Many people use wrinkle cream in their daily routine to have healthier, younger-looking skin.
The right wrinkle cream can reduce fine wrinkling and lines on your face, making you look years younger and making your skin look far healthier.
Since so many people want to look younger, it’s a pretty mature product category, and there is some solid scientific research on what you should look for in a wrinkle cream.
The wrong wrinkle cream won’t be able to do any of these things. Our research team tracked down the ten best wrinkle creams.
1. LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream
LilyAna Naturals offers a concentrated retinol cream to attack wrinkles–a full 2.5% of the product is pure retinol. Alongside this, it uses the healing power of aloe vera extract and the collagen repairing properties of hyaluronic acid to help reduce wrinkling and fine lines in skin.
It has some powerful moisturizing oils like jojoba seed oil and shea butter oil, but it would be nice if these were higher up on the ingredient list.
Aside from this, it’s hard to fault LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream for much. Natural and organic fans will love its 71% organic content and its lack of petroleum ingredients.
2. XYZ Smart Collagen
XYZ may not be a name that you’ve heard of. But believe it or not, this collagen cream can actually make you look up to 7.5 years younger!
The unique active ingredient in XYZ is actually obtained from the leaf sap of a South African plant called the Bulbine Frutescens. It contains two very powerful, scientifically proven compounds that help to slow the rate of collagen breakdown in the dermis and increase natural collagen production!
90% of women on their testing panel said that they would recommend it, and it contains only natural, organic ingredients sourced from sustainably-grown plants.
3. Baebody Beauty Retinol
Despite the name, Baebody is about a lot more than retinol. Yes, this activated form of vitamin A is present in this wrinkle cream at high concentrations, but it’s far from the only active ingredient.
Baebody Beauty Retinol also includes several powerful antioxidants, including vitamin B5, vitamin E, and green tea extract. To repair and hydrate collagen, it has hyaluronic acid and jojoba oil, which is an excellent moisturizer. It’s very hard to go wrong with this wrinkle cream.
4. Miracle Retinol
Miracle Retinol delivers a strong 2.5% concentration retinol solution, alongside vitamin E and green tea extract for their antioxidant power.
It has aloe vera as well for healing skin, and a natural extract version of hyaluronic acid. It might be nice if the primary oils weren’t palm oil and sunflower seed oil, as these have only mediocre hydrating and moisturizing properties, but aside from this, it’s a very solid wrinkle cream.
5. Pure Biology Enhanced Night
Pure Biology’s nighttime wrinkle cream is centered around a strategy of repairing the collagen in your skin. Its key ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which is often found in joint supplements to increase the water retention and plasticity of cartilage.
The idea is that, by applying hyaluronic acid to skin, the collagen fibers will absorb it and become more elastic and resilient. Pure Biology loses a few points for lacking some of the other proven ingredients in wrinkle creams, but even still, it’s a pretty solid pick.
6. RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Facial Night Cream
RoC makes a strong, concentrated retinol formula to attack wrinkles with the rejuvenating power of vitamin A, but it falls short when it comes to everything else.
It’s weak in the antioxidant department, not offering a whole lot to mop up oxidative damage in your skin, and its moisturizing agents are mostly petroleum based. If you want all-natural hydrating moisturizers derived from plant ingredients, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
If all you want is a solid retinol-based product, it’s a solid pick, but there are plenty of other options out there that have the same retinol concentration but offer a lot more when it comes to additional ingredients which can help improve wrinkles and lines in your skin.
7. Amara Organics Retinol Serum
Amara Organics has an interesting take on retinol based wrinkle cream. It’s not really a cream at all; it’s a liquid spray that delivers a 2.5% retinol solution along with vitamin E and hyaluronic acid.
It is a unique variation on the product category, but the liquid delivery form means that it can’t provide the kind of moisturizing power that a cream can provide.
If you don’t have problems with skin dryness, or if you already have a moisturizing cream that you’re going to put on afterwards (perhaps for sun protection) you might be a good candidate for Amara Organics Retinol Serum, but most people will want a true wrinkle cream for its superior hydrating properties.
8. Andre Lorent Crazy Beautiful Face Creme
Andre Lorent takes the nutrient approach to fighting wrinkles, which is to say that this product supplies your skin with the precursors it needs to synthesize new collagen and healthy skin tissue.
