You use skincare to see results, but just how long does it take for skincare products to work? Should a moisturiser instantly hydrate your skin or should it take at least a week to work. Will a serum fade hyperpigmentation marks in 4 weeks... If not, should you ditch it and move on? Is a month long enough to tell? What about anti-ageing wrinkle busters? How long should you be waiting to see great skin?

3 Skincare Experts Answer: For how long should you try a skincare product, before seeing results?

In Being Savvy at Skincare by Cheryl WoodmanLeave a Comment

You use skincare to see results, but just how long does it take for skincare products to work? Should a moisturiser instantly hydrate your skin or should it take at least a week to work. Will a serum fade hyperpigmentation marks in 4 weeks… If not, should you ditch it and move on? Is a month long enough to tell? What about anti-ageing wrinkle busters? How long should you be waiting to see great skin?

Scrap the fluff. The answer to this question is key. 

It’s how you get savvy about what works for you. When you know X skincare product aimed at X skin concern should show results in X weeks, you know exactly which skincare products are destined for long-term partnership and exactly which skincare products are all looks and no chat.

So what is the answer… 1 week, 2 weeks, a month, half a year? How long should you wait before sticking or twisting? How long does it take for skincare products to work?

My friend, for this most often asked question, we turn to 3 skincare experts, each looking at skin from a different point of view.

For skin under the microscope we have Dr. Stefanie Williams – a dermatologist.

For an expert in skincare products we have Byran Barron – director of skin research at Paula’s Choice Skincare.

…and for real-life treatment of the skin we have Andy Millard – facialist and aesthetician.

You use skincare to see results, but just how long does it take for skincare products to work? Should a moisturiser instantly hydrate your skin or should it take at least a week to work. Will a serum fade hyperpigmentation marks in 4 weeks... If not, should you ditch it and move on? Is a month long enough to tell? What about anti-ageing wrinkle busters? How long should you be waiting to see great skin?

Dr. Stefanie Williams, is a practicing dermatologist and founding director of the Eudelo skin clinic in London. Before you can become a dermatologist, you have to become a doctor and to become a doctor you have to study science, meaning Dr. Stefanie, knows skin like Taylor Swift knows how to sing.

For how long should you try a skincare product, before seeing results?

Here’s what Dr. Stefanie wants you to know…

“Generally any skincare regime should be used for at least 3 months before judging it. This is especially true for anti-ageing products, where you can’t really expect true anti-ageing results before 3 months.

The reason is that changes in collagen metabolism (in the dermis) take around 3 months to happen. Prior to this, you might see other changes already such as an improvement in skin hydration, which often already happens after a few days.

Further to this, improvements in skin glow caused by increased cell turnover in the epidermis might become visible after around one month already. However, real anti-ageing benefits with increased collagen production will take 2-3 months. Of course the results will continue to improve beyond 3 months.

The only reason to stop a skincare regime earlier than 3 months might be if there are tolerance issues, for example if you react with a rash to the product, in which case you should stop immediately.”


Here are the 3 key takeaways my friend;

  1. Hydrating effects can be almost instant (1-2 days)
  2. Exfoliating effects i.e. with salicylic acid/glycolic acid can improve glow in 1 month
  3. Long lasting anti-ageing effect i.e. that promote collagen (the scaffolding of your skin) take up to and over 3 months

Dr. Stefanie makes an extremely interesting point. Some anti-ageing skincare products may appear to work more quickly than they actually do… so don’t stop using them daily if you see results you’re happy with before the 3 month mark . For example, anti-ageing skincare products often use a mix of hydrators and collagen boosters. Say something like hyaluronic acid and Vitamin C. Hyaluronic acid binds water into your skin. This instantly (within a day) and temporarily irons away fine lines, however this effect is only long-term if underlying collagen networks are boosted.

It’s like the difference between cover-up and an effective acne treatment, a good support bra and a boob job, wet wipes and a shower. Both have their purpose and both have their benefits… but it’s good to be aware which is a short term solution and which is a more permanent rival.

Now my friends, time to take a look at this question from a different view point. One which focuses on designing great skincare.

Bryan Barron is the director of skin research at Paula’s Choice… and Paula’s choice were one of the first brands to offer cosmecutical skincare solutions (aka, skincare that was active for ageing and if investigated by the right authorities would probably need a prescription to buy) without accompanying, often sensitizing fragrances. Bryan comes at this question from a different point of view. Of course he knows the biology of skin in detail, but his speciality is in the activity of skincare ingredients. Think of Bryan like a skin chef.

For how long should you try a skincare product, before seeing results?

