In the world of beauty products, there’s perhaps no category more saturated than the anti-aging market. Serums and eye creams and lotions galore promise to do everything from smoothing fine lines to fading dark spots—but they don't always follow through. To help you pinpoint the exact products you need in your anti-aging arsenal, we did our research and leaned on a few dermatologists for their expert opinions. While the picks were varied (don’t worry, we’ll get to those), the overarching theme was that it's best to take a three-pronged approach to anti-aging skincare, focusing on prevention, hydration, and treatment.
Prevention products (like sunscreen and antioxidant serums like vitamin C) are an integral part of any anti-aging routine, as they ward off signs of aging in the first place. Hydrating products, believe it or not, are the secret to youthful-looking skin. One of the quickest ways to achieve a youthful-looking glow is by loading up on moisture. And finally, treatment products, like retinoids, peptides, and other growth factors, help target specific concerns like fine lines, texture, and dullness.
To compile this list of anti-aging products that actually work, we tapped top dermatologists for their expert recommendations and tried a few highly-rated products for ourselves. We considered proven active ingredients like retinol, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, in addition to other factors like how well the formulas settle into skin, how efficient they are at plumping and hydrating fine lines, and how effective the results are over time.
SkinCeuticals Purifying Cleanser With Glycolic Acid
Refreshing and mild
Might clash with some routines
SkinCeuticals is known for their gentle yet effective approach to skincare, and the brand's Purifying Cleanser is no exception. It's a gel formula that gets slightly foamy when it comes into contact with water. Glycolic acid helps the formula double down on dirt and debris, leaving the skin feeling refreshed and clean, while glycerin helps brighten dull skin tone and restores moisture. Scottsdale-based dermatologist Dr. Jen Haley says this is one of her go-to face washes and she recommends it to patients often. "The alpha-hydroxy acids in this formula remove dead skin cells and unclog pores for a blemish-free complexion," she explains. "It also helps maximally absorb active ingredients in the products you use afterwards." Just keep in mind that if the rest of your skincare routine contains harsh acids, this cleanser might be too much.
Price at time of publish: $36
Benefits: Cleansing, Exfoliating | Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, Glycerin | Size: 6.8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Retinol Serum
Shani Darden Retinol Reform Treatment Serum
Improves tone and texture
Reveals brighter, more youthful-looking skin
Requires building up tolerance
Dermatologists agree that retinol smooths fine lines and wrinkles, but it's important to find one that's the right strength for your skin. This hydrating serum from Shani Darden uses 2.2 percent encapsulated retinol to deliver effective anti-aging results without experiencing the irritation caused by many other retinol products. It also contains lactic acid, which helps brighten and smooth skin, so you can get both long term and immediate results. Keep in mind that you might have to ease into using it so you don't irritate your skin too much.
Price at time of publish: $88
Benefits: Exfoliates, Improves skin tone and texture | Key Ingredients: Encapsulated retinol, AHA, Apple fruit extract | Size: 6.8 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Vitamin C Serum
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Of all the antioxidant serums out there, this is arguably the tried-and-true derm favorite, and New York-based dermatologist Dr. Daniel Belkin agrees. “It has both vitamin C and E, which the body cannot produce on its own, and ferulic acid, an antioxidant that improves the efficacy of the other two,” he says of the formula.
Haley is a fan, too, applauding the trifecta of specific antioxidants, and telling us that she uses it daily. “These antioxidants help reverse and prevent DNA damage caused by the environment, aging, and sun exposure,” says Dr. Belkin, a win both for the appearance and health of your skin.
Price at time of publish: $182
Benefits: Exfoliates, Improves skin tone and texture | Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Ferulic acid | Size: 1.1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Eye Cream
SkinBetter Science InterFuse Treatment Cream Eye
Designed specifically for under eye skin
Hygienic pump bottle
Pricy for half an ounce
The thin skin around your eyes is the most susceptible to signs of aging, making a dedicated eye cream an anti-aging essential. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum says she “could not live without” this multi-tasking option, which she applies twice daily. “It contains neuro-calming peptides to relax crow's feet, vitamin C which provides antioxidants and skin brightening effects, caffeine to depuff, and humectants for intense hydration,” she tells us.
Price at time of publish: $115
Benefits: De-puffs, Hydrates, Brightens under eyes | Key Ingredients: Peptides, Hyaluronic acid, Niacinamide, Caffeine | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
No white cast
We can preach the benefits of sunscreen until we’re blue in the face, but we’ll let you hear it straight from the pro: “A broad-spectrum SPF is essential to prevent fine lines, wrinkles and of course skin cancer,” says Nussbaum, who raves about this formula. “It contains transparent zinc oxide, which is extremely effective at blocking rays but also gentle enough for sensitive skin. Plus it’s oil-free and won’t cause breakouts,” she explains. And speaking of sensitive skin, it also has niacinamide to calm any redness and inflammation. The only caveat: It contains octinoxate, a chemical sunscreen ingredient that has been banned in Hawaii, but are otherwise legal worldwide.
