The Best Budget Wrinkle Smoothers
Find inexpensive line-minimizing night treatments for your 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond.
Good practices now can stave off early signs of skin aging in the future. Your go-to ingredients are antioxidants, which help prevent and repair damage caused by pollution, stress, and the sun. “Nighttime is ideal for treating skin because that’s when skin repairs itself,” says Diane Berson, a New York City dermatologist.
The most important anti-aging strategy for your 20s: Wear a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher every day. “If you’ve ever had prolonged sun exposure without wearing block, it will show up in the form of wrinkles, dark spots, and a rough texture,” says Amy Newburger, a dermatologist in Scarsdale, New York. Apply a half teaspoon of a moisturizer containing sunscreen to your face daily (reapply every couple of hours if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors). Studies also suggest that wearing sunscreen can allow your skin time to heal some of the damage that has already been done. Good news for all those who tanned before prom in their teens.
Out of 25 products tried for 28 days, the following three products were standouts.
Olay Total Effects 7-in-1 Anti-Aging Booster Instant Smoothing Serum
Testers loved this light, soothing gel packed with antioxidant vitamin E and gentle niacinamide to protect and help smooth skin. “It felt good and didn’t irritate my skin or make me break out,” said one tester.
To buy: $19, at drugstores.
Neutrogena Anti-Oxidant Age Reverse Night Cream
The feverfew and the soy in this hydrating cream help calm and soften parched patches and tiny emerging lines. Said a tester, “The wrinkles around my eyes and forehead aren’t as noticeable, and my skin actually feels firmer.”
To buy: $20, at drugstores.
This freshly scented, oil-free treatment contains antioxidant vitamins A and C to brighten and nourish skin. “It wasn’t slick and left my complexion feeling balanced and looking more even toned,” said a tester.
To buy: $10, at drugstores.
By the time you enter this decade, your skin may look a little dull (due in part to sun exposure), and fine lines may appear (blame the natural breakdown of collagen). To reverse these types of changes, start using proven smoothers, like retinol, peptides, niacinamide, and alpha hydroxy acids.
Anti-aging strategy for your 30s: While anti-aging ingredients can produce some redness and flaking, that’s no reason to stop using them. “Acclimate your skin by using the ingredient every other day until the irritation subsides,” says dermatologist Diane Berson. “Then increase to daily application.” Another point to consider: Studies suggest that people whose diets are rich in green, leafy vegetables, olive oil, and fatty fish, and who have lower intakes of butter, milk, and sugar, may develop fewer sun-induced wrinkles over time. Just one more benefit to watching what you eat.
From 20 night treatments formulated for 30-something skin, the following three products came out on top.
Aveeno Positively Ageless Night Cream
Its nonirritating restorative complex of three mushroom extracts helps gently brighten dull skin. Testers loved its calming scent, which was “nice for bedtime.”
To buy: $20, at drugstores.
Olay Professional Pro-X Wrinkle Smoothing Cream
This rich, pudding-thick cream treats discoloration and lines with peptides and niacinamide. It instantly sinks into dehydrated skin and feels silky, not sticky. “Right away my face looked healthier. A few weeks later, it was smoother,” said a tester.
To buy: $42, at drugstores.
ROC Multi Correxion Skin Renewing Serum
Testers liked this fluid’s “weightless, sheer texture.” Its potent level of retinol helps minimize fine lines, while vitamins C and E protect. Copper, zinc, and magnesium also work to keep skin supple and firm.
To buy: $25, at drugstores.
Around this time, fine lines may deepen into full-fledged wrinkles, and dark spots and hyper-pigmentation can appear. “There’s also a hormonal flux that can cause redness and blotchiness to show up,” says dermatologist Amy Newburger. So step up your efforts with stronger, multitasking treatments that combine several proven ingredients.
Anti-aging strategy for your 40s: To see changes in your skin quickly, consider a chemical peel in a dermatologist’s office (lasers are also effective but costlier). “Chemical peels remove the top layer of skin cells, which helps even tone and smooth texture and lines,” says Richard G. Glogau, a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. The doctor tailors the peel to your skin. A mild to medium version treats uneven tone, rough texture, and fine lines; a strong peel can remove deep discoloration and wrinkles. Depending on the strength of the peel, you may experience a few hours of redness or need several days of healing.
Out of 25 products tested, the three that follow best fit the bill for 40-something skin.
Eucerin Q10 Anti-Wrinkle Sensitive Skin Creme
The coenzyme Q10, vitamin E, and beta-carotene in this thick cream work to boost radiance without irritating skin. Praised for the luxurious texture, it “actually minimized my fine lines,” said one skeptical-at-first tester.
To buy: $11, at drugstores.
Boots No. 7 Protect & Perfect Intense Beauty Serum
Dry complexions drank up this elixir packed with retinol and peptides (to minimize fine wrinkles), as well as antioxidants and alfalfa extract. Testers liked the supple, luminous look it instantly gave skin.
To buy: $24, target.com.
Skin Effects by Dr. Jeffrey Dover Cell2Cell Cellular Nutrient Serum
Testers loved that this concentrated cocktail, which “feels like water” on skin, evened out tone and sped up cell turnover with vitamin C, peptides, and retinol. “It actually softened my crow’s-feet,” said one tester.
To buy: Unfortunately, this product is no longer available.