First things first: is a day cream different to a moisturiser? Dr Sophie Shotter, aesthetic doctor and medical director at Illuminate Skin Clinic, explains: “A moisturiser is a generic term for a cream that gives the skin moisture. Both day creams and night creams can give these properties, although often some of the heavier moisturising ingredients (like lipids and ceramides) are a better choice in a night cream. Day creams are usually lightweight and sit better underneath make-up.”
A key ingredient to look for in an anti-ageing day cream specifically is hyaluronic acid, which, according to Dr Shotter, is a lightweight moisturising powerhouse that will make the skin feel nourished, plump fine lines and wrinkles and give the skin a glow. Another is antioxidants, which give the skin an extra layer of protection from the elements while also helping to control any pigmentation caused by sun exposure.
There are also things that are better left out: “Avoid ingredients like retinol and AHAs as they can make you more sun sensitive. These are best reserved for nighttime,” she says.
It’s important to note that some day creams contain SPF and some don’t. A minimum of SPF 30 is recommended, along with UVA protection, so it’s best to check and use a separate SPF product if necessary.
With all this in mind, we’ve been on the hunt for the top-performing face creams to add to your skincare arsenal. You can thank us later.
The best anti-ageing day creams for 2021 are:
Best overall – Willowberry nutrient boost day cream: £27.99, Willowberry.co.uk
Best day cream with SPF – Elemis pro-collagen marine cream SPF 30: £87, Spacenk.com
Best for improving texture – Estée Lauder revitalizing supreme+ global anti-ageing cell power creme: £72, Boots.com
Best for over 50s – Ark Skincare age defy nourishing moisturiser: £35, Arkskincare.com
Best for mature skin – Venn vitamin B activated all-in-one concentrate: £155, Netaporter.com
Best anti ageing cream for men – L’Oréal Paris revitalift laser renew advanced anti-ageing care SPF 20: £22.49, Feelunique.com
Best for oily or combination skin – Olay Regenerist collagen peptide 24: £17.49, Boots.com
Best for even skintone – Balance Me intensive wrinkle repair cream: £30, Balanceme.com
Best for dry skin – Drunk Elephant lala retro whipped cream: £50, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for sensitive skin – Ameliorate replenishing facial cream: £24, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for underneath make-up – Espa tri-active lift and firm moisturiser: £50, Espaskincare.com
Best hydrating day cream – Monat be gentle nourishing moisturiser: £64, Monatglobal.com
Willowberry nutrient boost day cream
Independent British brand Willowberry believes in “skincare for grown-ups” – with products that concentrate on protecting the skin’s natural barrier function, helping it look its best – rather than claiming to reverse ageing. Aimed at women in their thirties and upwards, it is gentle enough for younger skin too. With hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, vitamins and essential fatty acids, this light emulsion moisturises while imparting a healthy glow and we love the subtle coriander seed and geranium fragrance. This delivers real life good skin in a jar. Anti-ageing creams tend to come in on the pricey side, so this is great value for money.
Buy now £27.99, Willowberry.co.uk
Elemis pro-collagen marine cream SPF 30
Best: Day cream with spf
This award-winning anti-ageing cream is now available in an SPF 30 version. The lightweight formula feels deliciously cool on application making skin feel immediately perkier and firmer to the touch. Its subtle, fresh fragrance adds to the pleasure making it feel a treat to use. Marine algae and plant actives packed with vitamins, minerals and amino acids deliver a powerful hit of hydration and improve elasticity. We really did see an immediate improvement to the appearance of fine lines on our skin.
Buy now £87.00, Spacenk.com
Estée Lauder revitalizing supreme+ global anti-aging cell power creme
Best: For improving texture
Smooth, non-sticky and easy to apply, we found that this rich cream absorbed quickly and left skin feeling nourished. Even hours after application, our skin still felt beautifully soft. The formula centres around moringa plant extract which contains calcium, potassium, vitamin C, amino acids and omega 3 and is described by Estée Lauder as “one of the most powerful anti-ageing ingredients we’ve ever discovered”. We felt that the tone and texture of our skin improved after use.
