How do I know my skincare is working (and how long does it take??)

We often remind people that regardless of what you read on the interwebs (yes! Even here), always remember to listen to your skin. Unfortunately, sometimes it feels like your skin is speaking pig latin. So how the hell do you really know your skincare is working for you? And real talk… how long is it supposed to take for you to see results?

what does your skin want

All great questions, and it turns out, different product types have different evaluation criteria. So let’s walk through some skin product evaluation guidelines to help you through your journey!

You’ll Immediately Know

In today’s fast paced world, everyone wants results instantly. While we preach patience when it comes to skincare, there are a handful of products you would know pretty much right away if they’re right for you:

  • Cleansers: you’re looking for something that will clean thoroughly without giving skin that “squeaky clean” feel. If you switch to a new cleanser, pay attention to any changes in dryness for a few days. If nothing significant changes, where you're experiencing excess dryness, stinging, sensitivity, the cleanser is a go!
  • Sunscreens: We can write essays on the issues of sunscreen formulation. However, when it comes to choosing a sunscreen for your skin, there is one simple golden rule of thumb: texture is king. “Are you willing to slather this sunscreen on thick and re-apply?” That’s really about the most important criteria when it comes to figuring out if the sunscreen’s the right fit for your skin.
  • Soothing products: To us, this product category sort of straddles the line of “immediate” and “give it a few weeks”. While the right soothing product should offer you some initial relief, a soothing product that is a truly good fit should feel like your partner to help your sensitive skin feel less reactive over time!

Give me two to four weeks!

  • Moisturizers: A good moisturizer right for your skin type will help you stay hydrated throughout the day. But it usually takes ~1-2 weeks to realize a really good moisturizer, where your skin doesn’t feel like it’s still lacking any moisture despite already applying and your skin barrier feels healthy enough to take on those actives treatments.
  • Chemical exfoliants: Chemical exfoliants help smooth out skin texture and can even improve signs of fine lines and brighten that dull skin. Give it a solid full skin cycle of ~1 month to see texture improvement to know you’re on the right track. It’ll actually take even longer to see those additional improvements with hyperpigmentation and fine lines and wrinkles.

I need at least a full month!

Not surprisingly, anything that aims to tackle more serious skin concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne takes much much longer to assess.

how long does it take to see results

  • Fine Lines (~1 month): it kind of depends on the cause of your fine lines. Sometimes if you’ve been doing a shoddy job at hydrating your skin and using sunscreen, you can see great improvement just by leveling up your moisturizer game.
  • Deep Wrinkles (~2 month and beyond)
  • Pigmentation (~2 to 6 months): barf right? But pigmentation is stubborn. Definitely don’t forget to sunscreen everyday if you want visible improvement closer to the 2 month timeline rather than the 6 month timeline!
  • Acne Lesion: (depends!): 
    • (1-2 weeks) Alright acne timeline warrants a blog post of its own so this time point is really about specifically tackling the existing lesion. Ultimately try to give your skin at least 1 week on the topical before assessing (which for anyone dealing with acne feels like a lifetime). You’re looking for size reduction of the existing lesions and shortening that healing time. We know what you’re thinking, but what about those rapid spot treatments like the Clearasil 4hour Rapid Rescue? Well, if you check out the reviews, you’ll see it’s pretty hit or miss and generally it takes a couple days before really seeing any sort of minimizing. At the 1 week mark you’re looking to see how the existing breakout area is faring, are lesions still red and fiery or you’ve found that the healing time has shortened and those lesions are shrinking in size.
    • A note about purging: So it’s very common that starting new treatments can cause purging or what looks like even more acne breakouts. This can take up to ~4weeks to really go away. So again, you’re looking for general healing time of the existing lesions, try not to factor in purging which can come off as breaking out even more.
    • Phew! There’s really a lot we can say about acne strategy both short and longer term. So we’ll save that for a dedicated blog post...

When it starts feeling like a religion - A note on antioxidants and age prevention: 

Oof. When you want to evaluate more “preventative” skincare by dabbling in antioxidants, it gets rather hazy. If you use the right products consistently, the idea is that your skin will be the subject of envy at that 20th college reunion, so there isn’t a super clear short term sign as to what you’re looking for. After all, if it’s working as intended, you’re supposed to see as little change as possible to your skin over time. This category definitely calls for a lot of faith! Stay tuned for our overview on our top antioxidants in skincare.

In Summary

When it comes to figuring whether or not your products work for you, different product types have different criteria you should look for. Try to pay attention to cues and signals your skin’s sending you and remember that consistency and patience pay off when it comes to your top skin concerns.


PS. How did we come up with these time points?

This article really stems from a mix of our work experience, third party research, and a general understanding of skin turnover. Part of our job as skincare chemists is to monitor and assess testing for all sorts of skin concerns like wrinkles, pigmentation, crows feet, dark circles, etc.

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