“While seeing a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles is the main benefits of anti-aging topicals, many of these products are multi-purpose and also help to moisturize and hydrate skin, target dark spots or help with other concerns,” says Kathleen S. Viscusi, M.D., dermatologist and co-founder of Dermatology and Surgery Specialists of North Atlanta in Marietta, Georgia. In addition, “anti-aging creams are usually packed with antioxidants and brightening agents that help decrease skin inflammation,” adds Naana Boakye, M.D., a dermatologist in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
But there are so many creams and moisturizers out there (that promise so many things), it can be tricky to know where to start. That’s why the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab experts are here to cut through the clutter.
Our top picks:
GH Beauty Lab scientists are constantly testing the latest anti-aging skincare products, including day creams, night creams, eye creams, neck creams and more to find the best on the market. They utilize both technical instruments that measure changes in wrinkles, dark spots, firmness and skin moisturization over time as well as consumer tester feedback on factors like ease of use, cosmetic properties and look and feel of skin after a set time period. Lab pros then quantify both sets of data to identify the top performers.
You can read more about how we scientifically evaluate wrinkle creams in our lab and consumer tests — plus everything you need to know to shop for the best anti-aging creams and skincare products — at the end of this guide. Looking for more of the best anti-aging products? Check out our guides to the best anti-aging serums and face moisturizers for your money.
How we test anti-aging creams and products
The GH Beauty Lab has decades of history testing anti-aging skincare products, from face moisturizers to retinol eye creams and more. Beauty Lab scientists first label-mask the products, which are then distributed to testers around the country, who use them as part of their skincare routine for a set time period. The consumer testers report their feedback on product performance, benefits on the look and feel of skin, and ease of use, including application, texture, scent and irritation.
Products are also evaluated in the Lab using instruments like the Corneometer device, which measures skin moisture levels, the Cutometer machine (pictured here), which gauges skin firmness, and the Visia Complexion Analyzer, which tracks changes in skin including wrinkles, texture, pigmentation and pores. The data from these tests are then methodically tallied to arrive at the winning best anti-aging skincare creams and formulas.
What to look for when shopping for the best anti-aging creams
GH Beauty Lab and dermatologist experts recommend seeking out the following key types of anti-aging skincare ingredients in cream formulas for the face, eyes and neck:
✔️ Retinol: “A derivative of vitamin A, it’s proven to slow down and sometimes reverse age-related changes that occur over time within skin,” says Libby Rhee, M.D., Dermatology Advisor for Ro Derm and Founder of Liora Dermatology & Aesthetics in New York City. “It works by increasing skin cell turnover, thereby increasing collagen production, as well as reducing the breakdown of collagen.” They improve skin texture, smooth wrinkles, firm and even skin tone for a more radiant complexion.
✔️ Peptides: “A great anti-aging ingredient, they are small chains of amino acids that act as building blocks for proteins such as collagen, which we lose as we age,” Dr. Viscusi says. They help reduce lines and wrinkles and increase skin firmness over time.
✔️ Antioxidants: Including vitamins C and E, resveratrol and niacinamide (vitamin B3), these help prevent “oxidative stress from sources such as sun exposure, smoking, pollution and poor nutrition that can play a major role in premature skin aging,” Dr. Rhee explains. Vitamin C and niacinamide also help even skin tone and brighten, among other anti-aging benefits.
✔️ Moisturizers: “Moisturizing ingredients should be in everyone’s toolkit,” Dr. Boakye says. Actives like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin help replenish skin hydration that can decline with age.
✔️ Sunscreen: “It’s estimated that 80% of the skin changes we attribute to chronological aging, like wrinkles and dark spots, are due to the cumulative effects of day-to-day sun exposure,” Dr. Rhee says. “In that sense, they are largely preventable with the daily and consistent use of broad spectrum sunscreen.” Apply a face sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, recommends GH Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek: “Sunscreen is the best anti-aging defense, no matter what other anti-aging products you apply.”
Do anti-aging creams actually work?
GH Beauty Lab testing has found that some anti-aging creams and products (like the top-tested formulas on our list) do work and provide visible results. “In our tests, we are able to see measurable improvements in skin’s firmness and hydration and a decrease lines, wrinkles and dark spots,” Wnek says. But consistency is key: It takes at least four weeks of daily application to start seeing benefits from skincare treatments like creams and up to twelve for maximum results.
What’s the best way to use an anti-aging cream?
First, the GH Beauty Lab recommends closely following the directions on the product’s packaging, as some formulas are created to be applied twice per day, while others are meant to be used once. For best results, “always apply products on a clean, dry face,” Dr. Rhee advises. And to avoid irritation, “start off slowly,” Dr. Boakye says, applying a small amount of a treatment once per week and increasing the frequency two to three times per week.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
Danusia Wnek, a chemist in the Good Housekeeping Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab, develops and oversees the testing of skincare product categories including anti-aging moisturizers, night creams, eye creams and more, utilizing both lab instrumentation and consumer feedback to recommend the best products on the market.
April Franzino, the beauty director at Good Housekeeping, has over 15 years of experience researching, writing and editing skincare-related content, utilizing the expertise of the Institute’s Beauty Lab scientists and top industry professionals such as dermatologists and aestheticians. She is an expert in all face and body skincare product categories, including cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, night creams, sunscreens, exfoliators, masks, eye creams, professional treatments and more.
Nicole Saporita is a former member of the Good Housekeeping editorial team that spent years working with the GH Beauty Lab to interpret and report on product testing.