Wrinkle Treatment and Advice

wrinkle treatment

Wrinkle treatment has always been a very popular topic in my dermatology practice!  Most people start seeing wrinkles in their late 20's as 'crow's feet' around the sides of their eyes. In this article I explain what causes wrinkles, what you can do to prevent them and how you can even reverse them. Find out what skin care products work and which ones over-promise and underperform. I'm also going to give you tips on how to use your skin care routine to help prevent and get rid of wrinkles.

What causes skin to wrinkle as we age?

what causes wrinkles

Wrinkles are due to a loss of collagen and elastin in the second living layer of your skin called the dermis. Skin elastin is similar to collagen and for the purposes of simplification I will refer to them both as 'collagen'. Skin collagen is lost in two ways:

  1. sun damage (extrinsic skin aging), which accounts for up to 80% of skin collagen loss,
  2. aging (intrinsic skin aging).

As skin wrinkles it also becomes thin, fragile and crepey.

To truly reverse wrinkles on your skin you need to re-thicken the skin by building more collagen.

wrinkle treatment tips from dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey

Skin collagen can't be added from the outside with creams or serums. To increase your skin's collagen, the collagen making cells inside of your skin called fibroblasts must be stimulated. Use skin care ingredients proven to stimulate fibroblast collagen production in human skin to reverse wrinkles.  - Dermatologist and Skin Wellness Expert Dr. Cynthia Bailey

Wrinkle treatment using skin care ingredients that stimulate cellular collagen renewal inside our skin.

The 3 best skin care ingredients to build skin collagen

There are only 3 types of skin care product ingredients that, in my professional opinion, have the proven power to 'turn on' your skin's collagen renewal. The first two, retinoids and glycolic acid, have the best scientific evidence and are the most effective. The 3 proven collagen stimulating ingredients are:

  1. Retinol the best collagen renewal wrinkle treatment
    Retinoids - Such as professional levels of retinol products at concentrations of 0.5 to 1% such as Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream, and prescription tretinoin (Retin-A) at 0.05 to 0.1%. Retinol is also the easiest collagen renewal ingredient to tolerate for sensitive complexions.
  2. Glycolic acid (also called an AHA or alpha hydroxy acid) - A glycolic acid product must have a free glycolic acid concentration of over 10% and be formulated to an acid pH to stimulate skin collagen renewal. These are professional products such as my Glycolic Acid Anti-Wrinkle Face Creams.
  3. Vitamin C - There must be at least 10% concentration in the product (in the L-ascorbate form) and formulated to an acid pH under 3.5. It should also be in a container that does not allow oxygen to enter because oxygen inactivates vitamin C. Fragile vitamin C is also inactivated when layered with many other popular products. I don't know of a vitamin C serum that fits these important qualifications for effectiveness and I prefer to focus time and energy on glycolic acid and retinol.

If you are using tretinoin, don't miss my guide: How to Apply Tretinoin Cream: A Guide to Demystifying Its Use

How to tell if a skin care product really reverses wrinkles

You want wrinkle fighting ingredients with real scientific proof.

Let me make it simple, all of the other ingredients you see that claim to treat wrinkles don't have good scientific evidence in vivo in humans. The term 'in vivo' means in the living organism - like you in your bathroom.

best wrinkle reversing ingredients show collagen in skin

I want to see ingredients tested on human and that show new skin collagen on biopsies are examined under a microscope. Nothing less is sufficient! - Dr. Bailey

Yes, you see skin care ingredients and products with scientific sounding claims of stimulating collagen renewal and fighting skin aging but the "studies" are typically vitro, meaning in the lab using cells or tissue - or even just chemistry reactions swirling in liquid - and that's not good enough.

I recommend retinol and glycolic acid to stimulate collagen renewal in a skin care routine of compatible products that help prevent skin dryness and irritation.

wrinkle treatment and advice from dermatologist

I created my Ageless Rejuvenation Skin Care Kit with my favorite wrinkle fighting products.

  • I combine glycolic acid and retinol with Green Tea Antioxidants to sooth skin irritation and fight free radical skin damage that leads to skin aging and collagen loss. 
  • I give you the right skin cleanser to clean skin without over drying and the right moisturizer and sunscreen to keep skin healthy, fight dryness and sun damage.

