Do anti-aging creams work?

by Gio
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.



Vonvon June 21, 2010 - 2:32 pm

I do believe prevention is better than cure. I have tried several anti-aging creams. While I don’t have wrinkles except for the habitual frown lines on my forehead, I do have fine lines here and there, and after using these creams, the depth of the lines has definitely reduced. And my naso-labial folds did show some signs of sagging, but now seems slightly more lifted.

Tried Estee Lauder Time Zone. Really works! Had reviewed it last year.

Now trying Lancome Renergie Morpholift R.A.R.E. for the past month. Quite promising. The eye serum and eye cream from this range work quite effectively, as my eye bags have significantly lessened. Now only using the eye cream, using both the serum and cream is rather steep in terms of the price.

beautifulwithbrains June 21, 2010 - 8:08 pm

Vonvon, I agree. The only way to completely remove wrinkles completely once they’re formed is with botox or other fillers, so preventing new wrinkles from forming by using the right skincare products full of antioxidants, sunscreen and living a healthy lifestyle is the best thing to do.

I’m so glad to hear those products are working for you, especially since they are so expensive. I’ve heard good things about the Estee Lauder Time Zone range, I just wish it wasn’t so expensive. I’ve been using a sample of their new Advanced Night Repeair Serum and so far it performs just ok. I haven’t seen much of a different to be honest, but I guess that’s because I don’t really have any deep wrinkles, just some fine lines.

Dee June 21, 2010 - 6:19 pm

I prefer serums over creams as they lighter in texture and absorb quicker on my skin. So far, all the anti-aging creams I’ve tried kind of just sit on my skin and don’t absorb well. Is there one you would recommend me to try Gio?

beautifulwithbrains June 21, 2010 - 8:53 pm

Dee, I know what you mean. I hate when creams don’t seem to absorb well but if they contain good ingredients then they will provide benefits. The thing is that they work by preventing damage rather than reducing it so that’s why it seems like they aren’t doing anything, cos it takes years to see the results. Since you like serums, have you tried Estee Lauder Perfectionist Wrinkle Lifting Serum? It’s expensive but it’s packed with efficient antioxidants. A drugstore version of the serum Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum. They contain pretty much the same ingredients and work the same way, the main difference is the price.

Trisha June 21, 2010 - 11:22 pm

I agree with a previous poster about prevention being key. Keep your skin hydrated and UV-free now and you’re better off later. Because, honestly, most of those anti-aging products don’t work.

beautifulwithbrains June 22, 2010 - 8:49 am

Trisha, I agree. Nothing can get rid of wrinkles once they are formed, all those creams do is hydrate skin so that it looks plumper and, if the concentration of antioxidants is high enough, fight free radical formation, which will prevent new wrinkles from forming. Well, some of them at least cos we are going to age in the end, it’s only natural.

Jeni June 22, 2010 - 10:58 am

I agree with the first commentor too that prevention is huge (but I didn’t start wearing sunscreen until 10 years ago and used to be really tan) so now I’m trying to make up for my mistakes with anti-aging products! I use retinoids (Renova), plus antioxidants, AHAs and BHAs sometimes, and I take a bunch of vitamins every day. I agree that nothing works that well, but it’s better than nothing. And if I had more money, I would jump at getting Botox again because in the last few months I’ve suddenly acquired permanent forehead wrinkles. Before they would go away after frowning, but now they are always there:(((((( And crow’s feet – I’ve had those for 5 years. UGH.

beautifulwithbrains June 22, 2010 - 7:28 pm

Jeni, you’re using very good ingredients so I’m sure they’ll counteract part of the damage but yeah, sadly there’s only so little creams can do. Prevention is definitely the key when it comes to anti-ageing cos once wrinkles are formed the only way to completely remove them is Botox. I’m not too keen on it though, I’m too scared of needles!

