Anti-aging skincare is a topic that is close to my heart. I am always entranced by products that you can incorporate into your skincare routine to help your skin look better. Better in my mind means firmer, brighter, smoother, clearer, bouncier, and healthier. Younger-looking skin and fewer wrinkles are just side effects! Anti-aging skincare products can get pretty pricey, so when you find some affordable ones at the drugstore, you hold on for dear life!!
I’ve compiled a list of drugstore anti-aging essentials that you can use as a basic anti-aging skincare routine or incorporate a product here or there into your existing routine. This list is by no means all-inclusive, and what has worked for me may not work for you, but this will give you a place to start, especially if you are just beginning to use products targeted at anti-aging.
You may want to incorporate additional steps into your routine, like an essence, at-home peels, a facial mist, or oil, but the items in this post are essentials that can do wonders for your skin. What’s really fantastic is that the drugstore carries many effective anti-aging products at a reasonable price, and the list of effective drugstore anti-aging treatments is growing every day.
Drugstore Anti-Aging Essentials
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Drugstore Double Cleanse
Cleansing is the first step in your skincare routine. You can certainly cleanse your skin once and go about the rest of your routine, but I’ve discovered the double cleanse (at night), and I doubt I will ever go back to a single cleanse. In the morning, you can just cleanse once, but at night, to take off a day’s worth of makeup, dirt, and sunscreen, the first cleanse is the perfect step to introduce an oil-based balm cleanser into your skincare routine. I professed my love of this product type in this post on balm cleansers: Drugstore Skincare: Cleansing Balms.
Pond’s Cold Cream Facial Cleansing Balm Makeup Remover instantly melts on your skin and makes quick work of eye makeup, leaving your skin moisturized and prepped for the next cleanse. It contains mineral oil, which may be an issue for some, but that won’t stop me from using this budget-friendly drugstore cleansing balm that is the perfect step one of a double cleanse.
Doing a second cleanse removes any residual makeup, sunscreen, or dirt so that your pores are completely clean and ready for the anti-aging treatments that will be applied in the rest of your skincare routine. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Face Wash Cleanser is a silky cream cleanser. It maintains the skin’s protective barrier and pH while removing any residual makeup or impurities. I love the large bottle size (13.52 oz), and the pump makes dispensing easy. This is a gentle non-irritating cleanser.
Drugstore Anti-Aging Acid Toner
Acid toners add an anti-aging element to the more basic toning step of your skincare routine. You can accomplish this with a glycolic acid toner. Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that exfoliates dead skin cells and can improve the texture and clarity of your skin. Please note that glycolic acid is a smaller molecule than other AHAs such as lactic acid. As a result, products containing glycolic acid may irritate those with sensitive skin.
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution contains 7% glycolic acid, amino acids, aloe vera, ginseng, and a Tasmanian Pepperberry derivative, which is included in the formula to help reduce irritation. This product contains an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Please be sure to wear sunscreen and limit your exposure to the sun while using this product and for a week afterward. I found some great drugstore mineral sunscreen options that will have you covered from head to toe.
I tried The Ordinary’s glycolic acid and a glycolic acid product from The Inkey List and compared them in this post on The Ordinary vs The Inkey List. Spoiler alert: both irritated my skin, but both provided a clearer and brighter complexion the morning after application. If you can tolerate it, you may reach for a gentler acid toner such as a lactic acid-based toner. I enjoy using Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner with Aloe Vera Formula for an even gentler toner without actives.
If you prefer a manual exfoliation, you can reach for a gentle polishing cleanser such as Olay Whip Polishing Creme Cleanser, which contains vitamin B3 and carob seed extract. I use this cleanser as my second cleanse for a gentle manual exfoliation a few days of the week.
Drugstore Anti-Aging Treatments: Vitamin C (Morning)
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and can help neutralize free radicals caused by the UV rays of the sun, so applying Vitamin C during the day can be extra helpful. Vitamin C also supports collagen production and can help reduce pigmentation and dullness and improve skin’s radiance. Using Vitamin C in conjunction with sunscreen can provide even better protection against damaging UV rays, as medical aesthetician Kim Chang notes in this article on the benefits of adding vitamin C to your skincare routine.
Vitamin C is a key ingredient in any anti-aging skincare routine. Only recently have drugstores started carrying a selection of good Vitamin C products for the face. One of my favorite drugstore Vitamin C products is
L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum.
This 10% pure vitamin C comes in the form of ascorbic acid and is formulated without water to improve stability. Silicones are present in this formula, so please keep that in mind if you are sensitive to this ingredient. Due to the silicones, the product applies very smoothly and may temporarily fill in fine lines and wrinkles.
Silicones are also occlusives in that they form a protective barrier on the skin. Apply this product as one of the last steps in your skincare routine since it may block the absorption of other products. I apply this right before my moisturizer.
