Ask Grace: How Long Does It Take For Skincare To Work?

Hi Grace, 

I’ve only just started to get into skincare, and I’ve started using ingredients like vitamin C and retinol to help with pigmentation and spots. I know that change doesn’t happen overnight, but how long will it take before I start to see some improvements? 

Jake, 21 

There isn’t really a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, because it all depends on the type of product, the ingredients in it, and on your individual skin. On average, it takes 28 days for skin cells to turn over, which means that for any long-term results – like reducing breakouts or clearing pigmentation – it’s going to take at least a month before you see any changes. With pigmentation, the smaller the mark, the quicker it will heal, but larger, deeper ones will take longer. With breakouts, the root problem is often deep within the skin, which means it can take ingredients much longer to target the source of the issue.  

Of course, some products and ingredients work quite quickly. A cleanser, for example will (or should!) do its job (cleansing your skin) instantly, but as part of an acne or dry skin targeting routine, it will take longer to see any transformative effects it might have on nourishing your skin and preventing breakouts. Likewise, products like scrubs or exfoliating masks will make skin instantly smoother and brighter but will take more time to have any impact on pigmentation. Face masks are the quick fixers of the skincare world, but don’t rely on them for long-term results. They’re a great way to supplement your skincare routine, but it’s the products you use every day that will help you to achieve your skin goals. 

Moisturisers will also have some immediate but temporary effect when it comes to smoothing and softening skin (especially if they contain hyaluronic acid), but in terms of boosting long-term hydration, it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. Serums are the real long burners because they are usually used to target deep-rooted concerns like breakouts, pigmentation, fine lines, so typically will take at least six to eight weeks to have any impact. As for products that contain retinoids, peptides, or vitamin C, these work on a cellular level and can take up to three or four months to show results. 

You’re right, change doesn’t happen overnight, and keeping that in mind is one of the most important things to remember when you kickstart a new skincare journey. Patience and consistency are key, and good things come to those who wait! Don’t give up on a product just because you haven’t yet seen results (unless it’s causing you irritation or sensitivity) and stick with anything new for at least a month. Remember also that some changes will be subtle and will happen so gradually that you might not notice results on a day-to-day basis – try snapping progess pics so you can compare a before and after once the product is used up. Chances are it will have had more impact than you might have thought! 

Try these...

If you have a question for our resident beauty editor and esthetician Grace Day, tweet us at @beautybay using the hashtag #AskGrace for a chance to be featured.