Very hydrating. Contains hyaluronic acid for non-greasy moisture. Prebiotic formula improves skin barrier, resulting in dewy, radiant skin. Works overnight for glowing results in the morning.
Not ideal for acne-prone skin.
Soothing serum that won't irritate your skin, unlike most retinols. Won't dry out your skin. Reduces dark spots and wrinkles. Large quantity for the price.
Not as effective on deep wrinkles.
The many devoted users of this serum claim to see results within days. Especially helpful for sun damaged skin and deep-set wrinkles. A little goes a long way, so a bottle lasts months. Available in 1 or 1.7 oz.
Expensive. Does not work as well for users who don't have a lot of signs of aging.
Results in as soon as a week with regular use. Softens skin and minimizes the appearance of fine lines. Moisturizes without making your skin greasy.
More expensive than the other products listed here.
Paraben-free. Spreads easily and absorbs quickly. A good choice for sensitive skin. Softens and tightens skin for a decreased appearance of lines and wrinkles.
Some find the scent to be too overbearing.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Although you can’t put a halt to the passage of time, you can certainly put up a good fight. Father Time might gift you with fine lines, wrinkles, and general skin dullness, but you’ve got a weapon in your arsenal to combat those marks of the turning years: anti-aging and anti-wrinkle skin serums that help restore the glow, health, and smoothness of your younger complexion.
Admittedly, these serums cannot deliver the same results as medical treatments or products prescribed by your doctor, but you’ll generally see marked improvement with consistent use. However, because there are so many anti-wrinkle serums out there — and so many ingredients hyped as the latest and greatest — choosing your serum is enough to furrow your brow.
That’s why we’ve cleared up the mystery for you with this guide to choosing and using the best anti-wrinkle serum for your complexion.
While the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles around your eyes and mouth are inevitable with age, there are other skin-busters beyond the passage of time that leave their mark on your complexion. To better understand the causes of wrinkles, it helps to know a bit about the three layers of the skin.
The epidermis is the outer layer of your skin, and it serves to protect the inner layers. The epidermis contains a great deal of the protein keratin, which helps your skin keep out water and other environmental pollutants.
The dermis is the thickest layer of your skin, and it contains nerves, blood vessels, and some fat. The majority of the dermis is collagen. This protein makes up the framework that keeps your skin strong and sag-free. Your dermis also contains elastin, another protein, which gives your skin its ability to stretch a bit and then return to its former shape.
The innermost layer of your skin is the subcutaneous layer, which is mostly composed of fat. This layer protects your internal organs and muscles and helps maintain body temperature.
As you age, your skin produces less and less collagen and elastin. By your 40s or early 50s, the decline of these proteins starts to show in the form of reduced skin elasticity. You’ll also start to notice fine lines around your eyes and mouth as the loss of collagen causes skin cells to become brittle. At the same time, the store of fat in the subcutaneous and dermal layers thins out, and your skin’s ability to maintain moisture greatly decreases. The result of all these changes? Dryness, roughness, loss of a healthy glow, fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging.
Of course, your personal habits and the environment, along with genetics, greatly influence your skin’s tendency toward wrinkling.
Sun exposure: The sun is the worst culprit after the natural aging process. The sun’s UV rays penetrate to the dermal layer and cause a breakdown in collagen and elastin, leading to wrinkles.
Air pollution: Polluted air contains a high percentage of free radicals — charged atomic particles that disrupt your skin’s chemical structure.
Smoking: Smoking starves your cells of oxygen, leading to a breakdown of collagen. It also leads to fine lines around your lips and deep “marionette lines” between your nose and chin due to the repeated pursing of your mouth as you inhale from the cigarette.
Repeated facial expressions: Smiling, frowning, squinting, and pursing your lips all contribute to wrinkling. This is due to the small grooves that form in the muscles under your skin over time. As your skin loses collagen and elastin, those grooves start to show through as lines and wrinkles.
Stress: Stress ages your skin due to the associated surge in cortisol and blood sugar. The result can be your skin’s reduced ability to hold on to moisture, the breakdown of collagen and elastin, and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.
Along with wearing sunscreen and following a healthy lifestyle, you can keep your skin looking its best with a daily application of an anti-aging serum. While serums and moisturizers have overlapping benefits, as a general rule, serums are more concentrated than moisturizers and are in liquid form, while moisturizers are creamy or gel-like.