My Ageless Rejuvenation Skin Care Kit combines my 35+ years of clinical experience with the best skin care technology to fight skin aging. 

If you already have products you love, how do you use them with the three collagen building ingredients?

How to pick the right wrinkle fighting cream for your skin.

All of the three best collagen building skin care ingredients can be irritating and tricky to use so you can't just rush in and apply all three to your skin and wait for results. You need to understand how to use them in your skin care routine. They each have pros and cons that you need to understand. You also don't want to combine Vitamin C with the other 2 ingredients at the same time. Let me help!

Build your own Dr. Bailey Complete Skin Care Routine™ to support your skin as it adjusts to these powerful wrinkle fighting products.

best skin care routine to fight wrinkles

Complete Skin Care involves the 4 essential skin care steps:


The 'rocket science' in skin care treatment of wrinkles comes in the CORRECT and PROTECT steps. Support your skin in CLEANSE and CORRECT. By that I mean:

  • Don't irritate your skin with harsh cleansers.
  • Do hydrate your skin with moisturizers that support critical skin lipids in your skin's stratum corneum barrier to keep your skin from getting irritated.

When you build a Complete Skin Care Routine to treat your wrinkles with these considerations, you will have the most success. It's true!

Wrinkle Treatment with Dermatologist Dr. Bailey's Complete Skin Care Routine™

wrinkle treatment by Dr. Cynthia Bailey

I often add the collagen stimulating ingredients one at a time because they can be irritating. I usually start first with a retinoid because most complexions can tolerate retinoids since they do not have the acid pH. Even sensitive complexions can often eventually use a retinoid if the sensitivity and skin barrier is healthy. This includes many people with rosacea - like me.

Retinoids are the best wrinkle fighting night cream

Choices include the prescription retinoid called tretinoin (Retin A) or my non-prescription Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream. My Retinol Night Cream contains the right concentration of the proven active retinol.

Retinoids are really only effective on the face, neck, chest and back of the hands. The rest of the skin on your body is too thick for them to meaningful penetrate. You need to know that retinoid creams make your skin more sun sensitive and more sensitive to irritating things like harsh soaps or climates. This happens because retinoids exfoliate the top stratum corneum layer of dead cells to brighten skin. This also allow sun and harsh things to penetrate more readily.

Is it better to use glycolic acid or vitamin C for wrinkles?

Once a complexion has adjusted to retinoid treatment for wrinkles, I add glycolic acid. It has very strong scientific evidence for stimulating skin collagen synthesis when used in a medical-grade product. Lastly, I add vitamin C. Vitamin C has a half-life in skin of 4 days. This means that only half the amount is gone after 4 days. I let my patients apply this ever 2 or 3 days after using it daily for a week. 

To support skin as it responds and adjusts to these powerful products, I select cleansers, antioxidant anti-inflammatory products, hydrating products and non-irritating mineral zinc oxide sunscreens based on a person's skin type. If facial redness is a problem, we address that first because it leads to stratum corneum barrier weakness and that leads to irritation with all the 3 powerful collagen stimulating ingredients. 

How to prevent your skin from getting dry and irritated by wrinkle creams

wrinkle treatment and advice from dermatologistMy Ageless Rejuvenation Kit is a complete routine for fighting wrinkles. You can see that I have included supportive products to help you tolerate glycolic acid and retinol. Here are the products I add to enhance a wrinkle fighting skin care routine:

