When it comes to our skincare routines, we all tend to focus our efforts exclusively on our faces, often forgetting about everything that exists below the jawline. But fun fact: the skin on your neck, décolletage, arms, and legs are every bit as susceptible to aging as your face, and as such, every bit as deserving of your tender loving care.
While cellulite, stretch marks, uneven skin texture, sagging, and crepiness, are all completely normal, very much expected, and very OK, it’s also OK to not be such a huge fan of their existence (we’re only human, after all). And if you find yourself in that latter category, looking for something to help firm, smooth, and rejuvenate their overall appearance, we have just the thing: skin tightening lotions.
How Do Skin-Tightening Lotions Work?
Also sometimes referred to as body-firming or cellulite creams, skin tightening lotions are body care products designed to work on the surface level of the skin to help firm, smooth, sculpt, and tone its appearance. We like to think of them as shapewear for your skin. “Skin tightening creams work primarily by delivering a lot of healthy nutrients and hydration to the dermis, which is the layer of the skin where collagen is produced,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Corey Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. “From there, depending on the active ingredients in the formula, they can help with certain skin processes like promoting cell turnover, preventing degradation of collagen, increasing collagen production, and preventing elastin breakdown, which is what really keeps our skin from having that good snap-back quality.”
Just like your go-to face moisturizer, body-firming creams can also provide both immediate and long-lasting hydration by helping to strengthen and repair the skin barrier so that it’s better able to trap in moisture and reap its full benefits.
What Causes the Skin to Become Loose and Saggy?
Skin sagging is a very natural and, to a certain extent, an unavoidable by-product of getting older, but other external factors can exacerbate and speed up the process. In addition to stress, pollution, genetics, diet, and exercise, one of the other key factors that Dr. Hartman says to look out for is UV damage (seriously, people: sunscreen is non-negotiable).
“UV exposure plays a significant role in the breakdown and degradation of collagen,” he says. “So, not only does our body’s natural collagen production decrease as we age, but we also have these external factors that are causing the little collagen that we do have to degrade, ultimately leading to a loss of skin firmness and elasticity.”
The other important thing to keep in mind is that the skin on our neck, chest, underarms, and inner thighs is much thinner than other areas of the body, making them more susceptible to things like cellulite and crepiness. In other words, don’t be too hard on yourself—there may only be so much that you can do to treat these delicate areas.
What Ingredients Should You Look For in a Skin-Tightening Lotion?
In choosing a high-quality skin tightening lotion, there are a couple of key ingredients to look for to ensure you’re doing more than just rubbing a nicely scented cream on your skin.
1. Vitamin A: Unsurprisingly, every derm’s favorite anti-aging ingredient is also at the top of the list when it comes to body-firming products. “There are so many amazing benefits to using a vitamin A derivative,” says Dr. Hartman, “including the promotion of collagen production, smoothing the skin surface, and making the skin a little thicker, which becomes increasingly more important as we age. But it also helps encourage exfoliation and stops the buildup of dead skin cells, which makes for more effective cell turnover. And whenever you can make that process more efficient, you’re basically helping your skin to appear younger, firmer, tighter, and smoother.”
2. Ceramides, Peptides, and Growth Factors: Ceramides are one of the most moisturizing ingredients that also help keep the skin barrier intact, which is why Dr. Hartman recommends looking for them not only in your body lotions but also in your facial creams and serums. “As far as making a real impact on the skin surface and making it appear smoother and tighter, you’re also going to want to look for peptides and growth factors,” adds Dr. Hartman. Together, these ingredients can help boost collagen and elastin production and strengthen the skin barrier, helping maintain its youthful appearance.
3. Antioxidants: While antioxidants are likely already a staple part of your everyday facial products, they’re also critical to protecting the skin on the rest of your body. That’s because antioxidants scavenge free radicals, which can have a detrimental effect on our body’s natural collagen production. To start, look no further than vitamin C, which can help boost these processes while also shielding your skin from further damage.
Do Skin-Tightening Lotions Work?
While skin-tightening creams can provide several skin-enhancing benefits, it’s important to remember that they are creams—not miracle workers. These products generally function at the surface level, which means it’s unlikely they can penetrate deep enough to dramatically improve the skin’s firmness and smoothness. That said, they aren’t completely useless either. In addition to improving the skin’s hydration (which is essential to its overall health and appearance), body tightening creams can also provide some superficial tightening that may enhance the skin’s appearance, even if just temporarily.
With this in mind, if you’re simply looking to give your skin a little added boost, there’s no harm in massaging in a body-firming cream each day. Ahead, we’ve rounded up the 14 best skin tightening creams, lotions, and serums to help get you started. They may not be able to turn the clock back ten years, but they can be a great way to make your skin look and feel healthier, which, if you ask us, is even better.
Formulated with a rich buttery texture, RiVive’s Supérieur Body Renewal Firming Cream features a potent moisturizing complex, including hyaluronic acid, that deeply nourishes the skin, giving it a smoother, more even appearance. In addition to improving the skin’s overall hydration and suppleness, this top-rated formula also boasts the brand’s signature Bio-Renewal and Bio-Firming proteins, helping lift and rejuvenate the skin, for a brighter, more youthful-looking glow. Apply it liberally morning and night or wherever your skin needs a little TLC.
Inspired by founder Tina Craig’s desire for a product that is like “shapewear for the arms,” this potent serum is formulated with an active-rich blend of renewing peptides, probiotics, and the brand’s proprietary antioxidant- and retinol-packed SIREN Capsule, to tighten the hard-to-treat skin around the arms. When combined with daily exercise, the Sculpt Arm Compound was clinically proven to provide a 100 percent increase in visible toning results over exercise alone, and, honestly, if that means fewer tricep dips in our future, we’re all for it.
