Because it’s never too late to start taking care of your skin.

Treating fine lines and wrinkles doesn’t necessarily require a trip to the cosmetic surgeon. Regularly using anti-aging products, such as night creams or eye creams, can make a real difference in how your skin looks and feels, and there are many excellent ones out there that don’t require a prescription (or cost a fortune). “There are two categories of products out there: ones that actually treat and prevent wrinkles, and others that just minimize their appearance,” says Pennsylvania-based board-certified dermatologist Erum Ilyas, M.D. The first category of products contains legit anti-aging ingredients (think: retinol), while the second involves ingredients that excessively hydrate or temporarily swell the skin to make wrinkles seem less noticeable—but once you stop using them, your skin goes back to its regularly scheduled programming.

That’s not to say you should avoid the latter category. “These products serve the purpose of giving the appearance of ‘faster’ results, which is perfectly okay when you just want something that will make you look better for an event,” says Dr. Ilyas.  Bottom line: Know what you want out of your anti-aging creams before busting out your wallet. If you’re in it for the long haul and want a wrinkle cream that will keep up with you, there are several qualities to look out as you shop around.

How to choose the best anti-aging wrinkle cream or serum

Scan the label: The dermatologists we talked to recommend products that contain the following ingredients:

  • Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) promote cell turnover, stimulate collagen production, and help to even out skin tone.
  • Peptides are another important anti-aging staple that helps to repair skin damage.
  • Antioxidants like vitamins C and E help in the fight against free radicals (unstable molecules that can do major damage to your cells).
  • Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, shea butter, and other hydrators can boost and lock in moisture, which will help reduce the irritating effects of anti-aging ingredients.

Know your skin type: “For those who have oily skin or live in humid climates, lightweight cream with mattifying properties will prevent skin from becoming weighed down and shiny,” says Joel Schlessinger, M.D., Omaha-based board-certified dermatologist, and cosmetic surgeon. “On the other hand, if someone has dehydrated skin or lives in a dry, cold area, rich cream is more appropriate for their regimen.”

Factor in sensitivities: If your skin is easily irritated, consider looking for anti-aging creams that contain bakuchiol instead of retinol. “It actually has the same effect as retinol topically, but it’s less irritating because it’s also an anti-inflammatory agent,” says Dr. Ilyas. Other potential irritants to avoid include fragrances, artificial dyes, and even coconut oil or cocoa butter, which can clog pores and cause breakouts.

Look for prime packaging: Ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, and peptides can become unstable and degrade when exposed to air or light, so any products that contain them should be packaged in dark opaque tubes, preferably with air-tight pumps, says Lela Lankerani, D.O., board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology in Austin, Texas.  But sifting through all of the anti-aging products to find the one that’s best for you can be overwhelming. Here, the creams and serums experts recommend most.

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