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Anti-Aging on a Budget

We get it. You want to look younger, but you don't want to break the bank doing it. Fortunately, you don't have to. Top dermatologists say you can find anti-aging treatments at your local drugstore that really work. Here are wallet-friendly ways to smooth wrinkles, fade dark spots, and get glowing.

Money-Saving Secret #1: Save on "Short Contact" Products

For products that you rinse off after just a few minutes such as cleansers and exfoliants, Francesca Fusco, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, suggests going with the inexpensive store brand -- usually found right next to the name-brand version. "Compare the ingredients between the two," she says. "If the first five listed are identical, you have a hit." One to try: CVS 7-in-1 Complete Revitalizing Foaming Cleanser ($8; cvs.com).

Money-Saving Secret #2: Go Off-Label

Sometimes having "anti-aging" in the product name makes it more expensive, explains Fusco. "I have seen plenty of creams labeled as anti-aging and all they contain are moisturizers and sunscreen," she says. If that's what you're after, then choose a basic, inexpensive moisturizer with SPF such as Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 50 ($14.50; walgreens.com).

Money-Saving Secret #3: Stick to the Brands You Know

If you want anti-aging bang for your buck, go with a big, tried-and-trusted brand, says Doris Day, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, who cites Neutrogena, Olay, Aveeno, and L'Oreal as a few examples. "They put a lot of money into research and development -- and less into packaging, so they're able to mass produce it at a low price," Day says. What's more: Many drugstore and department store brands are owned by the same parent company -- and share similar technologies. For example, L'Oreal Paris and Lancome; Olay and SK-II.

Money-Saving Secret #4: Read Labels

"Label readers always win," says Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. She explains that you want to ensure you're paying for quality ingredients -- not a fancy jar. Anti-aging ingredients should be within the first ten on the list, adds Fusco. So what exactly are you looking for? Here are the ingredients top skin docs say are the most effective anti-agers money can buy at your local drugstore: 

  • Retinol: The do-it-all vitamin A derivative exfoliates skin, controls oil production, and boosts collagen production. Find it in L'Oreal Revitalift Deep Set Wrinkle Repair Night Crème ($16; walgreens.com).
  • Peptides: Peptides are proteins that trick the skin into producing fresh collagen and elastin, two functions that decrease with age. Find them in Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Serum ($19; drugstore.com).
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E helps ward off free radical damage. Get your daily dose in Neutrogena Naturals Multivitamin Nourishing Moisturizer ($14; walgreens.com).
  • Soy: This plant-based ingredient helps even out pigmentation. Find it in Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Radiant Intensive Night Cream ($17; target.com).
  • Niacinamide: Also known as vitamin B3, this ingredient strengthens skin's natural barrier, locking moisture in and keeping skin-damaging irritants out. Look for it in CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($11; walmart.com).

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