  • Wash with gentle cleansers only. If rosacea or seborrhea are present then they need to be treated. I recommend washing the treated skin with a pH balanced and sulfate free gentle cleanser such as Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser. Follow this with a gentle toner to get skin really clean such as Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Toner . Use Calming Zinc Bar Soap for rosaces or seborrhea at least once a day. It can be alternated with the Extremely Gentle Cleanser.
  • Soothe and quiet any skin irritation. My Green Tea Antioxidant Cream is often the critical product that makes the difference.
  • Plump wrinkles instantly with an advanced hyaluronic acid serum. For 'instant gratification', I have my patients apply it right after washing or right after using my Instantly Luminous Multi-Action Serum, which also soothes dry, limp and irritated skin.
  • Use a deeply hydrating facial moisturizer to balance skin hydration. This helps maintain a healthy skin barrier and to protect the skin from harsh weather. Apply the facial moisturizer under your sunscreen during the day. Pick a product that is free of irritating ingredients or allergens. The ideal option is my Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for All Skin Types. Dry to Normal Skin which contains squalane and ceramides along with time honored humectants such as glycerin and a robust combination of antioxidants formulated in a deeply hydrating but non-greasy cream. You can add a few drops of a good Booster Oil to your moisturizer when your skin feels dry. This helps to further enrich the lipid content of your skin.
  • Sun protection is critical every day to fight wrinkles. Especially if you use a retinoid. All of my sunscreens work beautifully with tretinoin and retinoid therapy. UV exposure starts the degradation of collagen in your skin by the matrix metalloproteinase enzymes. That breakdown runs non-stop even once you are out of the sun unless you turn it off with retinoids. Yep, it's true!

What is the most Powerful Complete Skin Care Routine™ for Wrinkle Treatment?

You can let me take the work out of creating your anti-wrinkle skin care routine by using my Ageless Rejuvenation Kit, or you can add some of my products to products you already have at home. Here are the specific top choices for each step in Complete Skin Care:

 Morning Routine

Best skin cleansers for anti-aging wrinkle skin care routine
best facial cleansers for wrinkle treatment products

CLEANSE skin with Extremely Gentle Foaming Facial Cleanser and rinse well with warm (not hot) water. Follow this by applying my Naturally Hydrating Pore Minimizing Toner with a cotton pad. Get both in my Skin Cleanse Zen Kit.   

best daytime skin care to fight wrinkles

CORRECT skin antioxidant depletion and dehydration with Instantly Luminous Multi-Action Serum followed by Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy. Get both in my Layered Up Besties Kit.

Alternatively, apply a vitamin A serum if you have one that you like. Know that you can use Vitamin C every 2nd or 3rd day because the the half-life in the skin is 4 days.  

fight wrinkles with best hyaluronic acid and antioxidant skin care

wrinkle treatment face cream

best face moisturizer to fight wrinkles

HYDRATE your skin to help it fight irritation and dryness by supporting your precious skin lipids. Use one of my high-tech squalane rich formulations selected for your skin type: Daily Face Cream for All Skin Types. 

best mineral sunscreen to fight wrinkles

PROTECT your skin from all UV rays to prevent collagen breakdown. All of my sunscreen products give you the best invisible mineral zinc oxide technology available. 

best face sunscreen to fight wrinkles
Pick your product based on your product preferences. All of my Sheer Strength SPF are free from chemical sunscreen, weightless on the skin and non-comedogenic. My top choices for facial protection are Sheer Strength Pure Physical Matte Tinted Cream SPF 30+ Sunscreen and my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Water Resistant Spray SPF 50+ Sunscreen. I wear the Tinted SPF on my face and the Spray on my neck, ears, chest and hands every single day.


  Night Routine

best way to cleanse your face at night

CLEANSE skin as above. If you have a Clarisonic Brush this is a great time to use it to deeply clean your skin. If you suffer from facial redness, use my Calming Zinc Soap to fight rosacea and seborrhea.

best retinol cream to treat wrinkles
best night skin care to fight wrinkles
CORRECT collagen loss with your retinoid treatment. I instruct my tretinoin patients to apply Green Tea Antioxidant Skin Therapy then their tretinoin. (If you use tretinoin you must ask your physician to approve how you use it.) My Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Cream is made with the same high concentration green tea extract and is thus two products in one. Apply Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream and then layer with Glycolic Acid Anti-Wrinkle Face Cream. 
best glycolic acid face cream to treat wrinkles
best face booster oil to fight dry skin

best nighttime skin care for wrinkles

HYDRATE skin to fight dryness and irritation that can occur with this powerful routine. The cream base in Glycolic Acid Anti-Wrinkle Face Cream or tretinoin cream are moisturizing enough for most complexions. If you are using the Retinol Night Cream without Glycolic Acid Cream then top your Retinol with the Daily Face Cream. I personally boost my Daily Face Cream with a few drops of my Omega Facial Booster Oil. 