Buy now £72.00, Boots.com
Ark Skincare age defy nourishing moisturiser
Best: For over 50s
Another independent British brand, Ark Skincare groups its products by age range, making it very easy to work out which is best for you. This moisturiser is from Ark’s Age Defy range for the over 50s and is especially good for dry skin. You only need a small amount to cover the face and neck, it absorbs really easily and has a gorgeously subtle fragrance. With hyaluronic acid, peptides and vitamin C, this is a really nourishing moisturiser without being heavy upon application. Our dry skin felt more supple and hydrated after use. There’s also an added bonus: a redesign of the packaging now gives 10 per cent more product for the same price.
Buy now £35.00, Arkskincare.com
Venn vitamin B activated all-in-one concentrate
Best: For mature skin
Although named a concentrate rather than a cream, we felt this Korean wonder product deserved inclusion because it fits perfectly into the day cream slot of a skincare routine. In fact, the brand claims this one product can replace your toner, serum, moisturiser and face oil (which may justify the hefty price tag for some). With seven B vitamins including niacinamide, a slew of minerals and amino acids, we loved the perky effect this had on our mature skin. It felt firmer and looked more radiant. The only downside is the restrictive price tag.
Buy now £155.00, Net-a-porter.com
L’Oréal Paris revitalift laser renew advanced anti-ageing care SPF 20
Best: Anti-ageing cream for men
We like the idea of being laser renewed without actual lasers and while this cream doesn’t quite live up to this huge claim, it does a good job of perking up tired and dull skin. Key ingredients include beta-lipohydroxy acid (LHA), a gentle exfoliator which sweeps away dead cells, and L’Oréal’s patented active ingredient Pro-Xylane, a molecule that boosts collagen production to make skin appear plumper. Rated by us for its easily absorbed, soothingly thick texture, it definitely improved the moisture levels of our skin leaving it softer, firmer and fresher looking.
Buy now £22.49, Feelunique.com
Olay Regenerist collagen peptide 24
Best: For oily or combination skin
The latest addition to the Regenerist family, this version contains Olay’s highest concentration of collagen peptide (a collagen fragment that is small enough to be absorbed into the skin) to boost elasticity, together with vitamin B3+ for cell turnover and glycerin for hydration. The lightweight cream is formulated to keep skin moisturised for 24 hours. We found fine forehead lines to be less noticeable after a week’s use and overall skin felt tighter and therefore lifted. We would recommend it for those with oily or combination skin as we found it had a slightly drying effect.
Buy now £17.49, Boots.com
Balance Me intensive wrinkle repair cream
Best: For even skintone
This cream contains a super fine grade of hyaluronic acid, a hero hydrating ingredient, to allow for deeper penetration along with collagen-boosting spilanthes acmella and blackberry leaf. The addition of rosehip works to even out skintone, pigmentation and scarring. We found this fragrant, rich cream a sensory delight to use. It glides over the skin and you only need a little to feel the nourishing benefits. It made skin look smoother and plumper and softened fine lines. Definitely a great choice for winter when your skin craves a richer, thicker moisturiser (and no hint of greasiness).
Buy now £30.00, Balanceme.com
Drunk Elephant lala retro whipped cream
Best: For dry skin
We came for the name and stayed for the intense hydration that this rich cream provides. Dubbed a “rescue cream”, it strengthens the skin’s barrier with six African oils and a plant ceramide complex while antioxidants and omega acids work to protect the skin from the effects of environmental stress. Its whipped formulation feels light and airy even though it acts like a much richer cream on the skin. It made our skin feel nourished and improved the appearance of a damaged patch of skin within a few days. The airtight packaging keeps the product in optimum condition: you simply press the top to release a single dose.
