It’s not too good to be true: at-home, needle-free “botox in a bottle” treatments (kind of) exist. If you wince at the thought of sharp objects or don’t have hundreds (or, more often, thousands) to drop on in-office treatments, there are pain-free, subtle, and relatively inexpensive topical products out there. Below, check out these dermatologist-approved finds and add them to your skin-care routine to help stave off early signs of aging.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Medik8 Super C Ferulic Serum, $74
- Best Serum: RoC Derm Correxion Fill + Treat Serum, $30
- Best Retinol: U Beauty Resurfacing Compound, $228
- Best Treatment: Erasa Xep-30, $160
- Dermatologist-Approved: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel, $36
- Best for the Forehead: Dr. Brandt Needles No More Wrinkle Smoothing Cream, $89
- Best Peptides: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum, $125
Frequently Asked Questions
- Are topical creams as effective as Botox injections?
- What are the key ingredients in “Botox in a bottle” products?
- How we test and review products
- Our staff and testers
Best Overall: Medik8 Super C Ferulic Serum
Why It’s Worth It: By now, you’ve probably seen quite a few serums featuring antioxidants like vitamins C, E, and ferulic acid as their key ingredients, but here’s how Medik8’s Super C Ferulic Serum stnads out from the bunch. Its a powerhouse vitamin C serum that features a potent, stabilized form of the elasticity-boosting antioxidant called ethylated L-ascorbic acid to improve efficacy and provide results quicker than most serums.
Editor Tip: When using a serum with actives like vitamin C during the daytime, always remember to wear sunscreen as these ingredients increase sun sensitivity.
Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, ferulic acid, vitamin E, turmeric root extract | Who It’s For: Anyone who wants a concentrated dose of line-reducing antioxidants.
Best Serum: RoC Derm Correxion Fill + Treat Serum
Why It’s Worth It: A retinol treatment for less than $50? Yep, it exists in the form of RoC’s Derm Correxion Fill + Treat Serum. Along with the powerful line-smoothing active doing its thing, you’ll also notice the hydrating, skin-plumping effects of hyaluronic acid. The results: a bouncier, brighter, and suppler complexion.
Editor Tip: Though this pick is fragrance-free, those with sensitive skin may find this potent, retinol-powered formula a tad harsh.
Key Ingredients: Retinol, hyaluronic acid, swertiamarin | Who It’s For: Anyone who wants a high-quality treatment under $50.
Best Retinol: U Beauty Resurfacing Compound
Why It’s Worth It: We love that the U Beauty Resurfacing Compound is basically a slurry of our favorite skin-care ingredients, all featured in one lightweight, silky formula. It features stabilized forms of both retinol and vitamin C hand-in-hand with skin-tightening glycolic acid to intensively target fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, you name it. But don’t expect your skin to feel sensitive after applying it, because soothing, moisture-replenishing additives like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera extract, and sunflower seed oil cushion its blow.
Editor Tip: The brand says you can use this serum twice daily, but considering its high potency of additives, we suggest applying only once nightly when you begin to use it and working from there.
Key Ingredients: Retinol, vitamin C, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera extract, sunflower seed oil | Who It’s For: Anyone who doesn’t have sensitive skin.
Best Treatment: Erasa Xep-30 Extreme Line Lifting and Rejuvenation Concentrate
Why It’s Worth It: Don’t be fooled by the pearly pink bottle. Erasa’s Xep 30 Extreme Line Lifting and Rejuvenation Concentrate is drill-sergeant-tough on fine lines and wrinkles. The proprietary hero ingredient, XEP 30, is a neuropeptide that — similar to Botox — actually communicates to tense facial folds and forces them to relax. Another all-star ingredient, niacinamide, restores elasticity.
Key Ingredients: Peptides, niacinamide | Who It’s For: Everyone
Dermatologist-Approved: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel
Why It’s Worth It: “Adapalene is a prescription-strength retinoid but has been available over the counter for a few years now, making it accessible to the masses,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Angelo Landriscina, MD, who highly recommends La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Adapalene Gel (a product he uses himself nightly). “Retinoids like this one can even out skin tone, increase collagen production, and even treat acne and acne scarring.”
Editor Tip: As with any retinoid, you won’t notice any major changes in your skin overnight, but with continued use, you’ll start to see fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration fade significantly.
