Ask five dermatologists the same question and you'll very likely get five different answers. But the one thing that almost all skin docs can agree on is that topical retinoids are the gold standard for preventing -- and reversing -- the visible signs of aging. "Vitamin A products, such as topical retinoids, help to stimulate collagen production," says David E. Bank, a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, NY.
Collagen, skin's structural fiber, breaks down with age, which leads to lines and wrinkles. Studies show that regular use of retinoids (at least two-to-three times a week for two-to-six months) helps to rebuild that lost collagen, leading to more youthful, firmer-looking skin, he says. And it's not just about lines; because they speed up cell turnover, topical retinoids can also help fade sunspots and acne scars.
So are all retinoids created equal? Not exactly. "There are so many variations and each one has its own active ingredient," Bank says. Use this guide to pick the vitamin A derivative that's right for you: