Shirazi shares a bit more helpful application guidance: “If you are starting a retinol, avoid or reduce your exfoliation until your skin gets acclimated. For those with sensitive skin, avoid a retinol with other potent actives like vitamin C or glycolic acid at the same time. Wait 2–4 weeks before adding one or the other. Some may not tolerate strong acids like glycolic or salicylic acid with a retinol. I suggest skipping the retinol the nights you exfoliate with a strong acid.”
Read on to discover the best wrinkle creams our experts actually recommend—along with important ingredient callouts and application best practices.
The Plant-Based Retinol
Greenfield recommends this moisturizer composed of 92% naturally derived ingredients to promote firmer and more supple skin without irritation.
- Key Ingredients: A vegan and cruelty-free moisturizer powered by the plant-based retinol alternative, Bidens pilosa, along with red microalgae.
- Skin Benefits: “I like this clean beauty product because it has a plant-based retinol alternative, Bidens pilosa, that minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which allows you to layer it with another retinol product,” Greenfield says. Additionally, the red microalgae provide a lifting and smoothing effect.
- When to Apply: According to Ren Clean Skincare, one to two pumps of this cream can be applied both morning and night to the face and neck.
The Serum Formula
“Since serums are molecularly smaller than creams, they allow for better product penetration of the active ingredients and can be layered with other specific creams for an additional benefit,” notes Marino, who recommends this option by Senté.
- Key Ingredients: According to Marino, this cruelty-free, hypoallergenic formula is “formulated with dermatan sulfate analog (DSA) and chondroitin sulfate analog (CSA)—a skin-firming duo that helps promote collagen and elastin production.”
- Skin Benefits: “This cream-serum hybrid from Senté [helps] to firm and support skin from within, and works particularly well for deep wrinkles, especially on the chest area,” she says. “This is going to re-volumize lax, depleted skin. Around week 4 is where the magic happens, and you’ll begin to see improvement.”
- When to Apply: According to Senté, one to two pumps of this serum should be pressed into skin post-cleanse, and followed with the rest of your routine.
The Drugstore Pickup
“Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream is a nice drugstore retinol option,” Hartman says. “Some may not like the fragrance, and if so, they can choose the fragrance-free option. It glides on the skin well and absorbs quickly.”
- Key Ingredients: Retinol and hyaluronic acid are the stars of this drugstore pickup.
- Skin Benefits: Although Hartman says that the infused hyaluronic acid provides an additional moisture boost, the retinol targets fine lines, dullness, and dark spots to reveal a more youthful complexion over time.
- When to Apply: According to Neutrogena, a pearl-sized amount can be applied to the face and neck twice daily.
The Encapsulated Retinol
Shirazi’s pick is the Alastin Renewal Retinol cream that’s powered by the rejuvenating ingredient to improve skin tone and texture.
- Key Ingredients: According to Shirazi, this is powered by “retinol encapsulated in a solid lipid to improve the delivery of retinol.” What’s more, this cruelty-free, non-comedogenic, and hypoallergenic cream is also infused with oat extract and silver mushroom.
- Skin Benefits: This is “formulated with oat extract and silver mushroom to calm and soothe the skin reducing irritation,” Shirazi explains. “It’s paired with co-enzyme Q-10, an antioxidant to boost and protect the activity of retinol.”
- When to Apply: According to Alastin, one pump of this treatment should be applied each evening. The brand recommends incorporating two to three times per week until tolerance increases.
The Beginner’s Choice
Worden notes that Clinique’s wrinkle cream is an excellent starter for younger skin. It’s designed to be safe for all skin types, and it provides intense moisture, especially to dry skin.
- Key Ingredients: An oil- and fragrance-free cream infused with a peptide complex, hyaluronic acid, soybean seed extract, and shea butter.
- Skin Benefits: Expect this to “help plump up the skin without feeling too heavy,” Worden says. It is formulated to not only visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles but also fortify the skin’s dermal structure.
- When to Apply: According to Clinique, this can be applied both morning and night, along with SPF during the day.
The Illuminating Cream
“[This] cream goes beyond your normal anti-aging cream,” Marino says. Good for all skin types, she continues, “This provides an instant glow and brings life back to dull, depleted complexions.”
- Key Ingredients: “It boasts a patented growth factor technology, along with peptides, antioxidants, and alpha hydroxy acids to renew the skin,” Marino explains of this illuminating moisturizer.
- Skin Benefits: Crafted to deliver a glow-y complexion, “This moisturizing cream is good for all skin types from combination to dry, and helps reduce all signs of aging while stimulating the skin’s own collagen synthesis and aiding in micro-exfoliation,” she says.
- When to Apply: According to Jan Marini, this can be applied both morning and night to the face and neck.
The All-Around Pick
Skinbetter’s AlphaRet Overnight Cream is by far the most recommended wrinkle cream, with the stamp of approval from Hartman, Greenfield, Shirazi, and Marino. In short, experts love it because it works well while being gentle on skin. “It is a great retinol option for those who have had difficulty tolerating other retinols, and exfoliates in a gentle way,” Hartman explains. Because of this, Marino notes, “I can give this to the most reactive client, and they have no problem incorporating it into their routine.”
- Key Ingredients: “This product features Skinbetter’s patented AlphaRet technology, which combines retinoic acid with alpha hydroxy acids,” Marino says. “This formula contains retinoic acid (the most active form of retinol) paired with lactic acid, which is both hydrating and brightening, and glycolic acid to further improve texture.”
- Skin Benefits: “The formula also contains peptides, which are the building blocks for our collagen and give support to our skin, and a combination of antioxidants to support healthy and reduce free radical damage, and it’s in a nourishing ceramide-rich base to counteract dryness and moisturize the skin, building off its skin-smoothing properties,” Marino says.
- When to Apply: According to Skinbetter, this should be applied at night to the face, avoiding the eye area.
The Affordable Yet Effective
This deep hydrator by Bliss came at the recommendation of King, and proves that an effective wrinkle cream doesn’t require a steep price tag.
- Key Ingredients: A silky, lightweight, clean, and vegan moisturizer powered by stabilized retinol and the brand’s Prevent-4 Complex composed of amino acids, peptides, squalane, and antioxidants.
- Skin Benefits: According to King, this “contains retinol to help stimulate collagen production and increase cell turnover, as well as antioxidants to help protect the skin from damage from free radicals. Also contains moisturizing ingredients to hydrate the skin, support the skin barrier and lock in moisture.” Over time, expect glow-y skin and refined skin texture.
- When to Apply: According to Bliss, this can be used both morning and night. Just apply SPF during the daytime.
The Overnight Treatment
Worden is a fan of Isdin’s overnight cream formulated to repair, firm, and calm while you sleep.
- Key Ingredients: Worden highlights that this is “packed with what helps with fine lines and wrinkles,” though melatonin, carnosine, hyaluronic acid, and a skin-calming extract are featured in this rich cream formula too.
- Skin Benefits: Even though the carnosine works to reduce visible signs of aging, the other ingredients ensure the skin barrier is protected from daily aggressors and intensely moisturized.
- When to Apply: According to Isdin, apply this cream to the face and neck as the last step in your regimen.