Experts Say These Anti-Aging Serums Work Wonders on Fine Lines and Wrinkles

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Anti-Aging Serums

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Our Top Picks
A luxe option, this serum uses vitamin C and E to brighten and replenish skin.
This affordable and potent serum will firm, fight lines, and plump your skin from the first day you use it.
Best Drugstore, Runner-Up:
Vichy LiftActiv Supreme Serum 10 at Amazon
This unique and affordable serum rejuvenates, protects, and hydrates skin—it even protects skin from sun damage.
The addition of vitamin C in this formula allows this formula to repair skin, ward off discoloration, and boost collagen.
Retinol reigns supreme in the anti-aging department, with its ability to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Vitamin C in this formula boosts collagen production to knock out fine lines and wrinkles, fast.
Knock out lines and wrinkles with this retinol based serum, thanks to vitamin C, E and squalene.
Treat both breakouts and signs of aging with this youth-boosting vitamin C serum.
A blend of glycolic, tartaric, citric, and salicylic acids delivers a chemical exfoliation that doesn't dry out skin.
Niacinamide is the hero in this formula, that works to soothe skin inflammation.

Serums play a pivotal role in any kind of anti-aging routine, perhaps second only to sunscreen when it comes to absolute, must-have products. Why do you ask?

“Anti-aging serums are among the most effective, non-invasive ways to address signs of aging,” explains dermatologist Dr. Annie Gonzalez of Riverchase Dermatology. And that means not only combatting wrinkles and fine lines, but also treating other issues such as inflammation, hyperpigmentation, dryness, and more, she adds.

Yes, you could use anti-aging cream for all of these things, but serums pack higher concentrations of active ingredients than moisturizers and lotions, says Dr. Gonzalez, not only making them more effective but also ensuring you get more bang for your buck. And while an anti-aging serum is a great way to treat existing complexion concerns, they’re also a choice preventative measure, points out dermatologist Dr. Ife J Rodney, founding director of Eternal Dermatology & Aesthetics.

The oxidative stress that comes from UV rays of the sun and the pollutants you come into contact with on a daily basis can do a number on your skin, and adding in antioxidant serums can be a step towards reducing skin damage long-term. Of course, the anti-aging OG of them all is vitamin A, an example of which is retinol. Not only does it increase cell turnover, but it also stimulates collagen production to boot. 

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Annie Gonzalez, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami, Florida. She specializes in both general and cosmetic dermatology and has written various articles in dermatology journals.
  • Dr. Ife J. Rodney, MD, FAAD, is the founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics in Fulton, MD. She is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist and has extensive experience in cosmetic, surgical, and medical dermatology, including a focus on skin rejuvenation and anti-aging.

TL; DR: Anyone and everyone can and should be using an anti-aging serum. Here are 15 of the best anti-aging serums. 

Best Overall: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
What We Like
  • Shields against free radicals

  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  • Improves skin texture and firmness

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

If we had a dollar for every time a dermatologist recommended this serum, well, let’s just say we’d be retired and rubbing elbows with Jeff Bezos. It’s a tried-and-true serum staple that’s worth every penny, thanks to a unique combination of powerful antioxidants that reduce the signs of free radical damage, such as fine lines and spots, says Dr. Gonzalez.

Vitamin C brightens skin and protects against oxidative stress, while vitamin E replenishes protects the skin, she adds. Rounding out the formula is ferulic acid, a top antioxidant that helps fight against pollution-induced damage, and also ups the efficacy of vitamin C. FYI, it does have a bit of a funky smell (some have likened it to hot dog water) but you’ll quickly forget about that once you see just how well it works on skin.

Benefits: Improves firmness and texture, neutralizes free radicals | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 4-5 drops | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum

Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum
What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Improves firmness

  • Fragrance-free

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Results aren't dramatic

Yes, you do get a lot of bang for your buck with a serum, making it a good place to splurge. But, you don’t have to shell out the big bucks to find  a standout option; this pick is proof positive of exactly that. The cult-classic boasts a unique amino-peptide complex to deliver hydrating and firming ingredients deep into the skin, working to leave your complexion smoother and plumped in just four weeks. Also nice: It’s fragrance-free and has a lightweight gel texture that absorbs lightning fast.

