Over-the-counter topicals These are lotions, creams, and serums containing antioxidants (vitamins C and E, coenzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid, and retinol, a form of vitamin A), peptides (copper and growth factors), and alpha and beta hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, and salicylic).
How they work: Antioxidants operate preventively by destroying rogue molecules that break down collagen and make skin more susceptible to wrinkles. Peptides and retinol have been shown to stimulate collagen production. Hydroxy acids exfoliate the top layer of skin, smoothing texture. But don't expect miracles, says Patricia K. Farris, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University. She's seen modest improvement with some peptide formulas (specifically the Neutrogena Visibly Firm copper line and the Olay Regenerist line) and retinol creams (like Roc Retinol Correxion). Antioxidants are difficult to stabilize and deliver; Farris suggests asking your dermatologist which products work best.
On the horizon: Topical genistein, a plant hormone found mainly in soybeans, has been shown to protect the skin from the photodamage that causes wrinkles and skin cancer. Products containing this potent antioxidant are expected to be on the market within the next six months, says Neil Sadick, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.