Key Ingredients: Adapalene | Who It’s For: People with adult acne
Best for the Forehead: Dr. Brandt Needles No More Wrinkle Smoothing Cream
Why It’s Worth It: Tackle stubble furrow lines (also known as the “11s”) with Dr. Brandt’s Needles No More Wrinkle Smoothing Cream. The minty-smelling cream features a blend of neuropeptides, magnesium, and adenosine, which relaxes the underlying muscle — similar to the way Botox would (albeit not as dramatically). Rounding out the lightweight cream are lactic and glycolic acids to help stimulate collagen renewal, as well as hydrating glycerin and vitamin E to support the barrier and prevent moisture loss.
Editor Tip: This formula gets to work within a mere 30 minutes to reveal softer forehead lines and crow’s feet.
Key Ingredients: Peptides, magnesium, adenosine | Who It’s For: People with forehead lines and brow furrows
Best Peptides: Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum
Why It’s Worth It: Peter Thomas Roth’s Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Serum is like a multivitamin for aging skin. Infused with vitamins A, C, and E, it brightens and tightens, while hydrating hyaluronic acid and squalane plump skin for youthful dewiness. This formula also contains neuropeptides, which are thought to increase skin’s collagen production and smooth creases.
Editor Tip: It also contains gamma proteins, which support skin’s elasticity — that is, how supple it looks and feels.
Key Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, squalane, peptides | Who It’s For: People who want to supplement or skip retinoids
Best Splurge: SkinMedica TNS+ Advanced Serum
Why It’s Worth It: SkinMedica’s TNS+ Advanced Serum has won multiple Best of Beauty Awards for good reason. “The formulation feels silky and smooth on your skin and provides a powerful combination of growth factors and plant-based antioxidants to boost collagen and elastin,” Austin, TX-based board-certified dermatologist Heidi Prather, MD previously shared. Said antioxidants include green microalgae extract, marine extracts, and French flaxseed extract. With regular use, you’ll start to notice an improvement in deep wrinkles and a firmer, glowing complexion.
Editor Tip: For the uninitiated, growth factors restore the ability to signal the skin-cell repair that we inevitably lose over time.
Key Ingredients: Growth factors, microalgae, flaxseed extract | Who It’s For: Those willing to invest
Best for Crow’s Feet: Alastin Restorative Eye Treatment
Why It’s Worth It: Alastin’s Restorative Eye Treatment is recommended by Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, who advises paying special attention to the eye area as this is where the skin is the thinnest and thereby most susceptible to premature signs of aging. “This eye cream can be used twice daily and contains lots of powerful ingredients, including peptides to boost collagen production and skin elasticity, [as well as] niacinamide, squalane, and plant extracts,” she says. “It also contains darutoside, which is one of my favorite [ingredients] to help with puffiness, fine lines, and dark undereye circles.”
Editor Tip: Don’t forget to apply sunscreen with at least SPF 30 around the eyes (stick with a mineral formula to prevent irritation) to prevent sun exposure from undoing these benefits.
Key Ingredients: Squalane, peptides, squalane | Who It’s For: People with crow’s feet and eye wrinkles
Best for Dry Skin: Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum
Why It’s Worth It: Biossance’s Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum is like the equivalent of drinking a glass of water, thanks to its rapid plumping complex, which is packed with a hydrating team of hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid (PGA), and sugarcane squalane. For those unfamiliar with copper peptides, just know that they “help active wound healing pathways” which in turn stimulate collagen production, according to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, MD.
Editor Tip: Vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids can reduce the efficacy of copper peptides, so plan your routine accordingly.
Key Ingredients: Copper peptides, hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid | Who It’s For: People with dryness or dehydrated skin
Best Budget: The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10%
Why It’s Worth It: For those seeking an affordable option — or a TikTok favorite — The Ordinary has the Argireline Solution 10%, which clocks in at just $9 and works for all skin types. The water-based serum’s main active ingredient is acetyl hexapeptide-8, or Argireline, which is a peptide quite literally marketed as “Botox in a cream” for its ability to temporarily relax facial muscles.
Editor Tip: Matrixyl is another buzzy ingredient for firmer and plumper skin. The Ordinary’s Matrixyl 10% + HA houses this peptide complex, which has been shown to enhance collagen production, as well as hyaluronic acid to curb moisture loss.
Key Ingredients: Peptides | Who It’s For: People who want results with affordability
Best Retinol Alternative: Isdin Melatonik Recovery Night Serum
Why It’s Worth It: “Isdin’s Melatonik Recovery Night Serum is a great treatment that contains the plant-based retinol alternative, bakuchiol,” says NYC board-certified dermatologist Robert Finney, MD. “In a clinical trial, [it] reduced wrinkles as significantly as retinol, but is pregnancy safe and without the classic irritation that comes with retinol.” In addition to bakuchiol, this featherlight serum also contains vitamin C, a powerhouse antioxidant that helps to brighten dark spots and firm the skin.
