure to sun, environmental damage, or just the worsening of skin issues that may already be present (like freckling) can cause skin to become spottier in texture, or more mottled. Skin brighteners and dark-spot correctors aim to even out these textures, giving skin a more even tone and lightening darker, damaged areas. We found several products that got raves for their brightening properties, but dark spot correctors get, well, spottier reviews. They work for some people, but not for others. It seems that the people who have the worst damage are the least satisfied, and these products seem to work best overall on people with lighter skin.
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 very few expert sources for skin products for men, but we have some recommendations based upon our research and a little bit of common sense.
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 "Best" products are available at drugstores, feedback from customers at places like Amazon.com and Drugstore.com often offer a look at how first-time users of some of these products react to their performance and price.
The result is a roundup of the best wrinkle creams and skin brighteners on the market. One is sure to give your skin a healthy, younger glow.
Elsewhere in this report:
Best wrinkle cream
These powerful anti-agers will smooth and tone without causing irritation.
Best wrinkle cream with retinol
Retinol is the wrinkle cream super-star. These anti-aging night creams can help erase the years, but might not be right for all skin types and all situations.
Skin brightener/dark-spot corrector
Need to even your skin tone and lighten your age spots? These serums will do the trick.
Wrinkle creams for men
Men need top skin care products too. We found the best anti-aging wrinkle creams for men.
Don't go shopping for wrinkle creams without learning what you need to know first. Our Buying Guide explains how to determine the best type of facial moisturizer for you.
Links to the expert and user reviews we used to select the top wrinkle creams and skin brighteners, along with our assessment of each reviewer's expertise, credibility and helpfulness.