One of the best things about makeup is its instant gratification. It transforms your look upon application which can immediately lift your mood. Unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said for skincare, where you’re often left playing the long game to see any difference in your skin.

But expecting overnight results from skincare will only set you up for disappointment. While makeup offers a temporary uplift on the surface level, skincare takes time because it works at a deeper cellular level. As a general rule of thumb, you should only start to see real changes in your skin after between one to three months of consistent use of a skincare product.

However, you’re not always guaranteed results and it’s more complicated than simply waiting a month; the effectiveness of ingredients and products can vary greatly, with some working quicker than others. Anything that claims to impart an instant glow will usually only brighten your skin for a short period of time or feature light-reflective particles to give the illusion of a glow (unless it’s a cleanser or moisturizer). Here’s a simple breakdown of how long certain products and ingredients can take to work on your skin:

Products

Cleansers: Instantly

Cleanser is essential for all skin types and you should see results instantly after using a cleanser. Since it works at surface level to clean your skin, it should work immediately, leaving your skin feeling noticeably cleaner, softer, and smoother. If your skin feel a little tight, this may be a sign that the cleanser is too harsh and has stripped away your natural oils. Make sure to always follow with your serum and moisturizer to replenish hydration.

Moisturizers: Instantly – 2 weeks

Whether you have oily or dry skin, a moisturizer is one of the most important skincare steps to stick to. You should be able to see a change in your skin with immediate effect, especially if you have one with hyaluronic acid, which does a great job at instantly plumping, smoothing, and hydrating the skin. You should no longer feel tightness, flakiness, dryness or oiliness upon applying a good moisturizer.

Serums, acne, and dark spot treatments: 3 weeks – 2 months

Serums and treatments are often packed with high concentrations of active ingredients that will target specific concerns such as acne, pigmentation, or wrinkles. Since these types of skin concerns are sub-dermal (their root cause and damage is often very deep within the skin), it takes time for the active ingredients to penetrate and heal the inflammation. This is why it can take up to 8 weeks of consistent use to see results from a serum.

Exfoliant: Instantly – 2 months

Using a chemical exfoliant just once or twice a week will help unclog your pores and clear away dirt, oil, and dead skin build-up. You will already start to see an improvement in your skin after just 10 minutes of use; it should look brighter, smoother, and more even. However, if you want long-term, highly noticeable results from exfoliating, such as reduced blackheads, whiteheads, and acne, it can take between 6-8 weeks.

 

A closeup of a man wit ha beard applying skincare with his eyes closed

Ingredients

Retinol and retinoids: 6 weeks – 6 months

Retinol is great at targeting wrinkles, fine lines, and acne. If you’re using it to treat acne, you’d have to use it consistently for 4 – 6 weeks to see any benefits or improvements. For wrinkles and aging, it takes between 3 – 6 months to ****see results. This is because it takes much longer for your skin to increase collagen production compared to healing acne (collagen is what keeps your skin plump and youthful!). It’s impossible to reverse aging, however, retinol should help to significantly diminish wrinkles and fine lines with consistent use.

Vitamin C: 3 weeks – 2 months

Vitamin C is a great ingredient to diminish hyperpigmentation, brighten your complexion, and even out your skin tone. You should see noticeable improvements within 3 weeks. It can help significantly fade hyperpigmentation in about two months.

Hyaluronic Acid: Instantly – 2 months

Hyaluronic Acid does wonders to instantly replenish moisture in your skin and is especially beneficial for dry or dehydrated skin. Your skin should feel more hydrated, soft, and plump immediately upon application; if you use it consistently for up to 8 weeks or more, you should start to see improvements in skin elasticity and skin smoothness as well.

Salicylic Acid: 4 – 6 weeks

Salicylic Acid is an important ingredient to help reduce blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. It works by dissolving oil, dirt, dead skin cells that clog your pores, however, it takes several weeks to start seeing the full effects including clearer, smoother skin.

The key is patience

The truth is everyone’s skin is unique, and each ingredient will work differently on your skin compared to someone else. This means that while you can use these time frames as a general guide, they should all be taken with a pinch of salt.

The most important thing to take away is that glowing skin is a long game and patience is your friend. At the end of the day, the goal is to find products that actually work for your skin long-term and not that work for your skin right now. If you are constantly changing up your skincare routine and adding new products, you won’t give your skin a chance to adjust or make progress. The best thing to do is be consistent; as they say, slow and steady wins the race.

About the Author

Tends to think in bullet points, tables and Venn diagrams; believes in 'me-time' and sometimes talks to plants.

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