When to Expect Your Skincare Products to Start Working
State of Skin is our monthlong exploration of what women love, hate, and need to know about their skin — from the most common concerns to the best kept secrets in beauty.
Dabbing on a spot treatment with the expectation that your zit is going to disappear overnight, or slathering on a retinol cream in hopes your forehead wrinkles will fade in a few hours is pretty much setting yourself up for disappointment. The truth is that while you may want to get rid of your skincare issues quickly, most beauty products can't instantly transform your skin. But, that doesn't mean they're not working — you just need to have a little patience.
"Consistency is the key in order to achieve improvement from a new skin routine," says Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Stick with the products you choose and give them enough time to work."
Victoria Fu, cosmetic chemist and one-half of Chemist Confessions, also adds that if you don't see instant results, you may want to wait a while before adding something new into your routine. "Switching to a new product too soon can end up shooting yourself in the foot and you don’t end up seeing the results you want," she shares. "I recommend approaching changes to your routine step-by-step (add one product in/take one product out) instead of completely swapping out products and overhauling your entire routine."
And depending on the actual product, your skin's natural cycle can determine how long it will take to see results. "This is especially true of pigment-fighting products," says Gloria Lu, the other half of Chemist Confessions. "By nature, your skin needs to go through at least one to two full cycles to actually see any improvements."
But exactly how long should you wait to see if a product is actually learning? Dr. Jaliman and the Chemist Confessions duo gave us their expert tips on everything from cleaners to dark spot treatments.
Given that the sole purpose is to clear dirt, oil, and daily buildup from your pores, you can expect this product to work right away. However, if you're using a formula that's meant to treat a specific skin concern on top of cleansing, the results might not be as immediate. "If you’re using a cleanser for acne-prone skin, you should begin some sort of improvement within one to two weeks," says Dr. Jaliman.
"If effective, moisturizers can work almost immediately," Fu says. "While most people are tempted to declare winners or losers after just one use, waiting 'til the one or two week mark to call it is actually better. With a little more time, you can realize whether or not your skin stays consistently moisturized and if the product deserves to permanently stay in your routine."
"These usually work pretty quick because they are concentrated," explains Dr. Jaliman. "You might see an improvement overnight in many cases." However, it's nearly impossible to make a pimple completely disappear overnight. She also points out that with some acne products, your skin may "purge" or get worse before it starts to get better — making patience espeically key in this case.
Dark Spot Treatments
Hyperpigmentation can be tough to treat, and it can take some time before dark spots fade at all — sometimes two to three months for these treatments to make an improvement, according to Fu. "It takes at least one to two full skin turnover cycles to notice a significant difference," she explains. "It gets exponentially harder during summer months when the sun is working against you." That said, make sure to wear SPF everyday.
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This ingredient is known for being extremely effective at treating fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmention, and acne, but it's also notoriously irritating, and can take four weeks to kick in. When you first start using a retinol product, it's best to introduce it gradually into your routine to prevent side effects like redness and dryness. Dr. Jaliman also recommends starting with a lower concentration of retinol it every other night until your skin builds strength.
"You will probably notice some irritation in the first week or two of using retinol," agrees Fu. "Once you've figured out a consistent way of using it, you should notice tone and texture differences around four weeks into consistent use."
Establishing a solid, effective skincare routine takes patience and time. However, if you experience any issues while using a product, contact your determatologist — it's always better to be safe rather than sorry. Or better yet, consult a skincare professional to help you build an effective routine right off the bat.