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 products that you can use as a basic drugstore anti-aging skincare routine or incorporate a product here or there into your existing routine.
This list is by no means all-inclusive, and the best drugstore skincare routine 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.
Anti-Aging Drugstore Skincare Routine
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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.
First Cleanse: Cleansing Balm
E.l.f. Holy Hydration! Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm is my newest favorite drugstore cleansing balm.
The cleansing balm transforms from a balm to an oil to a milky cleanser.
It dissolves makeup (including eye makeup), dirt, oil, and other impurities and rinses clean without stripping your skin, leaving your skin feeling soft and hydrated.
It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and peptides to hydrate and moisturize your skin and strengthen your skin barrier.
This budget-friendly drugstore cleansing balm gets bonus points for its super-affordable price. The perfect step one of a double cleanse!
Second Cleanse: Cream/Foam Cleanser
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.
Choose the best cleanser for your skin type. Consider a foam cleanser if you have a combination or oily skin type.
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser is a foaming face wash that removes dirt, oil, and makeup while protecting your skin barrier with hydrating ingredients.
This gel cleanser, formulated for normal to oily skin, contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide to lock in moisture while removing excess oil.
If you have sensitive or dry skin, opt for a cream cleanser.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser is a silky cream cleanser, ideal for normal to dry, sensitive skin.
The cleanser contains antioxidant-rich La Roche-Posay prebiotic thermal spring water, niacinamide, and ceramide-3 to maintain the skin’s protective barrier and pH while cleaning your skin of dirt, oil, makeup, and 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 chemical exfoliant resurfaces your skin for improved skin clarity and skin texture, and more even skin tone.
Since this The Ordinary toner contains an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), it may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Please be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and limit your exposure to the sun while using this product and for a week afterward.
I compared The Ordinary’s glycolic acid toner and The Inkey List’s glycolic acid toner in this post on The Ordinary vs The Inkey List.
Spoiler Alert: while both irritated my skin, they provided a clearer and brighter complexion and glowing skin the morning after application.
If you prefer a non-acid toner, you can swap out the glycolic acid toner for a more gentle formula.
I enjoy using Thayers Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner with Aloe Vera Formula for its soothing benefits.
If you prefer a manual exfoliation, you can use a gentle polishing cleanser such as Acure Brightening Facial Scrub.
Enriched with sea kelp, lemon peel, and French green clay, the scrub detoxifies and cleanses your skin. The deep-green scrub also contains Madonna lily to brighten your skin.
Formulated for all skin types, this 100% vegan scrub provides a gentle physical exfoliation that lifts away dead skin cells for smoother, brighter skin. You can use the scrub up to 3x a week.
Drugstore Anti-Aging Treatments: Vitamin C (Morning)
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a key ingredient in any anti-aging skincare routine. Only in recent years have drugstores started carrying a great selection of Vitamin C products for the face.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that 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 hyperpigmentation, dark spots, and dullness. It also improves radiance and brightens your skin.
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.
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 serum 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, this brightening serum 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 L’Oreal vitamin C serum in the treatment step of your skincare routine. I apply this right before my moisturizer.
I really like the metal packaging that protects the Vitamin C serum from light and air.
Vitamin C degrades when 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.
If you have sensitive skin or if pure vitamin C is too irritating for your skin, consider a vitamin C derivative, which is more stable and less likely to cause irritation than pure vitamin C.
Examples of vitamin C derivatives include ascorbyl glucoside, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate.
These derivatives convert to pure vitamin C in the skin and can still provide skin benefits like antioxidant protection and collagen support.
One of my favorite vitamin C derivatives is The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% which provides antioxidant support while targeting the visible signs of aging, uneven skin tone, and dullness.
The lightweight water-based texture wears comfortably, works well under makeup, and doesn’t irritate my skin.
For several other effective drugstore vitamin C serums, be sure to check out my post on the best drugstore vitamin C serums.
Related Post: How to Build A Skincare Routine with The Ordinary Products
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 20s.
Retinoids exfoliate dead skin cells, 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 using retinol in my 20s, 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 and dry, and somehow, my fine lines and wrinkles would begin to look worse.
Eventually, I gave up and decided I must be one of the few who couldn’t tolerate retinol, even the retinols specifically developed for sensitive skin.
The good news is that new forms of retinol have come to market 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, the active form of vitamin A in our skin.
- Retinol, a Vitamin A derivative, the most popular drugstore retinoid, and very well researched, is considered the gold standard in anti-aging skincare. It converts to retinaldehyde and then retinoic acid in your skin.
- Retinaldehyde is one of the most potent over-the-counter retinoids. It converts directly 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, so retinoids, including retinol, should only be used in your nighttime skincare routine.
It’s important that you wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher during and after using retinoids. Also, retinoids are not considered safe to use while pregnant or breastfeeding.
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 retinol you are getting in these products unless the brand discloses it in the ingredient list. Luckily, more and more brands are including this information on their product labels.
I have to go on how my skin responds to some over-the-counter retinol products. I make sure that I give the products a few months of use before evaluating their effectiveness.