To this end, it focuses on ingredients like hyaluronic acid, amino acids, vitamin B, and vitamin E. As a non-retinol based wrinkle cream, this means you can apply Andre Lorent Crazy Beautiful Face Creme in the morning and not have to worry about sun damage or applying a sunscreen over it. Because of this, it’s a decent choice if you are explicitly trying to avoid retinol, sun-related reasons or otherwise.
9. Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle
Eucerin has a somewhat different take on the standard anti-wrinkle cream formula. It uses coenzyme Q10, which is a popular nutritional supplement that the company claims helps fight oxidative damage in the skin.
To boost this antioxidant power, it also comes with vitamin E and beta carotene, which both have oxidative damage fighting properties. Beta carotene has the additional benefit of being a direct precursor of retinol.
The idea here seems to be that the body will synthesize retinol by itself using the beta carotene from Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle.
However, there’s less certainty that this will work, especially considering that we know retinol applied directly to the skin has good wrinkle fighting properties. In all, Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle doesn’t look as strong as many of its competitors.
10. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair
Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair is a retinol-based wrinkle cream, but unlike many of its other competitors, retinol is really all that it offers.
It doesn’t have much in the way of powerful antioxidants or skin repairing compounds, and its moisturizing power is lacking. Most of the ingredients are petroleum based, and there are several alcohols that could have a drying effect instead of a moisturizing effect.
This stands in stark contrast to many of its competitors, which have all-natural oils as their moisturizers and avoid petroleum products completely. Even if all you are looking for is retinol, there are stronger, more potent wrinkle creams that are retinol based.
11. St. Ives Timeless Skin
St. Ives Timeless Skin is a very popular wrinkle cream, but its ingredients don’t really measure up. The primary anti-aging ingredients in it are hydrolyzed collagen and hydrolyzed elastin, which are two compounds that give your skin its soft and elastic properties, but it’s not exactly clear how providing these in their final biological form helps your skin.
Other wrinkle creams focus on delivering the precursors so your body can synthesize these compounds itself. Further, the inactive ingredients leave a lot to be desired.
The product is essentially petroleum based; its primary ingredients are mineral oil and propylene glycol, both derived from petrochemical processing–not exactly what you want on your skin when other competitors are offering all-natural plant and seed oils.
Who should buy wrinkle cream?
Wrinkle cream is not just for older adults. You shouldn’t be surprised if you start seeing faint lines and aging in your skin during your late twenties or early thirties, and for younger to middle-aged people who are looking to maintain a youthful look, wrinkle cream is a key component in maintaining younger and healthier skin.
Skin damage from sun exposure, which is one of the biggest causal factors when it comes to skin aging, can be slowed and reversed with a good quality wrinkle cream, so people who spend a lot of time outdoors, and people who were sunburned a lot when they were younger will also benefit from wrinkle cream.
However, if you do spend a lot of time outdoors, you should only use your wrinkle cream in the evening, as retinol-containing wrinkle creams can increase your sensitivity to sunlight. A high-quality sunscreen is also useful for maintaining protection against ultraviolet rays when using a wrinkle cream on a regular basis.
How we ranked
We looked for wrinkle creams that contained effective doses of the most powerful anti-wrinkle ingredients. Chief among these is retinol, a form of Vitamin A that has been proven to reduce wrinkling and skin damage in clinical trials.
Since many of these clinical studies use doses ranging from 0.4 to 2.5% concentration of retinol, the highest-rated wrinkle creams were those that delivered a dosage of retinol on par with this dosage.
Since the concentration of retinol plays such a critical role in the efficacy of a wrinkle cream, we put a premium on wrinkle creams that supply enough retinol to be effective.
Unlike supplements, the labeling rules for cosmetics are looser, so manufacturers are not required to list the precise amounts of all of their ingredients.
However, you can get an idea of the relative proportion of various ingredients, because the ingredients themselves must be listed in order of the amount included in the formulation.
Clinical research suggests that retinol may be effective in doses as low as 0.1%, though this figure comes from a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology that used a cream that also included antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E.
More typical studies have used higher doses; one study that was particularly notable for its scientific rigor used a 0.4% retinol concentration and a double-blind design to compare retinol wrinkle cream to a placebo. The significant decrease in fine lines seen in the retinol group in this study underscores the importance of a concentration of retinol that’s high enough to actually work.