If you’re looking for a high-powered skin-firming treatment designed specifically for the delicate neck and décolletage area, this is it. Formulated by renowned celebrity dermatologist Dr. Macrene Alexiades, this targeted treatment is chock full of clinically proven (and organically grown) anti-aging ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, peptides, amino acids, green tea, and vitamins C and E. Together, they work to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, lift and firm the skin, even skin tone, and protect against environmental stressors, which is to say, you’ll never have to worry about your neck giving away your age again.
If the thought of stepping back into shorts leaves you feeling skittish, reach for Sisley’s new leg contouring treatment. This nutrient-rich oil gets its skin-enhancing powers from a mix of white ginger, rosemary, shea, and macadamia oils, which, when applied with the brand’s specific massage technique, helps promote circulation and depuff swollen muscles, giving them a firmer, more sculpted appearance (not to mention a healthy and hydrated glow). Plus, the addictive texture melts seamlessly into the skin, allowing you to dress quickly after application—no awkward air-drying needed.
To help enhance the results of an in-office body-tightening treatment, Dr. Hartman recommends adding Skinceuticals’ Body Tightening Concentrate to your at-home routine. “This is the only product that I’ve observed over the years that seems to have a real, perceivable benefit with my patients,” he tells us. Designed to be used on the abdomen, butt, knees, and thighs, it features a hard-hitting combination of 2.5 percent tripeptide, 5 percent yeast extract and 2 percent hydrolyzed rice protein to improve the texture and tightness of the skin, effectively making crepiness a thing of the past. Another bonus: its unique cooling formula is also packed with hyaluronic acid and vitamin E, which means your skin is essentially getting everything it needs to stay plump, hydrated, and happy.
Don’t let the budget-friendly price tag fool you; this firming body serum still packs a significant punch when it comes to combating sagging skin. That’s because, unlike your standard body cream, this lightweight formula combines niacinamide with firming tetrapeptide-3 to help boost collagen production and visibly brighten the skin, so it appears plumper and more even. It’s also infused with a refreshing citrus oil blend, making each application feel like a mini island getaway, (if only in our heads).
With warmer temperatures just around the corner, now is the time to invest in a lightweight lotion that won’t melt off the second you step outdoors. Our pick? Algenist’s Genius Collagen Body Mylk. As its name suggests, it has a unique milky texture that absorbs quickly into the skin without the slightest trace of greasy residue. What’s more, it also features a mix of skin-firming ingredients, including active vegan collagen and alguronic and lactic acids, which help even the skin tone and improve its resiliency and bounce for a smoother, more supple appearance.
This caffeine and tiger grass-infused body serum delivers an intensive triple effect: it stimulates the skin’s metabolism, supports collagen production, and tightens connective tissue, leaving you with visibly firmer, smoother, and more youthful-looking skin. Use it in conjunction with the Susanne Kaufmann Toning Body Cream to reduce cellulite’s appearance and enhance your skin’s overall firmness and elasticity. Bonus: The silky formula smells like you just stepped into the world’s most luxurious spa.
Transform lackluster skin with African Botanics aromatic Marula Firming Botanical Body Oil. This 100 percent natural oil is rich in plant collagen, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, making it an effective hydrator and a powerhouse body-toning treatment. Massage it in daily for an immediate fresh, dewy finish and long-lasting improvements in your skin’s firmness, strength, and elasticity.
It may be called “Bum Bum Cream,” but Sol De Janeiro’s best-selling skin tightening treatment is effective on all parts of the body. Infused with caffeine-rich guarana extract, its rich, buttery formula melts into the skin to help boost circulation—an essential component for firmer skin—and provides an immediate smoothing and soft, shimmery effect that captures that light as you move. With notes of salted caramel and pistachio, it’s hard not to become addicted to this one.
There’s a reason why beauty experts can’t stop talking about Augustinus Bader’s luxe skincare collection. Simply put, the products are transformative, and the same goes for the brand’s line of body care products. Formulated with the same cell-renewing, patented technology as its face creams (that’s the TFC8® or Trigger Factor Complex), this rich, fragrance-free formula combines natural amino acids, high-grade vitamins, synthesized molecules, and shea butter to boost cell regeneration and strengthen the natural skin barrier for a more youthful appearance. In clinical trials, 94 percent of testers said their skin felt tightened and more elastic after use, and 98 percent said it improved the skin’s texture, making it appear more toned. Need we say more?
Although not necessarily touted as a skin tightening cream, Nécessaire’s beloved The Body Lotion is packed with skin-loving ingredients like niacinamide, antioxidants, omega-6, and vitamins A, C, and E, to strengthen and restore the skin’s surface for a healthy glow. Upon application, you’ll notice softer, smoother-looking skin, while long-term, you’ll see a visible improvement in the skin’s tone, texture, and firmness.
French skincare lovers, this one’s for you. Formulated with a sumptuous whipped texture, Caudalíe’s cult-favorite body cream combines the brand’s two signature hero ingredients—grapeseed oil and antioxidant-rich grape polyphenols—with nourishing shea butter and iris extract to lift and tighten the skin for a more toned appearance. Deeply moisturizing, it’s also infused with an intoxicating orange blossom scent, which makes applying it morning and night even more appealing.
Clarins has been a beauty counter favorite for decades, but did you know they also have an entire line of body contouring products? This anti-cellulite gel is one of their best-sellers thanks to its fast-acting body-firming results. Powered by caffeine and quince leaf extract, its quick-absorbing formula helps reduce the look of cellulite by lifting, firming, and smoothing the skin on contact—particularly across the hips and thighs. Use it in conjunction with your regular workout routine to help enhance your results at home.