How Long Should I Use A Skincare Product Before Deciding If It Works Or Not?

Whenever we start using a new skincare product, and especially one that promises miraculous results, we want to see improvements already from the next day. But we have to be realistic. No product can work wonders in such a short time! But how much time should we give a product to assess its efficacy (or lack of it)? As it often happens, there isn’t a definite answer but it depends on the condition you are treating and the products you use to treat it:

The General Rule

With most skincare products, you need to wait at least a month to see some results. That’s because, as dermatologist Kenneth Beer explained in an old issue of Glamour magazine, “the complete benefit of skin creams won’t be visible until after a full cycle of skin-cell turnover to take place, at least a month”. If after that time, you don’t see any improvements at all, you can just toss the product away. And because smoking and sun exposure can affect the results you get, you should avoid both as much as possible. It goes without saying that if a product irritates your skin and gives you an allergic reaction, you should immediately stop using it.

Acne and skin lightening products

When you use a well-formulated acne product, you should be able to see a small improvement already after a week. Skin lightening products with active agents such as hydroquinone and kojic acid can begin to work in a few days, but you’ll have to wait for months for your dark spots to be considerably reduced or even completely faded. If you’ve been using these products for 3 or 4 weeks and see no noticeable results, then they will just not work for you so you can stop using them and try another treatment instead.

Antioxidants and Retinoids

Antioxidants like green tea, Vitamins C and E, and coenzyme Q10 work by fighting free radicals, which are the main cause of premature aging. However, they can’t reduce the wrinkles you already have, only prevent new ones from forming. Because of this, when you use antioxidants, you may notice that after two or three weeks your skin is brighter and softer, but it will take years to see long-term antiaging results (ie, as you grow older, you’ll notice that your skin remains younger-looking for longer). Retinoids are the only ingredients that can actually reduce wrinkles and they will begin to work after 4 weeks, but to see noticeable results, you’ll have to wait months (and while retinoids work well, they don’t erase wrinkles as well as botox does).

So be patient! Although some products begin to work sooner than others, give them all a month before deciding whether they work for you or not.

Do you usually wait that long or are you impatient?

18 Comment

    • Eli, I think after two weeks you have a good indication of how the product is going to work, if it’s gonna irritate your skin or cause a breakout. But I still prefer to wait four weeks before writing a review to make sure a product does what it promises. :)

  1. I would actually use up the whole tube even if I don’t see any improvement but would stop if I get a reaction. If a product improves my skin within two weeks I would think it is a great product. But I’ve been using a vitamin e oil as my night moisturizer for two months and I think I’m only seeing the incredible benefits now. Much clearer skin n fewer clogged pores n generally smoother skin. I feel like i need to exfoliate less often.

    • Beauty Box, I use up most products too even if they don’t do much for my skin cos I wouldn’t wanna waste them. But if you’re using a product for a particular skin condition such as acne or rosacea I don’t think it’s worth finishing it if you don’t see any improvements.

      I’m glad Vitamin E oil is working so well for. Like all antioxidants, it takes months to see some some incredible results but it’s worth it.

    • Trisha, oh no! I’m sorry to hear that! I agree that if you have a negative reaction to a product you should stop using it straight away. Otherwise, you need to give it time to work properly before deciding whether it works for you or not.

  2. Thx for this informative post! I hv been testing out a whitening serum. It’s been 2 weeks and I can already see great improvement! Taking your advice into consideration, I will definitely use it for another 2 weeks before writing the review.
    I’d like to thank you again for your posts (been reading but first time commenting) because I find them to be very well researched and informative, and I’m learning from you!
    Lily´s last blog post ..Monthend Randomness: LOVE, my declaration.My Profile

  3. I always test out skincare products for at least 28 days :) Unless, of course, my skin reacts within that time period, in which case I stop immediately and try to nurse it back to health! I didn’t know it could take years to see the results of antioxidants, although that’s not one of my concerns right now. But good to know!
    Makeup Morsels´s last blog post ..EOTD & Tutorial: DuskMy Profile

    • Makeup Morsels, that’s what I do too. And antioxidanst may seem like they’re not doing much apart from making skin softer and brighter at the beginning, but after a few years you can definitely see that you’re aging better and are keeping the wrinkles at bay for longer.

  4. I’ve learned to wait at least that long, even products that say you will see results in two weeks. Unless I’m bathing my face in acid then I think a month is reasonable.

    The only time I stop using them before is if my skin breaks out into a rash or it just doesn’t feel right.
    Annabella Freeman´s last blog post ..Does sex have to sell everything?My Profile

    • Annabella, I think with some products like acne treatments you may be able to see a slight improvement in two weeks, but even then it will take longer for the product to work properly. A month is reasonable time to see how a products work for you, I agree.

  5. I don’t really find that skincare makes much difference to my skin lol! Or maybe it’s more that I don’t pay enough attention. I tend to use whatever is in the bathroom – at the moment it’s something from the Body Shop that I LOVE – it’s a wash on, wash off cleanser. I’m usually just using something like Simple moisturiser, if/when I can be bothered. Gosh this sounds awful – should work on some proper, grown-up skincare :) I HAVE just started trying some Clarins skin-care oil – just two or three drops over any moisturiser etc late at night. Will report back in a month, if I’ve stuck with it! Get very lazy with routines – though I DO always remove makeup :)

    • Viv, you’re lucky that most skincare products work well for you. I used to only apply moisturizer every now and then when I was younger but then I started a proper daily skincare routine and my skin really benefited from it. You just need to get into the habit and then you’ll never look back. ;) In any case, remember to use a good sunscreen daily as that’s the most important product everyone needs. :)

      • At least I AM good about sunscreen – always have been really. Strange, my mother was SO not into makeup, but always always made sure I had good sunscreen! Well, I went into Boots today with all the points that I never cash in, and bought some Clinique, after a consultation to find the right type for my skin – so watch this space, it only takes three minutes morning and evening, so should be able to report improvement next month!

        • Viv, that’s great that your mother taught you the importance of sunscreen. That’s the most important product as it can prevent a lot of damage, plus some sunscreens on the market today also contain moisturizing and antioxidant ingredients too. And I can’t wait to hear how the Clinique products you bought work for you!

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