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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, boom, 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 every body part out there, since, trust us, this isn’t an issue reserved to just your face.
Ahead, the best skin tightening creams and products that produce real results.
Best Overall: Alastin Skincare Restorative Skin Complex
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 any and 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 for Face: Fresh Black Tea Firming Corset Cream
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 Bum Bum Cream
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 Budget: First Aid Beauty Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream
Tightening products are one skincare category that innately skews on the pricier side; credit the types of ingredients needed in order 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 Splurge: SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum
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
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
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 rear view for sure.
Best for Chest: PerriconeMD Cold Plasma Plus+ Neck & Chest
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 Crèpe Control Tightening Body Cream
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 Face Cream
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, is inexpensive, and you can get it at the drugstore. Enough said.
Best Serum: Neocutis Micro Serum Intensive Anti-Aging Treatment
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 SPF 30
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.
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. In her continued quest to stay looking as young as possible for as long as possible (prevention, people!) you better believe she has used most of these creams.
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.