Style & Beauty

How Long Before Your Skin-Care Routine Works?

Instant results are rare when it comes to skin care, and different products require different amounts of patience. It helps to know what to expect

By Katrina Caruso

Skin-care products make a lot of promises. Maybe you want clearer or brighter skin, or perhaps your goal is to attack fine lines, dark circles, scars, or sun spots. There’s a product that will target each issue. Some, such as Retin-A (tretinoin, for acne), are prescribed, but most are found in the aisle of a pharmacy or at a cosmetics counter; some work relatively quickly; with others, it can take a while before you see any effect. Here’s a short guide to what does what when:

  • Moisturizers:
    – For quick results, look for products containing hyaluronic acid, which can plump up the skin, giving an overall more supple effect. However, the results don’t last forever, and such items need to be used regularly.
    – Ceramides, which occur naturally in the skin, are another ingredient to watch for: they smooth out dryness by adding more lipids to the skin. You may see results in about a week.
    – Other ingredients that make a difference are retinol and vitamin C. These help to diminish fine lines and sun damage. You can expect to see results in a few months, on average, but you have use the product regularly.
  • Serums:
    Serums are more ingredient-rich than moisturizers. They are meant to be layered under cream. The ingredients that work the best (vitamin C and AHAs) are strong, but they take a while to take effect because they are changing the skin’s structure. Typically, you’ll see results four to six weeks.
  • Cleansers:
    Depending on the skin issue, you may see an immediate boost in the skin’s glow and overall look, but you’ll notice a negative effect if your cleanser is too strong for your skin (don’t use a cleanser for acne if you have dry skin, for example). Typically, the best cleansers are natural, moisturizing, and mild.
  • Masks:
    After one use, you should see some difference, but the benefits are usually short-term. That is why it’s ideal to give yourself a mask once a week. After a few months, results will be more noticeable with regular use.
  • Difficult issues:
    Hyperpigmentation and Rosacea: Don’t expect anything over-the-counter to target these. Your best bet is to visit a dermatologist for a prescription. Results may be noticeable after a few days.
    Dark circles: Topical solutions won’t solve the problem of dark circles. You can use a concealer cream or foundation to cover them, especially one with mica as an ingredient, and Vitamin K creams may do some good, but there are no clear courses of action for getting rid of dark circles.

Photo: iStock.