Depending on the retinoid concentration, 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 serum that is great for beginners 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 for added hydration and moisture.
I always wake up to calm and brighter skin 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.
Retinoids For Sensitive Skin
If you have sensitive skin, there are newer over-the-country retinoids you can try, like Granactive Retinoid.
Granactive Retinoid is a complex that contains Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HPR), a gentle retinoid that provides benefits similar to retinol but is less likely to cause irritation.
One of my all-time favorite retinoids is The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, which contains a 2% concentration of Granacitve Retinoid plus retinol to smooth the look of fine lines and improve skin texture and tone.
The Ordinary offers two other Granacitve Retinoid serums and three retinol serums, so for more details on these products, check out my complete guide to The Ordinary retinol and retinoid products.
Related Post: A Guide to Drugstore Retinol
Drugstore Anti-Aging Peptide Serum
There are many drugstore serums formulated to deliver anti-aging results. Look for serums that contain ingredients like vitamin C, antioxidants, retinol, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid or peptides.
Your skin can reap anti-aging benefits from a peptide-laced serum in both the morning and at night.
The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum (formerly known as The Ordinary “Buffet”) targets multiple signs of aging at once.
It contains multiple peptide complexes, including Matrixyl 3000, Matrixyl synthe’6, Syn-Ake, Relistase, and Argirelox.
A probiotic complex in a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes hydrate and moisture your skin.
That is 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.
Please note that DECIEM, the parent company of The Ordinary, suggests avoiding using peptides in the same routine as direct acids, pure vitamin C (L-Ascorbic Acid and Ethylated Ascorbic Acid), and Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% since the effectiveness of peptides might be compromised by these actives.
Since I use vitamin C in the morning, I use The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum at night and avoid using it in conjunction with acids.
Initially, The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum 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 Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum after hyaluronic acid but before my moisturizer.
At night, if using Cerave retinol cream serum or The Inkey List retinol, I will apply The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum before those products since those retinoids are thicker in texture.
The Ordinary Multi-Peptide + HA Serum 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 are even more pronounced.
Versed Smooth Landing Advanced Retinoid Eye Balm contains 1% Granactive Retinoid (my favorite!) to soften crow’s feet and firm the skin without the irritation that comes with retinol.
The retinoid eye balm also contains 1% vitamin E, a powerhouse antioxidant that helps protect against environmental stressors, and 1% black currant seed oil, another skin-protective antioxidant that nourishes the skin.
A 0.2% concentration of shiitake mushroom extract supports skin healing. Shea butter soothes and nourishes the skin.
The fragrance-free balm melts on contact with the delicate skin under my eyes and leaves my skin feeling hydrated, plump, and super soft.
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.
The formula contains 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: The Ordinary Multi-Peptide Eye Serum Review
Drugstore Anti-Aging Moisturizer
These days moisturizer is somewhat of an afterthought since I spend most of my time and money on facial treatments like serums.
But moisturizer is essential to your anti-aging skincare routine to keep hydration levels high. It will also seal in all of those amazing anti-aging actives that you apply before your moisturizer.
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 five 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 works exceptionally well during the day since it wears so well under makeup. It leaves a matte finish that almost acts like a primer, prepping 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 with or without fragrance 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.
Related Post: Olay Collagen Peptide 24 vs Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
Sunscreen just might be 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 for sun protection. I explain why in this post on the best drugstore mineral sunscreens that will have you covered from head to toe.
Included in that sunscreen 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, 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.
It is now available in a few different tints: Fair To Light, Medium to Tan, and Rich to Deep.
The finish is matte and does not interfere with makeup application. This is a true all-star drugstore mineral sunscreen.
Weekly: Drugstore Anti-Aging 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 for 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 Skincare Routine
These are some of the best drugstore anti-aging skincare products.
Incorporating these products 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 anti-aging drugstore skincare routine adds up quickly.
You may not need all of these products. Just remember to focus on what your skin needs.
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 skincare products for aging skin? Anti-aging skincare is my favorite topic, so I’d love your recommendations.
Thanks for reading!
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Wednesday 12th of May 2021
Sarah, you are doing amazing work! Thanks for sharing your wonderful posts ❤️. Just want to add my 2 cents. After having used some anti-aging creams for years I decided to move on and I got Tretinoin Cream 0.02%. Just for anti-aging. I have dry, sensitive Rosacean skin and I can’t tolerate many actives so I knew there was a possibility my skin would not like Retin-A. However, knowing it’s the best anti-aging treatment out there, I just wanted to try and see. So happy 😊 I Googled ‘Ret247get’ and got it. I really love my Tretinoin Cream. It works and it’s cheap. I’d say don’t waste $$ on overhyped and ineffective “anti-aging” creams. Try Tretinoin but be very careful. Vitamin A acid is very powerful and you really have to build up very slowly. Be patient. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Tretinoin doesn’t work overnight and it isn’t a miracle worker. It takes at least 1-2 months to notice real benefits. Last but not least: it’s not for everyone. Some people just cannot tolerate it so they would have to use other anti-aging treatments/actives like vitamin C. And/or another form of Vitamin A like Retinol or Retinaldehyde. Maybe less potent, but still effective.