Get my Ageless Rejuvenation Skin Care Kit and let me do the work for you to fight the signs of skin aging!

Ageless Rejuvenation Wrinkle Treatment Kit

I've done the work for you by putting all of the best products into a bundled kit. My Anti-Aging Antioxidant Skin Care Kit products reverse the signs of wrinkles and skin aging. These are the products that I and my patients use to fight skin aging. The kit includes powerful antioxidant products including Green Tea and Vitamin C. You can also add Retinol and Glycolic Acid and it gives you a choice of one of my most popular sunscreens and facial moisturizers. 

The good news is that today we have a great understanding of why our skin wrinkles as we get older. We also have great skin care products to prevent and reverse wrinkles at any age.  


Merel A Hamer, et. al., Lifestyle and Physiological Factors Associated with Facial Wrinkling in Men and Women, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Volume 137, Issue 8, August 2017, Pages 1692-1699
Shoubing Zhang, Enkui Duan, Fighting against Skin Aging, Cell Transplant. 2018 May; 27(5): 729–738.

Improvement of Naturally Aged Skin With Vitamin A (Retinol), Reza Kafi, MD; Heh Shin R. Kwak, MD, Arch Dermatol. 2007;143:606-612

Improvement of photoaged facial skin in middle-aged Japanese females by topical retinol (vitamin A alcohol): a vehicle-controlled, double-blind study. Kikuchi K, Suetake T, Kumasaka N, Tagami H, J Dermatolog Treat. 2009;20(5):276-81

Choosing Topical Retinoids for Aging Skin, Sachs, DL, Dermatology Focus, Summer 2013 Vol 32 No 2 page 4

Application of Retinol to Human Skin In Vivo Induces Epidermal Hyperplasia and Cellular Retinoid Binding Proteins Characteristic of Retinoic Acid but Without Measurable Retinoic Acid Levels or Irritation, Sewon Kang, Elizabeth A. Duell, et. al., J Invest Dermatol 105:549-556, 1995

Vitamin A Antagonizes Decreased Cell Growth and Elevated Collagen-Degrading Matrix Metalloproteinases and Stimulates Collagen Accumulation in Naturally Aged Human Skin, James Varani, Roscoe L Warner, Mehrnaz Gharaee-Kermani, et. al., J Invest Dermatol (2000) 114, 480–486;

Topical Tretinoin for Photoaged Skin: a Double-blind Vehicle-controlled Study, Weiss JS, Ellis CN, et. al., JAMA. 1988, 259: 527-532

Tazarotene Cream for the Treatment of Facial Photo Damage: a Multicenter, Investigator-Masked, Randomized, Vehicle-Controlled, Parallel Comparison of Tazarotene 0.01%, 0.025%, 0.05%, and 0.1% Creams and Tretinoin 0.05% Emollient Cream Applied Once-Daily for 24 Weeks. Kang S, Leyden JJ, Lowe NJ, et al., Arch Dermatol. 2001;137:1597-1604.

Mechanisms of Photoaging and Chronological Skin Aging, Gary J. Fisher, PhD; Sewon Kang, MD; et. al., Arch Dermatol. 2002;138(11):1462-1470

Bernstein, EF, et. al. (including Van Scott, E), Glycolic Acid Treatment Increases Type 1 Collagen mRNA and Hyaluronic Acid Content of Human Skin, Dermatologic Surgery 2001;27:429-433

Ditre CM et. al. (including Van Scott, E), Effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on photoaged skin; A pilot clinical, histologic, and ultrastructural study, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1996;34:187-195

Firas Al-Niaimi, MRCP(UK)(Derm) and Nicole Yi Zhen Chiang, MRCP(UK)(Derm), Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications, J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Jul; 10(7): 14–17.

Pittayapruek P, Meephansan J, Prapapan O, Komine M, Ohtsuki M. Role of Matrix Metalloproteinases in Photoaging and Photocarcinogenesis. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(6):868. Published 2016 Jun 2. doi:10.3390/ijms17060868