Buy now £50.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Ameliorate replenishing facial cream
Best: For sensitive skin
This is a gentle choice for dry, sensitive skin that doesn’t scrimp on results. The hero ingredient of this UK dermatological brand is the “LaH6 skin hydration complex”, a blend of six active moisturisers. Omega oils and hyaluronic acid also feature. As well as boosting moisture levels, this cream reduces redness, soothes sensitivity and evens skintone to brighten and bring a glow to delicate complexions. It sinks in beautifully without feeling heavy and smooths fine lines with its deep hydration. Our sensitive-skinned tester raves about it.
Buy now £24.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Espa tri-active lift and firm moisturiser
Best: For underneath make-up
The Tri-Active range from Espa is aimed at more mature skin. Intensely hydrating, it includes organic oat sugars to smooth and soften and the fragrance of petitgrain, bergamot and lavender to calm. The texture is somewhere between a serum and a cream: light and cool to apply. We felt it had a slightly tacky feel on the skin initially, although this provided a good base for make-up and it did sink in fully after a while. The heavy, frosted glass jar and spa-like scent gave a sense of occasion to the morning routine and left our skin feeling smooth and definitely firmer.
Buy now £50.00, Espaskincare.com
Monat be gentle nourishing moisturiser
Best: Hydrating day cream
A good option for those with sensitive skin, this cream has a luxuriously smooth feel but in a light formulation. Feeling more like a lotion than a cream, it feels cool and soothing when applied and our tester certainly found it lived up to its “gentle” name. With hyaluronic acid and plant stem cells, it delivers a good dose of hydration and its lightweight texture provides a good base for make-up.
Buy now £64.00, Monatglobal.com
Anti-ageing day creams FAQS
Do anti-ageing products really work?
You can’t reverse ageing, but certain skincare ingredients can improve the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, dullness, and texture.
The gold standard anti-ageing ingredient in skincare is SPF and should be used daily. Regular use will help limit damage from UV radiation, but also play an important role in protecting against fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, pigmentation and uneven skintone.
The best thing you can do to reduce the appearance of ageing with your skincare routine is to take care of it as early as possible, with preventative steps such as applying SPF daily and always removing make-up before you go to bed.
Ingredients to look for in anti-ageing day creams
Ceramides - You’ll find ceramides in plentiful supply in cleansers, serums and moisturisers and while they naturally occur in your skin, they gradually decline as we age. They protect your skin against environmental aggressors and prevent water loss, so are a great ingredient to look out for in your topical skincare products as they’ll leave skin feeling supple and hydrated.
Hyaluronic acid – This is one of the most commonly used ingredients in moisturisers as it's a humectant that attracts and retains moisture on the skin, giving a plumping effect.
Retinol – Derived from vitamin A, retinol is one of the most potent anti-ageing ingredients, thanks to its clinically proven results at improving fine lines and wrinkles in as little as twelve weeks. It can also fade acne scars and increase collagen production. It’s available over the counter in moisturisers and serums, in varying strengths, ranging from 0.01 per cent to two percent.
Squalane – This is an unfussy, oil-based moisturising agent that works well for mature, dry and dehydrated skin types to reduce water loss and strengthen the skin barrier by sealing in moisture.
Does your skin type affect which anti-aging cream you should use?
In short, yes. Anti-ageing is a common skin concern, but you should also take into account your skin type when looking for a new moisturiser.
Anything too oily or thick may exasperate oil production, so if you want to avoid a shiny T-zone, opt for oil-free, non-comedogenic products that are lightweight and won’t clog pores.
Equally, if you have dry skin, you’ll need something nourishing to improve skin texture and suppleness that will hydrate while tackling fine lines and wrinkles.
The verdict: Anti-ageing day creams
For no-nonsense moisturising and glow at a great price point, we love Willowberry. We also rate Ark Skincare highly for its targeted care of more mature skin and, if your budget allows, Venn delivers great results.
Tackle pigmentation and boost collagen levels with the best vitamin C skincare products
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