how antiaging creams work

I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of anti aging creams I’ve tried that really work. Feel the same?

Oh, everything promises to rid you of wrinkles and turn the clock back 10 years. And most of the creams deliver… for a few hours. Then those pesky wrinkles come back with a vengeance.

You see, not all anti aging creams are created equal. Some have only what it takes to make wrinkles look smaller for a while. Others only prevent them. Only a tiny number of creams out there can really reduce them.

How do you know if the anti aging cream you’re eyeing is up to the job? Let’s take a look at the different types of anti aging creams and what they can REALLY do:

skinsense by abi cleeve hydranet night cream

Anti Aging Creams Type 1: The Basic Kind

How it works

Basic anti-aging creams work thanks to a mix of:

That’s it.

Why it works

Hydration really is key to healthy skin. When skin is well hydrated, it looks plumper and fuller, and that makes fine lines and wrinkles look smaller.

The catch

The effect is just temporary. When the added hydration has run its course, the wrinkles are still there, as big as they were before. That’s why you shouldn’t spend more than $15 on them.

Who should use it?

  • Young women ( <25 ) who don’t need to worry about antiaging yet.
  • Anyone who prefers to splurge on an effective anti-aging serum and doesn’t need more goodies (those I’ll mention below) in their moisturizer.

Best Picks

  • CeraVe Am Facial Moisturizing Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($17.99): available at iHerbUlta and Walmart
  • Nivea Creme ($5.48): available at Walmart


Related: Is Mineral Oil Bad For Skin?

Apiu glycolic acid cream

Anti Aging Creams Type 2: The Exfoliating Kind

How it works

Exfoliating antiaging creams work thanks to AHAs and BHA, exfoliants that can remove the dead cells that accumulate on the surface on the skin.

Why it works

When you remove dead skin cells, you reveal the skin underneath, which is brighter and smoother. This makes wrinkles look less noticeable.

The catch?

Not everyone may tolerate daily exfoliation. If that’s your case, an an exfoliating moisturiser may work best for you.

Who should use it?

  • Anyone who can tolerate daily exfoliation and can’t be bothered to use a separate exfoliant.

Best Picks:


Related: How To Choose The Best Exfoliator For Your Skin Type

caudalie resveratrol lift face lifting soft cream

Anti Aging Creams Type 3: The Preventative Kind

How it works

Preventative antiaging cream work because they’re loaded with antioxidants, the good cops that destroy free radicals, the criminals that give you wrinkles and dark spots. The most common in skincare products are vitamins C and E, green tea, and coenzyme q-10.

Why it works

When an oxygen molecule loses an electron, it turns into a free radical. To regain its electron, the free radical attacks another molecule to get it, damaging DNA, cells and proteins in the process. The other molecule, now a free radical, too, attacks another molecule, and so on, creating a chain reaction that leads to wrinkles.

Antioxidants can fight this process in one of two ways:

  • They can break the free radical chain (ex: vitamins C and E)
  • They neutralize the initiating free radicals, slowing down or preventing the chain reaction (ex: superoxide dismutase).

Either way, they stop free radicals BEFORE they can cause wrinkles.

The catch?

Antioxidants help prevent new wrinkles from forming, but can’t reduce those you already have.

Who Should Use It?

  • Anyone in their teens and early twenties who doesn’t have wrinkles yet.
  • Anyone who wants to avoid getting more wrinkles!

Best Picks:


Related: How Antioxidants Help You Fight Premature Aging

skinceuticals 0 5 retinol refining night cream

Anti Aging Creams Type 4: The Real Deal

How it works

The real deal, these anti aging creams work thanks to vitamin A, which can accellerate cellular turnover, boost the production of collagen, and fight free radicals. It’s one of the very few ingredients proven to really reduce wrinkles, not just their appearance.

Why it works

  • When you accelerate cellular turnover, those old and damaged dead cells get off your face, replaced by newer and younger ones. This makes your face look smoother.
  • Collagen keeps skin firm and elastic. The more skin has, the better.
  • Neutralizing free radicals stops the production of wrinkles in its track.

The catch?

There are several forms of vitamin A. Retinol’s the most effective, but also the most irritating. It can cause redness, flaking, and irritation. Use it only every other day at first.

Other forms, like retinyl palmitate, are less irritating, but also less effective. It’ll take longer to see results, but if your skin’s sensitive, the trade off is worth it.

Who should use it?

  • Anyone who is serious about fighting premature aging.

Best Picks:


I’m not saying everyone needs a retinol moisturiser. If you’re using a serum with retinol, you DON’T need it in your moisturiser, too. Using two products will retinol will only irritate your skin.

The point I’m making is that vitamin A is the only thing that can really reduce wrinkles. All those “antiaging moisturizers” without retinol aren’t really antiaging. They can moisturise your skin, exfoliate dead cells and make your skin smoother and brighter, but they won’t turn back the clock.


The Bottom Line

Anti aging creams aren’t miracle products that can make you look 10 years younger overnight. The vast majority of them can only make your wrinkles look smaller for a few hours or prevent them in the first place. Look for retinol if you’re after the real deal.

What are your fave anti aging creams? Share your picks in the comments below.