Benefits: Boosts elasticity, hydrates | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore, Runner-Up: Vichy LiftActiv Supreme Serum 10

Vichy LiftActiv Serum
What We Like
  • Boosts collagen production

  • Strengthens skin's barrier

  • Improves firmness and elasticity

What We Don't Like
  • Has alcohol

“What makes this serum unique are its key ingredients: rhamnose, volcanic water, and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Gonzalez. “Rhamnose has been shown to boost skin rejuvenation, improving collagen production, elastin production, and cellular turnover. Volcanic water is packed with essential minerals that strengthen the skin barrier and protect it from UV rays and pollution, while hyaluronic acid hydrates and plumps skin,” she explains, noting that the formula is choice for smoothing, firming, and increasing radiance. What more could you ask for?

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best With Vitamin C: BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner

BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
What We Like
  • Boosts collagen production

  • Evens out complexion

  • Improves firmness

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Strong smell

Key Ingredients

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body, including the skin, but we cannot produce it on our own. For the skin, it helps to boost collagen, lighten discoloration, and fight free radicals.

We’re big fans of this skincare line—created by a cosmetic chemist, it utilizes only the most effective ingredients and formulations. Case in point: All of the products center around vitamin C, another anti-aging superstar that’s not only an effective antioxidant but also a choice skin-brightener and collagen-booster. This serum contains a whopping 20% of a powerful and stable version of the vitamin, which is infamous for being easily inactivated by things such as sun and air. Per all of those vitamin C benefits, it firms, brightens, and smooths your complexion with every use.

Benefits: Brightens, refines skin texture | Skin Type: Oily, acne-prone | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best With Retinol: SENTÉ Bio Complete Serum

Senté Bio Complete Serum
What We Like
  • Formulated with time-released retinol

  • Hydrating

  • Calms redness

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it—in the world of anti-aging ingredients, retinol reigns supreme. The vitamin-A derivative touts a long and proven track record of delivering all kinds of youth-boosting benefits. The only problem? That potency comes with a high likelihood of side effects…but that’s not the case with this serum. “This formula combines time-released retinol with moisturizing hyaluronic acid, making it gentle and tolerable for all skin types, even sensitive,” says Dr. Rodney.

Benefits: Boosts skin cell turnover | Skin Type: Sensitive | Dosage: 1-2 pumps | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Fine Lines: Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate

Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
What We Like
  • Boosts collagen production

  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Some may have a sensitized reaction

As we said, vitamin C is a top anti-aging ingredient, and here you get a 10% concentration of the good stuff. It works to boost collagen production and ultimately helps knock out lines and wrinkles, while hyaluronic acid in the formula attracts moisture to and plumps skin, also making it appear smoother.

Benefits: Evens out skin texture, reduces fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: Balanced | Size: 1.7 / 2.5 / 3.4 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Fine-Lines, Runner-Up: Paula's Choice Skincare Resist Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum

Paula's Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum
What We Like
  • Combines retinol with vitamins C and E

  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Some may have a sensitized reaction

Here’s another great retinol-based option. It’s the star of the show in this serum, one of Dr. Gonzalez’s favorites, where it also has the added benefit of being combined with potent antioxidants (vitamins C and E) and hydrating squalene, all of which join forces to knock out fine lines and wrinkles—as well as leave skin looking generally healthy and more youthful.

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles, firms | Skin Type: Dry, balanced | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum with Salicylic Acid
What We Like
  • Includes salicylic acid

  • Reduces fine lines, wrinkles, and breakouts

What We Don't Like
  • Has fragrance

For those dealing with the misfortune of battling both breakouts and wrinkles (adult acne is a very real thing, people), this serum is choice. It’s ideal for acne-prone skin because it contains salicylic acid, which penetrates oil glands to help clear up clogged pores, notes Dr. Rodney. And on the anti-aging side of things, it contains a 10% concentration of that youth-boosting vitamin C.