Price at time of publish: $41
Benefits: Protects skin from UVA and UVB rays | Key Ingredients: Zinc oxide, Octinoxate | Size: 1.58 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"This is easily the most non-irritating, absorbent, and low-maintenance facial sunscreen I’ve come across; it’s essentially a nice mid-range moisturizer that happens to have SPF 46." — Kelsey Clark, Product Tester
Best Night Cream
L'Oréal Paris Wrinkle Expert 55+ Moisturizer
This anti-aging face cream from L'Oréal Paris is designed for those 55 and older (there are variations for those 35+ and 45+), though anyone serious about their anti-aging routine can stock up on the drugstore favorite. Loaded with calcium B5 and glycerin, the formula strengthens sagging skin, improves smoothness, and helps impart a more youthful glow. Slather this cream onto your face as the last step in your skincare routine before heading to bed. Come morning, you'll find your skin is softer to the touch.
I got this cream for my mom last year and she swears it's the only thing that makes a difference in her skin. She's gone through countless tubs of this formula and isn't even 55 yet—she just really loves how soft her skin feels and how smooth it looks after use. At $10, it's incredibly affordable and she loves that she can use as much as she wants and as frequently as she wants without worrying about splurging on refills.
Price at time of publish: $10
Benefits: Hydrates, Smoothes, Strengthens | Key Ingredients: Calcium B5, Glycerin | Size: 1.7 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Daytime Moisturizer
CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30
Can pill under certain makeup products
There’s no need to shell out big bucks on a moisturizer—look for one that’s fairly simple, like this one from CeraVe. “I have been using this moisturizer to increase hydration without causing breakouts," Nussbaum says. "It contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide which hydrates and minimizes redness." Best of all, it contains SPF 30 to protect your skin from the sun's rays (and prevent further aging) while keeping your skin hydrated. Some say it can pill under makeup, so make sure you let it soak into your skin before layering makeup on top.
Price at time of publish: $14
Benefits: Hydrates, Protects | Key Ingredients: Zinc, Hyaluronic acid, Niacinamide, Ceramides | Size: 3 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Best Hydrating Serum
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster
Helps skin retain moisture
You've probably heard of hyaluronic acid before. But if you haven't here's a quick breakdown: Hyaluronic acid is a naturally-occurring molecule found in the skin and body. It's a humectant—meaning it has an incredible ability to both attract moisture and hold it in the skin. In fact, hyaluronic acid can retain up to 1000 times its own weight in water, making it an ideal part of any anti-aging skincare routine. This serum from Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare features a pro-strength time-released formula that helps seal moisture into the skin for firmer, smoother, and softer skin.
Price at time of publish: $72
Benefits: Hydrates, Helps skin retain moisture | Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Watermelon extract | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Best Antioxidant Serum
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair
Antioxidants are universally-recommended as top-notch topical ingredients by the derms we spoke with; look for them in serums to get the most bang for your buck (they’re more concentrated than creams or lotions). We love this one particular, which touts hydration and antioxidant protection to help counteract the damage caused by free radicals.
Formulated with Chronolux™ Power Signal Technology, this fast-penetrating serum from Estée Lauder minimizes signs of aging by supporting the skin’s natural ability to repair itself (and boost collagen). A few drops helps defend the skin against environmental aggressors (which also age the skin more rapidly) for up to eight hours.
Price at time of publish: $72
Benefits: Hydrates, Helps skin retain moisture | Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, Watermelon extract | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Peter Thomas Roth Instant FIRMx Eye Temporary Eye Tightener
Tightens, firms, and smooths
Can pill under makeup
Some people experience reactions
Skincare products take time to work their magic, especially if you're using them to target wrinkles and sagging skin. Thankfully, there is one product that works in minutes (although temporarily)—Peter Thomas Roth's viral Instant FirmX Temporary Eye Tightener. The magic formula contains a blend of the brand's proprietary Firm-A-Tite (made of skin-tigtening silicates and seaweed extract), Eyeliss (a powerful peptide complex that targets eye bags), and Eye Regener (a combo of alfalfa extract and lupine protein) to tighten, firm, and smooth the look of under eye bags and wrinkles.