I really like the metal packaging which protects the Vitamin C serum from light and air. Vitamin C degrades when it is exposed to light, water or air. The metal tube is just the protection it needs to minimize exposure to oxygen and light.
Vitamin C can cause sensitivity, but this one did not irritate my skin at all. I did get a strange warming sensation for a few seconds after applying, but no tingling or burning. A few other brands, such as The Inkey List and The Ordinary, offer strong Vitamin C serums, and both of their serums irritate my skin.
Drugstore Anti-Aging Treatments: Retinol (Evening)
Retinol. The ultimate anti-ager. Many consider retinol the gold standard in anti-aging skincare. It is often recommended to start using retinol in your skincare routine as early as your 20’s. Retinoids exfoliate dead skin cells and work on pigmentation, support collagen production, and increase cell turnover, revealing smoother, more radiant skin.
Retinoids can even treat acne. Unfortunately, for many, this comes at a price often through redness, peeling, and irritation. But if you start with a gentler retinoid, you may be able to increase the strength once your skin gets acclimated to the product.
I didn’t start in my 20’s, but I tried to introduce different forms of retinol into my skincare routine for years, and it never failed that my skin would become irritated, dry, and somehow, my fine lines and wrinkles would begin to look worse. Eventually, I gave up and decided that I must be one of the few who can’t tolerate retinol, even the retinols specifically developed for sensitive skin.
The good news is that new forms of retinol have come to market that really do work for sensitive skin, and these forms are a great introduction to this ultimate anti-ager.
Here are the main retinoids:
- Retinol palmitate is considered the least powerful retinoid. It must be converted into retinol, then retinaldehyde and finally retinoic acid before it can go to work.
- Retinol, a Vitamin A derivative may benefit some with sensitive skin since it is a gentler form of retinoid.
- Retinaldehyde gets converted into retinoic acid and is great for those who aren’t quite ready for prescription retinoids.
- Finally, the heavy hitters. Prescription retinoids include Adapalene, Tazarotene, Tretinoin, and the newer Trifarotene. Stronger prescription retinoids like these can produce results in as little as 4-6 weeks. Over-the-counter retinoids may take 3 months or more to see a change in your skin.
Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to the sun and UV rays. It’s important that you wear sunscreen during and after the use of retinoids. Also, retinoids are not considered safe to use while you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
One thing to keep in mind is that over-the-counter retinol products are not required to disclose the concentrations of retinol in their products. It’s really anyone’s guess how much retinoid that you are getting in these products.
I have to go on how my skin responds to the over-the-counter products. I make sure that I give the products a few months of use before evaluating their effectiveness. Often I will alternate retinoids every other night to give my skin a break. When first starting and depending on the retinoid strength, you may use an over-the-counter retinoid in a 1, 2, 3 format. Once a week for a week, twice a week for two weeks, three times a week for three weeks, etc… until your skin acclimates.
One over-the-counter retinol product I have been using for over a year is CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum. This serum cream contains retinol, the strength of which is not disclosed, and niacinamide for brightening, moisturizing, and barrier repair (a star anti-aging product all on its own). It also contains shea butter, glycerin, ceramides, lipids, and hyaluronic acid.
I always wake up to skin that is calm and brighter after using CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum. My skin is not sensitive to this product, and I can even use it on my neck. I use it as the second-to-last step before my moisturizer. If you have sensitive skin, there are additional newer retinols you can try. I compare two in The Ordinary vs The Inkey List post.
Related Post: A Guide to Drugstore Retinol
Drugstore Anti-Aging Peptide Serum
Your skin can reap anti-aging benefits from a peptide-laced serum applied both in the morning and at night. The Ordinary “Buffet” serum targets multiple signs of aging at once with matrixyl 3,000 peptide complex, matrixyl synthe-6 peptide complex, syn-ake peptide complex, relistase peptide complex, argirelox peptide complex, a probiotic complex in a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids, and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes. That is a mouthful but also a powerhouse of anti-aging technologies. They work on fine lines and wrinkles, helping to restore elasticity, reduce dullness and uneven skin tone and stimulate collagen production.
DECIEM, the parent company of The Ordinary, now suggests avoiding using peptides in the same routine as direct acids, LAA (L-Ascorbic Acid), and ELAA (Ethylated Ascorbic Acid), since the effectiveness of the peptides might be compromised. Since I use vitamin C in the morning, I use the “Buffet” at night and avoid using it in conjunction with acids.
Initially, The Buffet applies as a sticky running gel-like texture but dries quickly, and the stickiness goes away. Generally, I apply products from thinnest to thickest, so I will apply The Buffet after hyaluronic acid but before my moisturizer.
At night, if using Cerave retinol cream serum or The Inkey List retinol, I will apply The Buffet prior to those products since they are thicker in texture.
The Buffet is alcohol-free, silicone-free, nut-free, vegan, gluten-free and cruelty-free.