Benefits: Exfoliates and refines skin texture | Skin Type: Acne-prone | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Exfoliator: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum
What We Like
  • Gently exfoliates

  • Evens out complexion

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

“This sophisticated blend of glycolic, tartaric, citric, and salicylic acids delivers chemical exfoliation without dryness or sensitization, curbs excess oil, and reveals visible clarity and luminosity,” says Dr. Rodney of one of her picks. The combo of alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids is effective for all skin types, and also has the added benefit of helping ensure that any products you use afterward penetrate better. It is definitely better to use at night, layered underneath a plain moisturizer, or mixed with a few drops of the brand’s Virgin Marula Face Oil for extra hydration.

Benefits: Exfoliates and resurfaces skin | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 / 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Soothing: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare B3Adaptive SuperFoods Stress Rescue Super Serum

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Stress Rescue Super Serum with Niacinamide
What We Like
  • Includes niacinamide

  • Strengthen's skin barrier

  • Calms redness

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

When your skin is stressed, irritated, or generally acting up, Dr. Rodney recommends reaching for this serum. Niacinamide is the key player, working to actively soothe inflammation, she says. (It also improves the function of the skin barrier, an essential step in reducing sensitivity.) On top of that, the formula also contains different antioxidants and adaptogens that further work to reduce redness and generally calm your complexion.

Benefits: Reduces redness and inflammation | Skin Type: Sensitive | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Hydrating: SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator

SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
What We Like
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  • Hydrates for eight hours

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Key Ingredients

Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.

Apply even a small amount of this hydrating serum and your complexion with instantly look and feel smoother and plumper. It relies on five different ingredients (including, of course, hyaluronic acid) to hydrate skin both immediately and for up to eight hours afterward. Moisturizing enough to use on its own during hot summer days or if your skin skews towards oily, it’s still lightweight enough to layer under moisturizer. It’s also the perfect prep step pre-makeup, thanks to a smooth and silky finish.

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles, moisturizes | Skin Type: Dry | Size: 2 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

For the best results, apply it when your skin is still slightly damp post-washing.

Best Splurge: Dr. Barbara Sturm Super Anti-Aging Serum

Dr. Barbara Sturm Super Anti-Aging Serum
What We Like
  • Shields against free radicals

  • Fragrance-free

  • Provides long-term hydration

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

We know, this is crazy expensive, but Byrdie Senior Editor Hallie Gould vouches for the results. From the eponymous line of one of Hollywood’s top skin therapists, it’s loaded (and we mean loaded) with rare antioxidants such as purslane and skullcap to protect skin from damaging free radicals. But the benefits don’t stop there; the formula also contains two different types of hyaluronic acid, long-chain and short-chain, to deliver both immediate and long-term hydration.

Benefits: Rejuvenates and hydrates | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 1 dropper | Size: 0.3 / 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge, Runner-Up: Caudalie Premier Cru The Serum

Caudalie Premier Cru The Serum
What We Like
  • Improves firmness

  • Includes niacinamide

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Has fragrance

Dr. Gonzalez recommends this pick, which uses three patented-ingredients to leave skin brighter, firmer, and younger-looking. Resveratrol works to visibly lift and plump up the skin, while Viniferine and grape seed polyphenols protect against environmental factors, she explains. She also lauds it for using niacinamide to even out skin tone, and the hydrating and anti-inflammatory benefits as well. In short, it’s a great multi-tasker that’s well worth the price tag. 

Benefits: Firms and plumps skin | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Night Serum: ISDIN Isdinceutics Melatonik Overnight Recovery Serum

Isdin Melatonik
What We Like
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  • Improves firmness

  • Non-irritating

  • Shields against free radicals

What We Don't Like
  • Has fragrance

Load up on this serum come bedtime. “It’s a favorite of mine because it contains bakuchiol, a natural, plant-based alternative to retinol that speeds up cellular rejuvenation—without that irritation that sometimes occurs with retinol,” explains Dr. Rodney. It also contains an antioxidant dynamic duo—melatonin and vitamin C—making it the ideal multi-purpose formula, she adds. Use it overnight to help undo any free radical damage incurred during the day.

