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When it comes to the signs of aging, it’s often the wrinkles and spots that get all the attention. But there’s another major issue that comes with time and is equally as responsible for making you look older than you are—sagging skin. At the root of the issue is a breakdown of collagen and elastin, the two proteins essential for firm, smooth, youthful skin. Think of collagen as the mattress frame and elastin as the mattress springs; when both are intact, you have a firm, supple bed. But as one or both start to break down, here comes sagging. And in the case of your skin, that means unwanted laxity and a generally droopy appearance.
Yes, this is a natural and to a certain extent an unavoidable by-product of getting older, but other external factors (think exposure to UV damage, pollution, and even stress) can exacerbate and speed up the process. Enter the beauty of a good skin tightening cream. In choosing one, your best move is to pick a formula that contains, “ingredients that boost production and decrease the destruction of the three primary structural components of the dermis that improve skin tightness: collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans or GAGs,” explains dermatologist Dr. Julie Russak.
More specifically, that means antioxidants; topically-applied vitamin C, vitamin B3, and vitamin E enhance the production of collagen in the dermis, Dr. Russak says. Other good options include vitamin A derivatives (AKA retinoids) and peptides. The really nice thing about skin tightening creams? There are formulas made for pretty much everybody part out there, since, trust us, this isn’t an issue reserved to just your face.
Read on for the best skin tightening creams and products that produce real results.
Best Overall: Alastin Restorative Skin Complex
Active Ingredients: Niacinamide, peptides | Benefits: Promotes skin elasticity | Dosage: 1-2 pumps | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
When a brand’s name is a play on the word elastin, you know you’re going to get some serious skin tightening benefits. We’re big fans of all of the products in this line, but for full-on firming, this option, beloved by lots of derms as well, is choice. The star of the show is the proprietary TriHex technology, a blend of peptides that clears out damaged proteins in the skin while simultaneously supporting the production of healthy new collagen and elastin. This formula is also perfectly moisturizing and contains a dose of protective antioxidants to boot.
Best Budget: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Hydra-Firm Night Cream
Active Ingredients: Colloidal oatmeal, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Hydrates and firms | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Colloidal oatmeal is ground oatmeal, which is then placed in a liquid medium for better application and absorption into the skin.
Tightening products are one skincare category that innately skews on the pricier side; credit the types of ingredients needed to make a formula effective. That’s why we appreciate that this night cream rings in at an affordable price…but yes, still gets the tightening job done. At work is a unique tightening ingredient that works super fast—so fast that you may even notice a difference after only a few weeks. Bonus: It’s also a great pick for anyone with sensitive skin, given that it’s both fragrance-free and contains soothing colloidal oatmeal.
Best for Face: Fresh Black Tea Firming Corset Cream
Active Ingredients: Black tea, goji fruit extract | Benefits: Firms and tightens | Size: 1.6 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Just like a corset will suck in, cinch in, and tighten your waistline, so will this cream for your complexion. A firming peptide, coupled with an antioxidant power couple of a black tea complex and goji berry extract, all work together to improve both elasticity and firmness. We also appreciate the cushiony texture and perfect level of hydration that ensures this works well on all skin types, from dry to oily.
Best for Body: Sol de Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream
Active Ingredients: Cupuaçu butter, açaí oil | Benefits: Tightens and smooths skin | Size: 2.5 / 8.1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee, and cacao plants. In skincare, it helps to stimulate blood flow and decrease puffiness, as well as works to dissolve fat, which makes it a choice cellulite treatment.
Don’t be fooled by the name—go ahead and slather this on all over your bod, not just on your booty. Beloved by beauty editors and devoted users alike, use it on the reg for tighter skin. (And yes, on the bum that may translate to less noticeable dimples, too.) Caffeine-rich guarana extract boosts circulation, an essential component for firmer skin, not to mention that the buttery cream feels—and smells—so so good going on.
Best Splurge: SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum
Active Ingredients: Human fibroblast conditioned media, peptides | Benefits: Smooths lines and firms | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
This oldie-but-goodie is a must-have for pretty much every derm we’ve ever spoken with, not to mention a staple in our medicine cabinet. It’s super pricey, yes, but along with addressing sagging, it also addresses pretty much every other possible sign of aging. The secret is protein-rich growth factors (the first ingredient on the list), as well as peptides, antioxidants, and any other good-for-your complexion ingredient you can think of.
Best for Neck: Sisley Paris Neck Cream
Active Ingredients: Oat seed extract, rhatany extract, horse chestnut extract | Benefits: Firms and moisturizes | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Ain’t nobody got time for saggy neck skin, making this guy worth every penny, and even more so because it delivers pretty much instantaneous results. Credit oat seed extract, which creates an elastic film on the surface of the skin to immediately lift and tighten. Granted, those effects are temporary, but the formula does tout plenty of actives (soy fiber extract, caffeine, plus lots of moisturizers) that work to counteract sagging and hydrate your delicate neck skin overtime, too.
Best for Legs: Revision Skincare BodiFirm
Active Ingredients: Peptides, caffeine, glucosamine | Benefits: Firms and tightens skin | Size: 3.8 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Women who used this clinically-tested body lotion for twelve weeks saw an impressive 83% improvement in sagging skin and a 90% improvement in skin elasticity. Granted, it was used on the arms in that study, but in our experience, it has a similarly impressive effect on the thighs and butt. That’s thanks to the brand’s patent-pending iFirm technology, a blend of peptides, antioxidants, and a prebiotic. You’ll still have to do squats and lunges, but this can help you score a tighter rearview for sure.