Lovely July 19, 2010 - 8:14 am

Hi! I’d like to ask if you were able to try and review the Ageloc Transformation set made by Nu Skin? According to its distributors and in their company website, this latest set of products in their anti-aging line can target the “ultimate source of aging” by going beyond just minimizing the signs.

beautifulwithbrains July 19, 2010 - 11:03 am

Lovely, no, I didn’t try the set because, even if their products are good, I don’t think they are that good to justify their price tag. The serum for instance has some antioxidant ingredients like glucosamine and hexapeptite, which has been shown to rebuild collagen and so reduce fine lines, but there’s no research saying they’re the best antioxidants ingredients out there. Same for the day moisturizer. I like that it contains broad-spectrum sunscreen and a couple of antioxidants, but it’s also full of silicones to make skin look and feel smoother. I think that, overall, the products in the set will benefit skin, but I’d rather go for cheaper but still valid alternatives.

Carina August 3, 2010 - 10:01 pm

Hmm.. do you think essential oils as anti-ageing “agents” ? Specifically, I’m having the olive leaf extract in mind. 😀

beautifulwithbrains August 4, 2010 - 7:14 am

Carina, some essential oils have antioxidant properties and yes, olive leaf extract is one of those. 🙂

Katrina September 5, 2011 - 6:59 am

After reading this, I’m really going to purchase a physical sunscreen and perhaps a antioxidant packed serum. Lately I’ve been more keen on buying anti ageing serums/creams. Now I know I’ve been focusing on the wrong thing. I have no wrinkles (yet) though I want to prevent them. I just had no direction on where to start preventing them (newbie to actual skincare though I’ve started the so called 3 step program when I was 13). Just didn’t take it seriously.

Beautifulwithbrains, do you know any good rich vitamin serums out there that is worth trying/buying?

beautifulwithbrains September 5, 2011 - 2:01 pm

Katrina, a broad spectrum sunscreen and a serum packed with antioxidants is definitely the way to go when it comes to prevent wrinkles. Anti-aging creams can be good too but you really need to know what ingredients to look for or you’ll just waste your money on products that won’t work as well as promised.

Clinique CX Antioxidant Rescue Serum, Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Super Antioxidant Mattifying Concentrate Serum, for Normal to Very Oily Skin and Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum, for Normal to Very Dry Skin are all good options.

Katrina September 5, 2011 - 10:24 pm

Thanks so much for the suggestions and will try to get samples of these asap. Hoping for the best :).

And sad thing is, with so many products out there in the market, it can be overwhelming for such a person to find a good product that will deliver :S. Retinal, peptides and amino acids should do the trick though hard to find products that won’t make you go broke.

Anyways I’ll focus on finding a good night cream once I find a good vitamin serum. Thanks again!!

beautifulwithbrains September 6, 2011 - 6:13 am

Katrina, you’re welcome. I hope you’ll be able to get the samples soon. And you’re right, it’s not easy to find a good product these days. There are so many products out there and most of them make exaggerated claims that it’s hard to know which ones deliver an which ones don’t. And those that have effective concentrations are usually so expensive! So not fair.

Katrina September 10, 2011 - 5:09 pm

Yes! It is a shame! They make me go nutz searching for good products with a good amount of ingredients, let alone containing the right amount of concentration of them.

The Clinique is only available around Europe and I tried going to the Canadian site of Clinique and the counters here (no luck, since I’m Canadian :'( ) and Paula’s Choice Serums are available online for me though :).

beautifulwithbrains September 11, 2011 - 8:16 pm

Katrina, I agree. It shouldn’t be that hard to find well-formulated products. What a shame the Clinique serum isn’t available in Canada. But at least Paula’s Choice products are and they’re cheaper. 🙂

Simonne October 23, 2011 - 3:49 pm

Serum yes yes I think my oily skin prefer serum more than moisturizer my fav serum is from PC
I would not say serum alone do wonders on skin but a combination of adequate sunscreen , exfloliant they work as a team
The Vitamin a is a tricky part need to try n be patience to find your match

beautifulwithbrains October 23, 2011 - 7:56 pm

Simonne, I don’t oily skin needs a moisturizer but a good antioxidant serum is a must. I agree with you that a combination of sunscreen, exfoliant and antioxidants works best at prevent aging and reduce some of the damage it causes to skin.

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