Price at time of publish: $38
Benefits: De-puffs, Temporarily tightens eye wrinkles | Key Ingredients: Seaweed extract, Silicates, Peptides, Alfalfa extract, Lupine protein | Size: 1 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Rescue Mask
This multi-benefit mask from Fresh smooths, hydrates, and imparts a natural dewy glow onto skin of all ages. Designed with a superstar blend of kombu seaweed, red algae, and lotus seed powder, it gently buffs and refines the skin while simultaneously keeping it hydrated. Just keep in mind that it's fragranced and has exfoliating beads, so if you have sensitive skin, you may want to steer clear of this one.
Price at time of publish: $69
Benefits: Smooths, Brightens | Key Ingredients: Lotus Flower Extract, Kombu Seaweed Flakes, Red Algae Particles, Lotus Seeds | Size: 3.3 fl. oz. | Cruelty-Free: No
To get the most out of an anti-aging skincare routine, it's best to focus on three main camps: Prevention, hydration, and treatment. Prevention products like a good SPF and potent antioxidant serums containing vitamin C or E (like SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic) help fend off signs of aging. In addition, hydration, specifically in the form of a nourishing cream with ceramides (like CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion) helps keep skin plump and youthful. And finally, retinol products (like Shani Darden's Retinol Reform) can effectively treat fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Jordan Carqueville is a celebrity dermatologist in Chicago. With a specialty in cosmetic dermatology, she’s an expert in the assessment and treatment of the aging face. From gentle exfoliators to microdermabrasion and micro-needling—Dr. Carqueville’s clients look to her for individualized care that will keep their skin looking fresh and feeling healthy.
- Dr. Jen Haley is a dermatologist in Scottsdale, AZ. With a holistic approach to skincare, she believes that you don’t need a gimmick or complicated routine to attain beautiful skin, just good information and a commitment to making simple changes that will have dramatic long-term benefits.
- Dr. Daniel Belkin is a dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University. He is fellowship-trained in cosmetic dermatology, laser surgery, and Mohs micrographic surgery.
- Dr. Marnie Nussbaum is a New York City dermatologist specializing in non-invasive aesthetic rejuvenation. With expertise and passion in anti-aging correction and prevention, her goal is not only to correct any signs of aging but to reset your skin’s course to evolve as naturally, gracefully and youthfully as possible.
What to Look for in an Anti-Aging Product
When shopping for anti-aging products, the ingredients are key. Here are some of the most important ones to look for:
An antioxidant powerhouse, vitamin C (which is the main ingredient in the SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic) is directly involved with collagen production in the body. Vitamin C is beneficial in anti-aging products for several reasons: It protects skin from environmental stressors, promotes the production of collagen, and can fade dark spots, which contribute to the appearance of aging skin. Products containing vitamin C can irritate very sensitive skin, so be sure to start out using a low concentration if your skin is reactive.
Retinoids are a category of ingredients, and retinol is a type of product from the retinoid family that is used for lines and wrinkles (and are available over the counter). Retinol (such as the Shani Darden Retinol Reform Serum) functions as an antioxidant that regulates oil production, boosts the production of collagen, and helps increase the speed of cell turnover. Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau tells Byrdie that “Using a well-formulated and stable product with retinol will visibly reduce the appearance of sun damage, brown spots, lines, wrinkles, and large pores. It can stimulate the metabolism of skin cells and encourage collagen production.”
Even though hyaluronic acid (like in the Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Hydration Booster) doesn’t exactly turn back the clock, it is a powerful moisturizer that can hydrate skin and in turn help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It absorbs quickly and can make skin look plump and hydrated. It’s a key ingredient used in fillers, the dermal injectable used to reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
At what age should I start using anti-aging skincare products?
Once you’ve hit adulthood, it’s really never too early to begin with anti-aging skincare. It’s recommended for anyone in their twenties or older, and the sooner you start, the more on track you’ll be to stave off wrinkles. At a younger age, you can focus more on moisturizing properly and keeping out of the sun, versus using ingredients designed to minimize fine lines, since you likely won’t have many yet.
Can you reverse skin aging?
The best thing you can do to keep your skin looking glowing and healthy is to moisturize your face morning and night. Beyond that, using a sunscreen is also key. Ideally you should apply sunscreen every day, even if you don’t plan on going out in the sun for a long period of time. "We are exposed to ultraviolet and infrared light every day that produces free radicals in our skin," dermatologist Diane Madfes, MD, FAAD explains, "These free radicals inhibit collagen production and decrease our elastin. This leads to premature aging, wrinkling, brown spots, and sagging."
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. While she is not a dermatologist, it just so happens that many of the derms’ favorite anti-agers on this list are some of her top picks, too.
Caitlyn Martyn is a staff commerce writer at Byrdie, where she covers all things beauty. An avid product tester, Caitlyn likes to try the latest and greatest in makeup, skincare, and wellness to let readers know what’s worth it and what’s not. She has tried several products on this list, including picks from brands like Shani Darden, CeraVe, SkinCeuticals, and Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare.
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