Best for Chest: Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus Neck & Chest Broad Spectrum SPF 25
Active Ingredients: Alpha lipoic acid, vitamin B3 | Benefits: Smooths and lifts skin | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Ever look at someone’s face and think how young they look—and then look down at their chest and are shocked to see wrinkles and saggy skin? Not only is the skin on your décolletage very delicate and fragile, but it’s also often exposed to the sun, a major contributor to collagen and elastin breakdown.
You can definitely apply the same products you use on your face onto your chest, but if you’re looking for a dedicated option, try this pick. Made for both your neck and chest, it smooths out crepey skin, reduces the look of sagging, and helps knock out wrinkles and discoloration too. Bonus points for the fact that it contains SPF, ensuring that you’re warding off future damage.
Best for Arms: StriVectin Crepe Control Tightening Body Cream
Active Ingredients: Peptides, caffeine, jojoba seed extract | Benefits: Moisturizes and promotes elasticity | Size: 6.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Think of this as a body moisturizer but with major, major benefits. Sure, it hydrates, but it also visibly tightens and firms skin, improving the look of crepiness in one fell swoop, too. Use it on the backs of your arms or around your elbows, all of those weird little spots where skin can suddenly start to look droopy and wrinkly out of nowhere.
Best Drugstore: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
Active Ingredients: Niacinamide, glycerin | Benefits: Exfoliates and promotes skin cell turnover | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
There have been—are you ready for this?—more than one billion jars of this cream sold. Yes, billion with a ‘b’. The formula is rich in peptides, one of the ingredients Dr. Russak says are best to seek out in tightening creams because they stimulate the production of both collagen and elastin fibers. Plus, this also contains vitamin B3 which works on the surface of the skin to promote cell turnover and gentle exfoliation. This stuff works, it's inexpensive, and you can get it at the drugstore. Enough said.
Best Serum: Neocutis Micro Serum Intensive Anti-Aging and Tightening Treatment
Active Ingredients: Algae extract, hyaluronic acid | Benefits: Tones and smooths skin | Size: 1 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
To really get the most bang for your buck, opt for a serum over a cream; they’re more lightweight and contain a higher concentration of active ingredients. This particular pick uses pullulan, a sugar-based polymer that creates a film on the skin to help quickly tighten and firm. You also get tightening algae extract and a big dose of peptides, too.
Try using it along the areas particularly prone to sagging, like around your eyes and jawline.
Best With SPF: Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Lift and Firm Day Cream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF30
Active Ingredients: 7.5 percent octinoxate, 5 percent oxybenzone, 5 percent octisalate, 2.2 percent octocrylene, 2.2 percent avobenzone, ceramides | Benefits: Plumps and firms skin | Size: 1.7 fl. oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
For the love of all that’s holy, you really should be using sunscreen with at least a broad-spectrum SPF 30 every single day. Because if you’re not, you’re just further speeding up the breakdown of collagen and elastin; sun damage and UV exposure directly correlate with saggier, looser, less tight skin. Enter the beauty of this day cream. Not only does it offer a great amount of hydration, helps fight fine lines, and tightens the skin, but it also packs that necessary SPF in there too, a one-stop-shop ideal for skincare minimalists.
If sagging skin has got you down (pun intended), a good skin tightening cream can help. We’re big fans of the Alastin Restorative Skin Complex with TriHex Technology, a derm favorite that relies on, among other things, a blend of peptides to stimulate collagen and elastin production. For firmer skin on your face, try the Fresh Black Tea Firming Corset Cream; for your body, reach for the (yummy-smelling) Sol De Janeiro Brazilian Bum Bum Cream. (Yes, you can use it on spots besides your booty.) And if you’re a drugstore devotee, don’t miss the cult-classic Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream, which also offers a host of other youth-boosting benefits.
What to Look For In a Skin Tightening Cream
More specifically, vitamins C, B3, and vitamin E can help boost collagen production, a key factor when it comes to scoring firmer, tauter skin.
The powerhouse skincare ingredient can do no wrong. Just as vitamin A's collagen-enhancing benefits are great for warding off wrinkles, retinoids are also great for making skin firmer and less saggy.
Do skin tightening creams work?
Yes, while results may not always be the most dramatic, Dr. Russak says skin tightening creams really do work. If you choose a formula that contains ingredients that boost and protect the three structural components of the dermis (collagen, elastin, and GAGs), you can help slow down and improve the appearance of sagging, drooping, and laxity. Be sure to opt for a cream that’s formulated for the specific area you’re trying to address—such as the face, neck, or arms—for best results.
Are skin tightening creams safe?
According to Dr. Russak, yes, skin tightening creams are absolutely safe. Since they’re often formulated with collagen- and elastin-boosting antioxidants and peptides, they’re great for improving the overall health of your skin while targeting sagging and loose skin. However, skin tightening creams that contain retinoids may be on the harsher side, so be sure to patch test first and ease yourself into daily use if need be.
How we test skin tightening creams
Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain products; you can read more about our product review methodology here.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Julie E. Russak is the Founder and CEO of Russak Dermatology Clinic in New York City. She specializes in the latest cosmetic treatments that require little to no downtime—injectables, laser rejuvenation, body contouring, and an array of noninvasive aesthetic remedies—including options for, you guessed it, skin tightening.
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 any skin tightening creams from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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, she became all about skin tightening creams when she learned that you start to lose elastin at your skin at a rapid rate after the age of 25.