Wrinkles are a natural, universal part of the aging process. "With age, there is a natural breakdown of healthy elastin and collagen fibers in the skin," says Jaimie DeRossa, MD, a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon. Environmental and lifestyle factors—sun exposure, pollution, smoking—can exacerbate this breakdown, she adds. Genetics also play a role when it comes to how and when fine lines and wrinkles show up.
The truth is, no matter what a serum or in-office treatment may promise, there's really no way of entirely getting rid of wrinkles forever. That being said, plenty of things can help prevent and smooth them out. Ahead, learn about seven of the best wrinkle-fighting options, ranging from tried-and-true ingredients to injections.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Jaimie DeRosa is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and founder and the lead facial plastic surgeon of DeRosa Center Plastic Surgery & Med Spa in Boston and Palm Beach.
- Dr. Jeremy Brauer is a New York-based, board-certified dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, and founder of Spectrum Skin and Laser.
As the saying goes, the best offense is a good defense, which certainly rings true regarding sunscreen and wrinkles. Sun exposure, particularly UVA rays, is a primary culprit when it comes to an accelerated breakdown of collagen and elastin, notes Dr. DeRossa. UVA rays can penetrate through clouds and even glass, hence the importance of wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 30 365 days per year, rain or shine. Of course, it won't help smooth out any wrinkles you already have, but it will certainly help prevent new ones from forming.
Use Vitamin C Products
Consider layering a vitamin C serum underneath your sunscreen for an added wrinkle-fighting punch. The potent antioxidant helps in two ways: "It supports the production of collagen and reduces photoaging and damage from the sun's UV light," notes Dr. DeRossa. (Not to mention that it also has the added benefit of helping to fade hyperpigmentation.) There are many different versions of vitamin C available in over-the-counter skincare products, but l-ascorbic acid is the purest—and most potent—and what Dr. DeRossa recommends looking for in a topical product.
Add Retinoids to Your Routine
There's arguably no class of ingredients more well-studied or lauded for combatting wrinkles than retinoids. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives, which can stimulate collagen production and prevent the activation of collagen-destroying enzymes, notes Dr. DeRossa. There's a broad spectrum of options, from over-the-counter retinol serums to prescription-strength tretinoin. However, no matter which one you start with, it will take time for your skin to get accustomed to the potent ingredient, Dr. DeRossa points out. (Retinoids are notorious for irritating side effects, including peeling, dryness, and redness.) "It will also take time to see the results, but adding a topical retinoid will yield long-term improvements in your skin, including refining fine lines and wrinkles," she says.
Try Formulas With Bakuchiol
Retinoids are great, but, as mentioned, they can be irritating. Plus, it's not recommended to use them while pregnant or breastfeeding. Enter: bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative. According to Dr. DeRossa, it affects the retinoid receptors in the skin to deliver the same type of effects as retinoids—wrinkle reduction included—but with fewer side effects. A 2019 study comparing bakuchiol and retinol head-to-head found that the former was just as effective and less irritating.
Consider Neurotoxin Injections
Dr. Brauer says that neurotoxin injections are a treatment option for dynamic wrinkles (those caused by repetitive muscle movement). Several different brand names are available on the market—Botox, Dysport, Xeomin, and a few others—but they all contain botulinum toxin. The toxin blocks the release of a neurotransmitter necessary for muscle movement, temporarily weakening or paralyzing the muscle, Dr. Brauer explains. Neurotoxin injections can also help smooth out static wrinkles—wrinkles that have become permanent and etched in from repeated muscle movement. Both experts we spoke with call out how well they work. The only drawback? The results aren't permanent, lasting about three to four months on average, says Dr. Brauer, so this is something that will require regular upkeep if you want to maintain the wrinkle-smoothing effects.
"Microneedling is a non-invasive procedure where fine needles are used to puncture the skin, creating areas of microtrauma," explains Dr. Brauer. Your body's natural healing response to this stimulates growth factors, which ultimately results in the synthesis of healthy collagen and elastin. "The skin is left looking younger, tighter, firmer, and healthier," he says. Just remember that this isn't a 'one-and-done' type situation; Dr. Brauer says the more you do it, the better results you'll see. And if you want to up the ante, you can also consider radiofrequency microneedling treatments. Radiofrequency energy is delivered into the deeper, dermal layer of the skin, where it heats the tissue, further stimulating the production of new collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, says Dr. DeRossa.
Look Into Fraxel Treatments
Fraxel was the first non-ablative and ablative resurfacing laser treatment developed, says Dr. Brauer. The 'non-ablative' part means that it's heating the deeper layers of the dermis to help stimulate collagen production over time; the 'ablative' part affects the epidermis, activating a natural healing process that both stimulates collagen and reduces pigmentation, he explains, adding that it's a great treatment for both fine and deep static wrinkles. The results are long-lasting, so this treatment can be done yearly or even less frequently, depending on the condition of your skin.
What is the most effective wrinkle treatment?
From a topical skincare perspective, retinoids have the most proven, well-studied effects. Neurotoxin injections are also incredibly effective, although need to be repeated in order to maintain the results.
What is the newest treatment for wrinkles?
Daxxify is a new neurotoxin injection that recently hit the market, claiming to last even longer than its competitor, Botox.
What is the best treatment for deep wrinkles on the face?
Neurotoxin injections can help treat deep wrinkles, although Dr. Brauer says injectable fillers are also a good choice. "They can be placed throughout the dermis as well as above the facial bones to volumize and reposition the skin of the face, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as improve skin laxity and volume loss," he explains.
Dhaliwal S, Rybak I, Ellis SR, et al. Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageing. Br J Dermatol. 2019;180(2):289-296.