Drugstore Anti-Aging Eye Cream
I included an eye cream in this anti-aging essentials post because our eyes are areas of our faces that tend to age the quickest. At least it does for me!! As I have gotten older, the skin under my eyes has become thinner. As a result, those pesky dark circles even more pronounced.
RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment for Wrinkles, Crows Feet, Dark Circles, and Puffiness is formulated to fight the signs of aging and reduce the appearance of crow’s feet, dark circles, and puffiness in 12 weeks with help from retinol, a mineral blend, moisturizing glycerin and soothing panthenol (pro-vitamin B5). It is packaged in an aluminum tube to protect the product from light and air. This eye cream applies smoothly without irritation and works well under makeup.
Related Post: Do You Really Need an Eye Cream?
These days moisturizer is somewhat of an afterthought since I spend most of my time and money on facial treatments. But moisturizer is an important element to keep hydration levels high. It will also seal in all of those amazing anti-aging actives.
While the drugstore has some great options for moisturizers, Olay Regenerist Whip is an anti-aging favorite. A few of its active ingredients include niacinamide, a 5 amino acid peptide to support the reduction of fine lines and improved skin texture, glycerin for moisture, vitamin B3 for its anti-inflammatory and barrier repair properties, and panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) for moisture and repair.
Olay Regenerist Whip is the perfect moisturizer for both day and night. I find that it especially excels during the day since it wears so well under makeup. It leaves a matte finish that almost acts like a primer, setting your skin for a smooth makeup application. I’ve gone through many jars of this moisturizer and always have it on hand. One side note, if you prefer a less matte look and a more dewy finish to your moisturizer, Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream has similar ingredients to Olay Regenerist Whip but provides a dewier finish.
Olay Regenerist Whip comes in fragrance/fragrance-free and with or without sunscreen. I opt for the fragrance-free version without sunscreen. I use a separate sunscreen, which is the next step in our anti-aging routine.
Sunscreen is probably THE most important element of an anti-aging skincare routine. Preventing lines, wrinkles, and sun damage from occurring in the first place is a much better option instead of repairing sun damage that has already occurred.
Mineral sunscreens are my choice of sun protection. I explain why in this post which describes 6 mineral sunscreens that will have you covered from head to toe.
Included in that is post is this drugstore favorite: Australian Gold Botanical SPF50 Tinted Face Mineral Sunscreen. It contains 4% Titanium Dioxide and 4% Zinc Oxide, protecting from both UVA and UVB rays, and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. This sunscreen is safe for sensitive skin and won’t clog pores, and is fragrance-free. It also contains antioxidants such as skin brightening Kakadu plum fruit extract and tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E). Moisturizing humectants glycerin and panthenol are soothing, and emollient squalane softens the skin.
The tint of this sunscreen simply offsets some of the white cast that is unfortunately present with this and most mineral sunscreens. Even with the tint, this will work better on paler skin tones. The finish is matte and does not interfere with makeup application. This is a true all-star drugstore mineral sunscreen.
Weekly: Drugstore Face Mask
While you can certainly use gentle sheet masks more than weekly, I like the ritual of applying a sheet mask once a week (usually Sunday evenings). One of the benefits of sheet masks comes directly after using them. You can usually leave on the active ingredients from the mask and skip rinsing. This way, you can let the active ingredients work their magic overnight and then wash them off in the morning.
No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum Boost Face Mask is formulated with Matrixyl 3000 and No7’s most effective anti-wrinkle peptide technology. It also contains retinyl palmitate, one of the gentlest forms of retinoid. As a bonus, hydrating hyaluronic acid plumps and smoothes the skin. These ingredients target wrinkles and fine lines for firmer smoother skin.
This mask is a little different from others that I’ve tried since it is designed to adhere to facial contours. Instructions require you to hook the mask around your ears. The mask extends underneath your chin, which you also hook around your ears to improve the delivery of the ingredients. It takes a little work to stretch the mask to fit your face. Once it is hooked behind your ears, it won’t fall off or slide down your face.
You leave the mask on from 15-20 minutes. Then massage the leftover essence into your skin after the masking session is complete. I don’t follow with a retinol product after using this mask since this mask already contains retinyl palmitate.
Final Thoughts on Drugstore Anti-Aging Essentials for Your Skincare Routine
These are some of the best drugstore anti-agers. Incorporating these items into your skincare routine will help you fight the signs of aging without breaking the bank.
As you can see the number of products in this routine add up quickly. Just remember to focus on what your skin needs. You may not need all of these products. Or you may want to introduce one or two at a time into your current skincare routine to test their performance. For a few simpler options, check out this post on an anti-aging skincare routine for beginners or this post on The Ordinary skincare routine for beginners.
What are your drugstore favorites? Anti-aging skincare is my favorite topic so I’d love to hear your recommendations.