Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to waiting on your skincare routine to begin showing results. When struggling with a breakout, dull skin, or fine lines we start a new product or regimen and expect to see results immediately, or at least within two weeks. If we don't see results? We throw the products in the garbage bin and start on a new regimen. Could it be possible that we're hindering results by not giving our products a fighting chance and giving up too quickly? Today I want to talk about how long it actually takes for skincare products to work, how soon you should be seeing results, and when it's time to throw them in the garbage can.
switching it up too often and why consistency is key
I know the situation all too well. You've got a big presentation, date, or another important (yet stressful) event and a big cyst rears its ugly head. You'll do anything to get rid of it fast. However, if that spot treatment or anti-inflammatory serum isn't working you probably ditch it after about a week or so.
I don't blame you, it's hard to have patience when basically everything gives us instant gratification these days. We can watch our favorite shows (netflix), get the answer to any question (google), or even date (tinder) at the click of a button. So, waiting for your spots to disappear after using a product for even a week feels like torture.
Unfortunately, when it comes to skincare constantly switching it up can do way more harm than good. It can be hard to tell which products are working and which are making your acne worse. That's why consistency is key, it takes 28 days for your skin to go through a full cycle. And, depending on the product and your skin concerns it could take even longer. For some, it takes around three months for their skin woes to completely resolve. It's just how our skin biologically works, it’s a process that can't be rushed.
Constantly tossing one product for another can create long term issues with your skin. Switching between different products over a long period of time has even been said to wreak havoc on your immune system (but that’s a little extreme). A majority of the time, the skin can remedy itself and if you're not giving it a break, your skin can become inflamed or the barrier can become compromised.
is your skincare routine working?
This, my friends, is the million-dollar question. Though opinions differ on the exact amount of time a new skincare routine takes to work, most would argue it takes anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks (1.5 months to 3 months). A full skin cycle takes about 6 weeks, from baby cells being born at the deepest layer to mature surface skin cells that eventually shed off. So, at the bare minimum give your skin a month and a half at least before deciding whether or not a new routine is working for you. At three months a new routine should level itself out and you should be seeing the results. It all depends on the individual, the skin concern, the type of skincare products, and how your skin functions specifically. Would you be surprised if I told you that different products have different time tables on when you should be seeing results?
- Cleansers: You should be able to tell if a cleanser is right or wrong for you after the first use. If it leaves your skin feeling tight, irritated, red, itchy, or dry go ahead and pitch it. When looking for a balanced cleanser be sure to test its pH level, making sure it's around a 5.5 or slightly acidic. Alkaline cleansers can strip the acid mantle and leave your skin vulnerable to acne causing bacteria and other environmental damage. If it's still not working, try a cleanser with a different texture or consistency- such as an oil, cream, or gel.
- Toners: Toners take 1-2 weeks of consistent use to see results with pore size and redness. Like cleansers, you should be seeing results right away. If you notice redness, irritation, or small clogged pores after using your toner immediately discontinue use! Many toners are not properly formulated, containing sensitizing fragrances, irritating essential oils, or drying isopropyl alcohol.
- Moisturizers: It is possible to see overnight improvement depending on your previous regimen. Typically, moisturizers take 2 weeks to 2 months to see real results (which will continue and improve over time). If your skin feels too dry, or too oily by the middle of the day it may be time to switch formulas. Tip: If it's too dry try adding a lightweight oil to your moisturizer!
- Exfoliators: Exfoliators are the trickiest skincare product to pin down (in my opinion). If you're using things like AHA's and BHA's then they can cause a purging phase in the beginning, eventually evening themselves out after about 2 months. If chemical exfoliants make you nervous start with a physical one, or ease into chemical exfoliants with a once a week (or once every two weeks) treatment. If an exfoliant is right for you, you should start to see results with smoother skin and lessened hyperpigmentation after about 2-3 weeks. Continuous use is required to maintain results.
- Acne Targeted Products: Acne targeted products, unfortunately, take the longest to produce results. If you're using benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid you may see immediate improvement but consistent results should be seen after 4 to 12 weeks. If your skin hasn’t improved after 12 weeks it may be time to seek out a different treatment.
To see a more in-depth description, check out this . A good rule of thumb is that surgical or cosmetic procedures such as laser treatment will work the most immediate, prescription creams like Retin a or Epiduo will be the next effective, and over the counter treatments will take the most amount of time.
when to stop a new skincare routine
- Excess redness and irritation
- Excessive oiliness
- Excessive dryness
- Breakouts that last longer than 3-4 weeks
- Stinging (when it shouldn’t be)
- Personal Experience with New Skincare Routines
I can only speak based on my skin type (sensitive, acne prone) but to tell a difference in new routines I typically have to wait anywhere from a month and a half to two months. Here's typically how it goes down for me. During the first week or two I experience a honeymoon period, I think "this is awesome, this is the best product I've ever used, I love it". My breakouts typically improve or go away completely.
During the third and fourth week the honeymoon period starts to wear off, and I typically experience some purging or blemishes if I'm using a new product targeted towards acne or exfoliation. Purging can also occur with AHA'S/BHA'S. The fifth and sixth week are where things start to level out, after this stage if my skin isn't clear or at least normalized it's probably not going to be. If it's been three months and I haven't seen changes or my skin has gotten worse, it's probably time to move on. Even with diet changes to see a difference in my skin I've noticed it takes about two to three months.
What's your experience with switching up skincare routines? Let me know in the comments below!
Banish Starter Kit
Kali Kushner, known as the Instagram alias myfacestory, is a natural beauty advocate in the greater Cincinnati area who is passionate about using organic skincare and holistic remedies to heal acne from the inside out. Her dedication lies in her own chronic acne struggles as she continues to restore herself while helping those around her.