Here’s what Byran Barron wants you to know…

“It would depend on the skin concern, the product’s effectiveness (or lack thereof) and the person’s skin type. For example, a well formulated facial moisturizer for dry skin should produce immediate results: Skin will feel softer, smoother, and protected against moisture loss. Other benefits, like redness reduction and unclogging of pores, can take time and consistent use.

Dark spots are another concern where patience is needed: A skin-lightening or brightening product should be used at least once, preferably twice, daily for at least 2 months before giving up on it.

Sunscreen is another product that won’t show instant results in terms of fewer wrinkles, spots, and sagging, it’s the ongoing, daily use that pays dividends down the road, when in the absence of daily SPF you would absolutely be seeing more advanced, stubborn signs of aging.”


Shall we grab another 3 key takeaways my friend?

  1. Combating dry skin can be achieved quickly (from day 1, with longer use showing continued results)
  2. Brightening and lightening takes time and consistent use (+2 months)
  3. Some skincare products are preventative, therefore it’s more about not seeing premature aging i.e. sunscreen

This is a great point from Bryan. Sunscreen out of all skincare products are the most effective in preventing skin damage. For you this could mean sunscreen will help keep your skin hydrated, help prevent hyperpigmentation or help defend against sun induced wrinkles (the ones which become visible years and years after the damage was caused). While you won’t have to wait before seeing results, you will be preventing the kind you don’t want. Bottom line, sunscreen is the cheapest, most effective anti-ageing cream you could invest in.

Now, the final way we’re going to take a look at our question, for how long should you try a product, before seeing results? Is from the point of view of Andy Millard, a facialist and aesthetician who works with skin day-in, day-out. He knows skin science, skincare products and most importantly, he knows what your skin complaints are, before you’ve even made them. Being an aesthetician is like covering a part of all your bases, with a lot of knowledge, a little instinct and a big dollup of intuition. Think of Andy like as the artist of your skin.

For how long should you try a skincare product, before seeing results?

Here’s what Andy Millard wants you to know…

“There are many factors to consider but it really depends on the type of product and its purpose. For example, If using a moisturising cream to relieve dry skin, then really you should see results instantly. As the main aim is obviously to hydrate the upper layers of skin, the stratum corneum. The same could be said for an enzyme or hydroxy acid exfoliant, as these products provide instant gratification and work superficially.

However if using a serum to address hyperpigmentation for example it could take up to a couple of months to really see results, due to the depth of melanin granules distributed throughout the various layers down to the basement lamina. It also depends on the quality of the serum i.e. does it contain simple exfoliants and Vitamin C, or does it contain a cocktail of different tyrosinase inhibiting / regulating ingredients.

Different ingredients work at different intervals of the melanogenesis pathways, so incorporating a sophisticated serum which inhibits enzyme activity, interferes with granule transfer, as well as providing exfoliation, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits will provide faster results than simply using an L-asbcorbic serum.

Another example would be using a Vitamin A product to address wrinkles, which can also vary based on the derivative of Vitamin A being used, the percentage available for conversion and whether its encapsulated. For example, a non-encapsulated Retinol may show ‘results’ faster than using an encapsulated Retinaldehyde, however this is partially due to line plumping as a result of irritation and inflammation, which causes swelling in the tissues and therefore the lines appear smoother as a result. Whereas the encapsulated Retinaldehyde has the capacity for greater absorption and more conversion to Retinoic Acid, therefore a better long term effect on collagen remodelling.

Other factors that may impact the length of time to see results would be the client’s age, skin type, wellbeing and also diet / lifestyle factors. You could give the same product to 10 different people and the results they get may vary. The product may be identical, but the health and capacity for healing has a huge impact on the outcome and expected results from treatment and product usage.”


You guessed it my friend, it’s takeaway time;

  1. Simple hydration should be almost instant
  2. Skin concerns which impact multiple layers of skin i.e. hyperpigmentation take +2 months to resolve
  3. How long it takes for skincare products to work depends on the type and % of active used

Takeaway no.3 is key. Imagine eating/drinking half of a kale leaf ground up into a pint of water. Now imagine eating a handful of kale leaves, with kiwi, mango and a dollop of raw almond butter whizzed up into a half pint of water. One has minimal nutrients and the other has a host. It’s an extreme example of using something like a 1% retinol or a 2% retinol. The more concentrated your skincare, the greater and sometime the quicker its effects. Although this decision isn’t just about how long it takes before seeing results from a skincare product, it’s also about the sensitivity and tolerance of your skin.


 For how long in the past have you tried a skincare product before seeing results? Tell me in the comments bellow. Still have questions? I’m here for you, drop them in the chat below…