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Change doesn’t happen overnight, especially in skincare. You don’t dab some anti-aging serum on and expect to wake up looking ten years younger the next day. You have to wait patiently and stick to your regimen for some time to see visible results.

But, just how long do you really have to wait? When should you stop a certain treatment and try a different one? Is your skincare routine really effective, or are you just wasting your time and money? Let’s dig deeper into the factors that affect skincare to understand around how long it really takes to achieve smoother and clearer skin.


What Basic Skincare Does for the Skin

Many people have an arsenal of skincare products, but you actually need only three for basic skincare: cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen. The cleanser removes dirt, impurities, and excess sebum. The moisturizer prevents the skin from drying out and leaves it hydrated and smooth. The sunscreen protects the skin from harmful UV rays that cause premature aging and hyperpigmentation. 

If you have normal skin, these three are enough to maintain healthy and supple skin. Other skincare products are optional. A toner softens and calms the skin. It also preps the skin for other skincare products, as it improves absorption. 

Used once or twice a week, an exfoliant can accelerate skin cell turnover, as it removes flaky skin. Serums provide more intense moisturization and a host of other benefits.

For acne-prone skin, though, you need more than just basic skincare. More targeted treatments are needed to address the different causes of acne. You might need benzoyl peroxide to decrease P. acnes bacteria or salicylic acid to ease inflammation. Retinoids, AHAs, niacinamide, and other compounds further help unclog pores and reduce excess sebum.


How long does it take to see effects?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology(AAD), it takes about 4 to 6 weeks to notice some improvements when using a new skincare treatment. Then, it takes another 2 to 3 months for the skin to clear significantly. However, the actual time depends on many factors, including age and skin color. It’s also affected by the skin condition, skin type, and the ingredients in the skincare products.

 

Age

As we age, it takes longer for our skin to renew itself. Thus, younger people tend to see results faster than older ones. This is why many anti-aging products include ingredients that facilitate faster skin cell turnover.

 

Skin color

Your skin color also affects the time it takes for products to do their magic. People with dark skin have faster skin cell turnover rates than those with light skin. So, if you have fair skin, it may take longer to see the benefits of the skincare products you are using.

 

Skin condition

Another factor you need to consider is the condition of your skin. If you have acne-prone skin, you are more likely to have lower skin cell turnover rates. Acne-prone skin renews itself slower than normal skin, so it takes longer to see results. Expect to wait about 6 to 12 weeks for topical regimens to have noticeable effects.

 

Ingredients in skincare products

The active ingredients in the skincare products you are using also yield results in varying time frames. BHAs, specifically salicylic acid, can improve acne in just 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the concentration. A facial wash with 2% salicylic acid takes about 2 weeks to show some skin clearing, while salicylic acid pads take about 4 to 12 weeks to clear acne lesions.

AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, can take a little longer to produce results. It takes about 6 weeks of daily use to increase collagen production and make melanin pigments less prominent. Up to 42 weeks is needed to rejuvenate photodamaged skin.

Retinoids, another popular ingredient in skincare treatments, takes around 4 to 12 weeks to show significant improvements. A 0.05% tretinoin formulation can reduce eye wrinkles and clear acne after 12 weeks of regular use.

Compared to retinoids, niacinamide typically achieves faster results, alleviating acne in just around 8 weeks. It also effectively reduces sebum levels in as little as 2 weeks.

Indeed, the time it takes to see results vary from person to person. Some may see results in as early as 2 weeks, while others have to wait longer than 12 weeks. On average though, you should see some improvement by the 6th week of using a new skincare product.


How to determine if a skincare product is effective or not

While it takes around 4 to 6 weeks to notice some changes, you should stick to your new skincare routine for at least 12 weeks to gauge how effective it is on your skin. Your skin takes around a month to renew its topmost layer but the full result of any skin treatment regimen takes approximately 3 to 4 months to be noticeable.

If you don’t see even the most minimal improvement within 6 to 12 weeks, it may be a sign that the skincare product is not suited for your skin. Aside from that, there are other telltale signs that a skincare product is not effective. Watch out for these signs:

 

  • More severe breakouts even after using the product for a few weeks

Some products cause breakouts at the onset of the treatment to purge impurities. But, if they become even worse after several weeks, consider changing your regimen.

 

  • Increase in brown spots or hyperpigmentation

This may be due to improper use of the product but may also indicate a bad reaction to some of its ingredients. If you notice new discolorations, stop using the product.

 

  • Excessive redness or flushing 

It is normal for skincare products that contain acids to cause a slight tingling sensation. However, if it feels like your skin is burning or when there is severe redness, you must stop using the product immediately.

 

  • Itchy or irritated skin

Any product that causes your skin to become red and itchy is not a good match for your skin. These symptoms indicate a negative reaction to some of the ingredients in the skincare product.

 

Conversely, a skincare product is effective if it results in positive changes in your skin. With regular use, it makes your skin look brighter, smoother, and more supple. Your skin feels hydrated and not oily. Your skin texture will be remarkably smoother and your skin tone, more even. Also, you’ll notice a visible reduction in the size of your pores.

For acne treatments, you can tell if a product is effective if the inflammation and redness go down after a couple of weeks. It may take a while for your skin to become clear and smooth, but you should see some slight improvements in a month’s time.

Whichever skincare product you try, commit to the new regimen for 6 to 12 weeks to know if it’s effective or not. Most products come in sizes that take about this long to consume, so you can wait until you finish a bottle or jar to decide whether to continue with the treatment or not. Of course, if you experience any adverse reactions, you must stop using it immediately.