Later research supports even higher concentrations of retinol; a paper published in 2015 in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology demonstrated that a wrinkle cream that contained 2% retinol was equally effective compared to a clinical-grade anti-wrinkle agent, and significantly more effective compared to a placebo cream (1).
Because of the scientific weight behind this research, our top-ranked products which rely on retinol all deliver sufficient concentrations to get the same kind of impressive results seen in this clinical research.
In addition, because retinol is not the only compound that can decrease wrinkles, we looked for ingredients that could boost the body’s synthesis of collagen, such as hyaluronic acid.
This compound both moisturizes and is incorporated into the collagen matrix, the scaffolding that makes up your skin. Hyaluronic acid is so critical to the structural integrity of your skin that it’s been researched as a biomaterial for skin repair.
One scientific study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association-Dermatology in 2007 reported using a blend of hyaluronic acid and collagen successfully as a “filler” to rebuild and repair photodamaged skin (2).
Hyaluronic acid also has a proven track record in joint supplements, which might seem like a strange connection, but both cartilage and skin are made of collagen, which underscores its critical role as a building block for connective tissue in your body.
Products that deliver collagen-building ingredients like hyaluronic acid are a particularly good choice for people whose skin reacts poorly to retinol, since these collagen building wrinkle creams still directly address the primary cause of skin aging.
Retinol and collagen-builders like hyaluronic acid aren’t enough to make a great wrinkle cream. We also prioritized products that include high-quality moisturizing agents to keep skin soft, smooth, and hydrated.
Lower-quality products rely on cheap, processed oils and byproducts from petroleum manufacturing, but the best wrinkle creams use all-natural and highly effective moisturizers like jojoba oil and shea butter oil.
The benefits of ingredients like jojoba oil and shea butter oil are well-documented in cosmetics research: a 2018 review article specifically details how these natural oils help to repair the skin’s natural moisture barrier (3).
The article, published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, highlights the fact that there are several independent mechanisms through which a moisturizer can help preserve moisture levels in skin.
For example, it can help repair the natural lipid layer that prevents water in skin tissue from evaporating, or it can fill in the cracks between the microscopic structure of skin cells to increase skin smoothness and prevent water loss.
Finally, a moisturizer can physically block the passage of water through the skin, which also reduces the rate at which water is lost through the skin. We prioritized natural moisturizing agents because they tend to combine these benefits in a synergistic way.
To battle back against oxidative damage to the skin, we made sure that the top-rated wrinkle creams supplied powerful antioxidants.
While retinol is definitely included in this category, you’ll find other high-quality antioxidants in our top-rated wrinkle creams, too, like vitamin E and green tea extract.
Oxidative damage, from sunlight or from other biological processes, breaks down healthy skin cells, so it’s never a bad idea to have compounds on hand that fight back against this damage. By far the most common ingredients on the antioxidant front are vitamin E and vitamin C, which have plenty of uses in their own right as antioxidants (see our article on vitamin C serum for more on the specific benefits of vitamin C).
There is solid evidence for their inclusion in anti-aging creams, thanks to key biological research on animal models. One such study was published in the journal Dermatologic Therapy and used mice exposed to ultraviolet light to test the efficacy of vitamin C and vitamin E, both alone and in combination, as anti-aging agents in skin (4).
The researchers were able to demonstrate that these antioxidants reduced oxidative damage to the skin induced by ultraviolet light. This suggests that a wrinkle cream with a strong antioxidant will be more effective than one without antioxidant ingredients.
More interestingly, this same article demonstrated a synergistic effect between vitamin C and vitamin E. Through careful chemical analysis, they were able to demonstrate that vitamin C helps regenerate oxidized vitamin E, which gave us more confidence in choosing wrinkle creams that have multiple antioxidant ingredients instead of just one.
Lastly, we sought out products that had clean supplement design and all-natural ingredients.
Some products with solid ingredients landed lower in the rankings because they included byproducts from petroleum manufacturing, and other products didn’t even make the rankings due to cutting corners on synthetic oils and emulsifiers as opposed to well-balanced formulations that take advantage of high-quality moisturizers found in nature.
The general approach to reducing wrinkles with a wrinkle cream boils down to three parts: cleansing skin, reversing damage from sun exposure, and activating the skin’s own defenses. This is all according to a scientific review article published in 2004 in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology (5).
Pretty much any wrinkle cream will take care of the first part of this, but it’s the second and third that are tricky.