Editor Tip: “I always tell patients a little goes a long way, so start with a few drops on your entire face at night underneath your moisturizer,” advises Dr. Finney.
Key Ingredients: Bakuchiol, vitamin C | Who It’s For: Those who can’t tolerate retinoids
Best Multitasking: Paula’s Choice Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum
Why It’s Worth It: Paula’s Choice silky Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum deploys a 0.1% concentration of retinol to soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Boosting those benefits is a powerhouse duo of brightening vitamin C and moisturizing vitamin E. “Compounding vitamin C with another antioxidant [like vitamin E] helps preserve the stability and boost the effectiveness of the serum,” Michelle Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City previously explained. When paired together, the UV protective benefits of vitamins C and E are also doubled.
Editor Tip: Although retinol is typically reserved for nighttime use, this is formulated to be used twice a day.
Key Ingredients: Retinol, vitamin C, vitamin E | Who It’s For: Those with fine lines and discoloration
Frequently Asked Questions
Are topical creams as effective as Botox injections?
To get rid of fine lines, smooth skin texture, and plump lax skin, injectables — like neuromodulators and fillers — reign supreme. However, there are certain products that work like Botox, which, for the record, is a brand name (of several, including Xeomin, Dysport, and Jeuveau) for the neuromodulator botulinum toxin, which works by relaxing the muscle contractions responsible for creating expression lines and wrinkles.
So, are there products out there that provide the instantaneous fine-smoothing effects of neuromodulator injections? Simply put, no. At this time, at-home topicals aren’t advanced enough to act as swiftly and effectively as professional-grade treatments like Botox. With that being sad, there are still quite a few products that will plump skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and sagging skin. You can even use them in tandem with professional Botox treatments (from a board-certified dermatologist, of course) to enhance and prolong its line-dissipating benefits.
What are the key ingredients in “Botox in a bottle” products?
“The best line-fighting creams are those that help build our skin’s own building blocks, namely collagen and elastin fibers,” explains Deanne Robinson, MD, a Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist. She recommends topical retinoids, firming peptides, brightening vitamin C, and growth factors to help support skin cell turnover, increase collagen fibers, and hydrate the skin to help reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and frown lines.
Certain peptides, like neuropeptides, also serve as neurotransmitters in the skin, which work similarly to botulinum toxin by limiting muscle movement — although it’s to a much lesser degree than that in injectables. With that, consider these skin-care products, including moisturizers, serums, and treatments, your best bet for products that work like Botox injections — just without the pinch.
How we test and review products
When Allure tests a product, our editors look at it from every angle in an effort to best serve you. We review ingredients, scrutinize brand claims, and, when necessary, examine peer-reviewed scientific and medical studies. In addition to testing each and every product that’s included in each and every review, we rely on experts who shape their fields, including dermatology, cosmetic chemistry, and medicine, to help us vet the ingredients and formulas.
For our list of line-fighting skin-care products, we considered each product’s performance across five primary categories: product ingredients and efficacy, packaging, fragrance, texture, and product wear. Every product was determined to have excelled in each category by our editorial team, which is composed of in-house writers and editors as well as contributors — along with special consideration from board-certified dermatologists. To learn more information on our reporting and testing processes, read our complete reviews process and methodology page.
Our staff and testers
A beauty product is a personal purchase. You might be searching for a face cream to address persistent dryness or a new nail product to add to your Sunday self-care routine; you may simply be browsing around for the latest launches to hit the hair market. No matter what you seek or your individual needs and concerns, Allure wants to ensure that you love anything we recommend in our stories. We believe that having a diverse team of writers and editors — in addition to the wide range of outside testers and industry experts we regularly call upon — is essential to reaching that goal.
After all, can we really say a skin-care product is the “best” for people over 50 if the only testers we’ve solicited opinions from folks who have yet to hit 30? Can we honestly deem a high-end diffuser worthy of your hard-earned cash if it’s never been tested on curls? We’re proud that our staff spans a wide range of ages, skin tones, hair textures, genders, and backgrounds, which means that we are able to fairly assess any beauty product that comes into the beauty closet.
Meet the Experts
- Amy Forman Taub, MD, a Chicago-area board-certified dermatologist
- Angelo Landriscina, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist
- Heidi Prather, MD, an Austin, TX-based board-certified dermatologist
- Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City,
- Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, MD, aNew York City-based board-certified dermatologist
- Robert Finney, MD, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist
- Michelle Henry, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City
- Deanne Robinson, MD, a Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist
Read more about our favorite fine line-smoothing skin-care products:
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