Benefits: Repairs skin and reduces fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: Dry | Dosage: 3-4 drops | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Natural: Tata Harper Skincare Rejuvenating Serum

tata harper rejuvenating serum
What We Like
  • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles

  • Hydrating

  • Recyclable packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Has fragrance

Clean beauty queens will appreciate that this formula relies on all kinds of natural, plant-based ingredients to turn back the clock. “With repeated use, this powerful, all-natural serum boosts moisture for firmer plumper skin,” says Dr. Gonzalez, who is a fan. “It also helps temporarily relax the look of fine lines and wrinkles, thanks to peptides sourced from Spanish lavender,” she adds. Other natural youth-boosting ingredients include vitamin A from rosehip seed oil and vitamin C from date palm extract. Even the subtle fragrance is natural, derived from jasmine oil.

Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles | Skin Type: Dry, combination | Dosage: 1-2 pumps | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

If you’re in the anti-aging game, a serum is an absolute must. The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is a true classic, beloved by dermatologists and Byrdie editors alike for its potent combo of protective antioxidants. It’s well worth the price tag, but you can also find great options for less. The Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum is a proof positive, packed with a wrinkle-fighting amino-peptide complex to help smooth lines, as is the Vichy LiftActiv Supreme Serum 10, which earns big points with derms for its unique combo of smoothing, firming, and brightening ingredients. And if you’re looking for a clean option, be sure to check out the Tata Harper Skincare Rejuvenating Serum, which relies on naturally-derived youth-boosters, such as rosehip seed oil.

What to Look For in an Anti-Aging Serum

Antioxidants

No matter whether your anti-aging goals are preventative or treatment-focused, choosing a serum that contains antioxidants is one of the best ways to get the most bang for your buck. They’re a universally great choice for all skin types and complexion concerns, offering protection against skin-damaging free radicals. Plus, there’s a plethora of great ones to choose from, including (but not limited to) vitamin C, vitamin E, ferulic acid, green tea, and more.

Retinol

The undisputed anti-aging champ, the vitamin A-derivative works both on the surface of the skin, promoting a more even skin tone and texture, and on the deeper layers, stimulating collagen production to help combat lines and wrinkles.

Hyaluronic Acid

This humectant is a great way to add (lightweight) hydration, as it attracts and traps water in the skin. The added benefit? It also makes for an instantaneous plumping effect that makes your complexion appear smoother.

FAQ
  • Do anti-aging serums work?

    When it comes to finding an effective anti-aging serum, you’ll want to make sure it has at least one of a few key ingredients proven to work. According to a biology professor at the University of California in Santa Barbara, the ingredients you should look for are vitamin C, vitamin A (retinol), AHAs and BHAs, sunscreen, and epidermal growth factor—though note that that last one’s safety is debated, so consult a dermatologist if you’re interested but uncertain.

  • When should you use anti-aging serums?

    You can start to integrate anti-aging serums into your routine before you even see much damage, and when to use them depends on the active ingredient. Vitamin C serums are good for daytime because they neutralize free radicals and can counteract uneven skin tone that comes from sun damage. On the other hand, retinol is best used at night to smooth fine lines and increase cellular turnover while you rest. Any serums using AHAs and BHAs are also best for nighttime use, and be sure to use SPF during the day no matter what your routine looks like, as sun damage is the leading cause of aging and many of these products increase your skin’s sensitivity to it.

  • How do you apply anti-aging serums?

    Apply anti-aging serums after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing. Be sure you’re aware of what active ingredients are in all your products, so you don’t mix any that may cause your skin to react badly when applied together.

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.  A skincare junkie, an anti-aging serum was one of the first products she ever started using regularly when she started working in the beauty industry. Fun fact: It was the SkinCeuticals one featured on this list, one she still uses to this day.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough anti-aging serums from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

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