By far the most effective ingredient for reducing and reversing wrinkles in the skin is retinol. It’s an activated form of vitamin A that can be applied in a cream directly to the skin. Its in all of the best under eye creams, too.
Research abounds that testifies to the efficacy of retinol when it comes to reducing wrinkles. It’s highly effective at reducing damage caused by sun exposure over the years. One study, published in 2001 in the journal Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, describes the mechanism by which retinol helps heal wrinkles (6).
According to the study’s author, biological chemistry studies indicate that retinol helps preserve and stimulate the synthesis of new collagen in skin.
Collagen is a protein that gives skin its softness and elasticity, and it can be restored with a wrinkle cream. When you increase its rate of synthesis with a compound like hyaluronic acid, or decrease the damage it sustains with retinol, collagen becomes more pliable and less liable to becoming wrinkled.
The clinical application of retinol to reverse wrinkles was demonstrated in a 2009 study that evaluated retinol over an eight week period in a sample of 30 Japanese women (7).
The women applied a retinol containing wrinkle cream to one side of their face, but not the other, so it acted as a control. After eight weeks, doctors used high-resolution photography and computer scanning to evaluate the presence of wrinkles on the womens’ face.
They found a significant decrease in the depth and severity of the wrinkles on the applied side compared to the side of the face which did not receive retinol.
Retinol appears to be even more effective when combined with antioxidants and moisturizers. This was the conclusion of a study conducted at Nippon Medical School in Japan that examined a combination of retinol, vitamin C, and vitamin E (8).
The retinol, vitamin, and moisturizing formulation was very effective at reducing wrinkles and brightening skin over the study’s eight week evaluation period.
The most effective wrinkle creams are retinol based, but retinol does have one significant side effect to be aware of, which is photosensitivity.
This essentially means that retinol primes your skin for being extra vulnerable to damage from ultraviolet light–usually sunlight. Problems can occur when you put on a cosmetic product that includes retinol, then go outside into the sunlight.
Even short exposure to sunlight can cause redness, irritation, and sunburn along the exposed skin that was treated with retinol. The easiest way to avoid the problem of photosensitivity is to not apply retinol based products before venturing outside, but sometimes this is unavoidable.
If you are trying to use your wrinkle cream twice per day, you’ll have to find a solution for the morning. What most people do is apply their retinol based wrinkle cream, then use a moisturizing agent that includes sunscreen. This way, although you’ll be exposed to the sun, the sunscreen will prevent any ill effects from the photosensitivity.
As is the case with any other cosmetic, there is a chance of getting irritation or dermatitis because your body has a bad reaction to an ingredient in the wrinkle cream. This is a pretty remote possibility, and it’ll be obvious if this occurs–it just means you’ll need to find a different wrinkle cream to use.
Q: How does wrinkle cream work?
A: Since skin aging is a function of oxidative damage to skin that causes a breakdown in skin collagen that results in sagging, creased, and dry skin, any effective wrinkle cream has to tackle at least one of these problems.
Wrinkle cream with retinol helps on two fronts: first, it accelerates the rate at which the top layer of skin cells sloughs off. These skin cells bear the brunt of exposure to sunlight and harsh weather, like cold or dry air, so they tend to be the most damaged.
As these outer skin cells die off, they reveal healthier skin underneath. As it turns out, this same mechanism is why retinol is often used for acne treatments as well.
The second way in which retinol helps is by slowing the breakdown of the deeper layers of collagen, which helps retain the healthier and younger-looking skin that’s revealed after damaged skin is removed.
Q: What to look for in the best over the counter wrinkle creams?
A: While some wrinkle cream formulations require a prescription from a dermatologist, you can still get some powerful wrinkle creams over the counter.
Retinol is perhaps the key ingredient, which you’ll find in all of our top-ranked wrinkle creams. Concentrations in the neighborhood of 0.4% 2.5% are ideal, based on clinical research which has evaluated their efficacy against placebo creams that have all the same ingredients, but no retinol (9).
Q: What is the best under eye wrinkle cream?
A: The skin under your eyes is thinner and has slightly different mechanical properties than the skin on the rest of your face.
As such, it’s more vulnerable to aging, as you no doubt have noticed. We have separate rankings for under eye cream that addresses this specific issue, but in brief, you’ll want to look for many of the same key ingredients: strong, all-natural moisturizers, antioxidants, and in many cases, retinol.