You will likely find overlapping ingredients in your favorite serums and moisturizers. The following are some of the most common — and the most helpful in the fight against wrinkles.
Retinol: While both are derivatives of vitamin A, don’t confuse retinol, which is the gold standard of non-prescription anti-aging and anti-wrinkle serums, with its much stronger prescription-grade cousin, Retin-A. Regular use of a serum containing retinol boosts your skin’s collagen and elastin levels while increasing the rate of cell turnover and helping your epidermis shed dead skin cells. Because retinol can irritate sensitive skin, it’s best to start off slowly; only apply a retinol-containing serum two or three times per week until you’re sure your skin can tolerate it.
Peptides: These are short protein chains made of amino acids, and they stimulate collagen production.
Ceramides: Your skin naturally produces ceramides, which are lipids that help maintain moisture levels, but as you age, ceramide levels decline. A serum containing ceramides helps your skin stay plump with moisture, thus smoothing away fine lines.
Hyaluronic acid: Not all acids are harsh on your complexion. Hyaluronic acid, which is found throughout your body, is a powerful moisturizer, holding up to 1,000 times its weight in water. That helps soothe and smooth your skin, easing roughness, dryness, and fine lines.
Antioxidants: There are several antioxidants commonly used in anti-wrinkle serums. Vitamin C, green tea extract, resveratrol, vitamin E, and caffeine all fight free radicals, preventing them from destroying your skin’s elastin and collagen.
Hydroxy acids: Alpha-hydroxy acids, including glycolic acid and salicylic acid, help remove dead skin cells and smooth fine lines. These acids can be mildly irritating, so only use serums containing them a couple times per week until you’re sure your skin can tolerate them.
Plant stem cells: This popular ingredient nourishes aging skin by reducing inflammation, increasing collagen production, and helping skin retain moisture.
A quality anti-aging/anti-wrinkle serum will have at least several of the above ingredients, and it may have others as well. Watch out for marketing hype; if you’ve never heard of an ingredient or the manufacturer claims it will give results equal to prescription creams or medical treatments, chances are the serum is more hype than substance.
Just about every anti-aging serum is a blend of ingredients, as the skin-boosting benefits increase when ingredients work together.
Most serums come in small glass bottles with dropper tops. Often, the glass is dark in color because some anti-aging ingredients, particularly vitamin C, tend to break down when exposed to light. Keep your serum in a drawer or cabinet away from heat, light, and moisture for the best results.
While plant oils such as jojoba, olive oil, pomegranate, and sunflower are common serum ingredients, as they help your skin retain moisture, look for a product with few oils if acne is a problem.
Be realistic. An anti-wrinkle serum can help reduce fine lines, but it isn’t going to remove very deep wrinkles or achieve the same results you’d get from a doctor’s anti-aging treatment.
Give it time. Generally, it will take several weeks to really start seeing the benefits of your serum. Be patient.
Use your skincare products in the correct order: skin cleanser, toner, serum, and then moisturizer, if desired. If your skin is oily, your serum might provide enough moisture to forgo a separate moisturizer.
It’s okay to combine serums or rotate two or three favorites.
If your serum contains retinol or alpha-hydroxy acid, start by using the product just two or three times per week. As your skin gains tolerance, you can increase usage to every night.
Whatever serum you choose, top it with a good sunscreen. It’s the sun’s UV rays that do the most damage to your skin over time.
As with most beauty products, there’s a huge range of prices for anti-aging serums, and a great deal of that comes down to marketing and brand name. But as a general rule, you’ll find excellent serums in the $20 to $40 range. Below that price, ingredients might be inferior or insufficient for good results. Beyond that price, you might get cutting-edge or premium ingredients, but you are also likely paying for the brand name.
Q. Does the FDA regulate skin serums?
A. No, they do not. Skincare and other beauty products are not regulated, which is why it’s best to buy serums only from well-regarded and established brands.
Q. Is it safe to use an anti-wrinkle serum on sensitive skin?
A. If your skin is very sensitive, it’s best to avoid retinol and alpha-hydroxy acids, both of which could cause stinging, redness, and peeling. Instead, choose a serum that’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin. Aloe, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and ceramides are all gentle on your skin but tough on fine lines.
Q. Should I use a serum from the same company as my face wash and moisturizer?
A. While you certainly could stick with just one brand of skincare products, there’s no need to do so if you choose otherwise. Feel free to combine products as desired.