If you’re like me, and you change your skin-care regimen like you change outfits, then the agony of waiting for results is not foreign to you. As someone who spends her days learning everything she can about beauty products, I’m well aware that there aren’t too many “quick fixes” or overnight formulas out there. Patience is a virtue, and that applies to our beauty routines. However, given the range of skin-care options out there, it can be hard to know exactly when results will appear.
Generally speaking, it takes about 28 days for skin cells to turn over, which means that almost all products require at least one month of use before you’ll see results. But for a closer look at the most commonly used essentials, note each waiting period below.
Cleanser: 30 Days
The truth about cleanser is that, even though you use it multiple times a day, it doesn’t really stay on your skin long enough to have any major transformative effects—it’ll get your skin clean, and that’s about it. But if you’ve been suffering from dryness, dullness, or blemishes associated with not washing your face enough, it’ll take about a month of vigilant adherence to a new routine before you start seeing an improvement.
Serum: 6 to 8 Weeks
Serums are skin care-miracles in teeny-tiny bottles—but finding one that gives you the results you want can be tough, and it’s made even tougher by the fact that it takes a hot minute for those results to show up. Depending on the formula and what you’re expecting it to do, you’ll start to see results after six to eight weeks of regular use.
Retinols and Retinoids: 10 Weeks for Over-the-Counter Products; 4 to 6 Weeks for Prescription
By now you know that retinol is your skin’s best friend when it comes to busting acne, reducing scarring, and eliminating signs of aging—and one of the things we love most about it is that it doesn’t take long to see results. Though you may start peeling and getting red after the first week, you’ll start seeing positive effects relatively soon. When we tried over-the-counter retinols, we saw smoother skin after two months of use—prescription retinoids gave even faster results, revealing clearer, smoother, younger skin after only four weeks. Your results will obviously vary; make sure you talk to your dermatologist before starting (or stopping) a retinol regimen!
Eye Cream: 6 to 8 Weeks (If at All)
Your skin is thinner under your eyes than anywhere else on your body, which means it’s often the first place to show wrinkles, puffiness, and dryness. While certain eye creams can rehydrate dehydrated skin and increase firmness, beware of anything you get without a prescription that says it will get rid of dark circles or erase wrinkles forever—those are promises that no over-the-counter product can keep. If you use an eye cream as directed for eight weeks and you don’t see more moisturized under-eye skin, it’s time to ditch that specific product.
Moisturizer: Instantly, with Full Results After 2 Weeks
Everyone needs a moisturizer—yes, even if you have oily or acne-prone skin. And while you’ll feel the results of a good moisturizer as soon as it absorbs, you’ll begin seeing the results in your skin after using it consistently for one to two weeks. Goodbye to flaky, overly shiny skin—hello to a naturally plumped, soft-feeling complexion!
Dark Spot Treatments: 3 to 4 Weeks
Over-the-counter products that lighten scarring and sun spots usually contain pretty hardcore ingredients such as hydroquinone (or one of its many derivatives)—which means it should start working pretty quickly. If you don’t see results after four weeks of assiduous use, the product isn’t going to work, and you should try something else.
Acne Treatments: Anywhere from 24 Hours to 12 Weeks
There’s a lot of variation here, depending on the severity of your acne and the regimen you’re following. On the whole, over-the-counter acne products can take up to three months of dedicated use to show any improvement, if they do at all. Topical medications prescribed by your dermatologist can take up to six weeks to build up enough in your system to work, and oral medications can take two to three weeks (depending on the prescription). The only zit-zapping procedure that works right away are cortisone shots administered by your dermatologist—and even then it can take up to 24 hours for the swelling and redness to go down.
Exfoliating Brushes: 3 Weeks
We’re sorry to tell you this, but if you haven’t seen improvement in your skin after two to three weeks, your spinning exfoliating brush probably isn’t going to deliver you the complexion miracles you’re hoping for. And if your skin gets worse, this isn’t a “purge”—it’s a reaction to over-exfoliation, and you should stop using your brush immediately.
Body Moisturizers: 1 to 4 weeks
If you’re looking to reduce the effects of a skin disorder such as keratosis pilaris or to repair severely dry skin, you can expect to see results in as little as three to four weeks. If you’re looking from respite from just normally dry skin or to up the radiance of your arms and legs, look for improvement after a week of regular use.