How Long Until Your New Skincare Routine Starts Working?

Sure, there are some products that provide quick fixes, but for true, lasting results when it comes to the health of your skin, you’re gonna have to play the long game.

One of the great (or terrible, depending on who you ask) things about living during this time is the ability to get nearly anything instantaneously. The amazing new book that came out this morning? Check. A 4am burrito because you’re so enthralled with the book that you forgot to eat dinner? Check. A new duvet because you spilled the burrito all over your bed? Check. A last-minute cleaning service because you forgot you were hosting book club and don’t want your friends to see the rice and beans under your bed? Check.

But with all this near-instant gratification comes something less gratifying: the inability to deal when you do have to wait for something. No matter how many times you open an app, snowball season will still be months away, water will always take way longer to boil for pasta than you think it should, and introducing a new skincare product in to your routine will not result in the best skin of your life overnight. Sure, there are some products that provide quick fixes, but for true, lasting results when it comes to the health of your skin, you’re gonna have to play the long game.

As a general rule, the more work that needs doing, the longer the product is going to take to show its effectiveness. For example, a basic pimple that springs up suddenly can be remedied in a couple of days with a spot treatment. A real here-today-gone-tomorrow situation. But if what you’re applying to your face is meant to change the structure of your skin’s cells — like vitamin C or retinol — get ready to wait. And wait. And maybe wait some more. 

Quick fixes:

While this isn’t an exact science, most moisturizers will make a noticeable difference as soon as you apply them. Since they’re only working to plump up the very topmost layer of your skin, they don’t need a lot of time to prove themselves. Other hydrating products like hyaluronic acid serums will show up on your face quickly too for the same reason. That said, this also means they won’t stick around long and will come off easily after cleansing.

As far as masks that promise immediate brightening/toning/lifting/clearing results, proceed with caution. Sure, you may notice a difference upon washing the mask off, but it’s just a temporary, superficial fix. Even masks that “remove blackheads” are really just removing sebaceous filaments (totally normal and health hair follicles with some dead skin in and around them), which will replenish after a few days.

These quick “result” products aren’t bad, just don’t rely on them. Instead, focus your energy on the long-term effects of the following types of products that can cause real, lasting change at a deeper level. 

Some patience needed:

Believe it or not, your skin needs a couple of weeks to get used to a new cleanser as it shifts your skin’s pH balance. This is a delicate process, one the should take some time so your skin doesn’t freak out, so if you find that a new cleanser is having a real effect after just one use, it may be too good to be true.

Same goes for all-over acne treatments (not just spot cases) like toner or salicylic acid serum. Since the concentration of acne-fighting ingredients is lower here to preserve the general health of the skin and not dry it out, you may be waiting up to two weeks to see a difference.

Long games:

Anything that requires your skin to change on a cellular level can take a long (long) time to be visible, but that doesn’t mean it’s not working beneath the skin’s surface. Acne scars, hyperpigmentation, sun spots — be prepared to use a product for at least three months before any noticeable change occurs. And even then, it may be small. But slow and steady wins the race when it comes to this kind of skincare; it may feel like it’s taking forever but stick with it. I promise it’ll be worth it.


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Thanks for educating us on the process between skincare routine changes! Very useful for those who are seeking a change in their products!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

4 years ago

Great post ;)

4 years ago

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