It should come as no surprise that many of the brands that make our top-rated wrinkle creams, like LilyAna Naturals and RoC Retinol, also make excellent under eye creams.
Q: What is the best way to use wrinkle cream?
A: For maximum efficacy, clinical research suggests that you should apply wrinkle cream at least three times per week to the affected area. However, you may want to work your way up to this level of application if you have sensitive skin.
Moreover, try not to cover the area you applied wrinkle cream to with clothing, at least right away. This is not a major issue when using wrinkle cream on your face, but if you are trying to reduce wrinkles on your neck,chest, or shoulders, let the wrinkle cream soak in for a while before covering it up—otherwise, the fabric from your clothing could wipe away the active ingredients in the wrinkle cream.
Because wrinkle cream that contains retinol will increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight, it’s best to apply wrinkle cream at night before you go to bed.
That way you don’t need to worry about mixing your wrinkle cream ingredients with the sunscreen you’d need to put on to protect your skin if you used wrinkle cream earlier in the day.
Q: What should you do if wrinkle cream causes dryness and irritation?
A: Irritation and dryness can be common side effects from using wrinkle cream. As a first-line strategy, try reducing the frequency of application, cutting back from three times per week to just once per week.
If your dryness or irritation do not abate after two weeks, you may want to try a different product. Sometimes, specific ingredients like herbal extracts used for aroma in a particular product can trigger an adverse skin reaction.
Another thing to try is to move down to a lower concentration of retinol, as higher concentrations might be triggering irritation in your skin.
Q: Does wrinkle cream need retinol in it?
A: Retinol is a powerful anti-wrinkling agent thanks to its dual action as an antioxidant and as an exfoliant.
As we covered earlier, retinol boosts the rate at which the outermost layer of skin cells slough off, which means the dead and damaged skin cells fall away to reveal younger, smoother, and healthier skin below. Furthermore, this younger skin is healthier thanks to the ability of retinol to repair photodamage.
Still, not all wrinkle cream needs or should have retinol in it: Something you put on in the morning, for example, probably should not have retinol in it unless it also has sunblocking ingredients.
The major drawback of retinol is that it increasing your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight; additionally, it can cause skin irritation in some people, which is why we’ve included wrinkle creams that do not have retinol in our rankings.
Q: When should you start using wrinkle cream?
A: Many people start seeing wrinkles appear in their late 20s or early 30s, so while there is no broadly accepted threshold, somewhere in the vicinity of age 25 seems to be a good time to start using wrinkle cream—perhaps a bit later if you don’t spend much time outside and you have been careful to wear sunblock on your face when you’ve been going outside.
Q: What concentration of retinol is in a good wrinkle cream?
A: Clinical research indicates that you want between 0.4 and 2% retinol for optimal anti-wrinkle effects. Some research suggests concentrations as low as 0.1% can still have some effect, so products with these lower concentrations might be a good option if you find that you are getting skin irritation at higher concentrations of retinol.
Q: What is the active ingredient in anti-aging and anti-wrinkle creams?
A: Often, retinol is the flagship anti-wrinkle and anti-aging ingredient, but you shouldn’t count out other antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E, which can also help treat or prevent photodamage.
Moreover, collagen aids like hyaluronic acid can also be helpful, alongside natural moisturizers like jojoba oil.
With a quality wrinkle cream, deep, heavy wrinkles need not be a fact of life. The strongest and most effective way to fight wrinkles is with a wrinkle cream that contains retinol, but moisturizers, antioxidants, and healing agents can contribute to reducing wrinkles too.
Be on the lookout for products that contain multiple antioxidants (like both vitamin E and vitamin C together), as research suggests that the synergistic effect between two or more antioxidants could be more beneficial and protective for your skin than just one primary antioxidant.
If you do decide to go with a wrinkle cream that uses retinol, be sure to keep in mind how it modifies your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight and the increased tendency to get sunburn.
Look for products that have retinol concentrations around 0.4 to 2%, as these are the levels of retinol that have been found most effective in clinical research.
If you apply your wrinkle cream in the morning, you should use a moisturizer that has some type of sunscreen in it to reduce the chance of damaging your skin if it’s exposed to strong sunlight after application of retinol. Another, simpler solution is just to use your wrinkle cream at night before you go to bed.
Other ingredients like moisturizers can help too, but for the best anti-wrinkle effects, you want a retinol-based wrinkle cream to keep your skin looking younger and healthier.