Ask An Expert·3 min read

How Long Does It Take for a Skincare Routine to Show Results?

A woman applying cream to her face
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
August 29, 2023

To say that there’s a lot to choose from in the skincare world is an understatement. Just finding the right products can be overwhelming — not to mention expensive. Then, once you finally get a skincare routine down, how do you know if it’s even working? Here, Rhonda Q. Klein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Modern Dermatology, breaks down how quickly you can tell if a skincare product is doing its job. 

Featured Expert:

Rhonda Quain Klein, MD

Rhonda Quain Klein, MD - Board-certified dermatologist at Modern Dermatology

theSkimm: How long should I use a new skincare product to know if it’s working? 

Klein: “As we age, the rate at which our skin cells turn over [or regenerate] slows down. On average, a teenager's skin cells turn over about every 21–28 days, while someone in their 50s+ [has a] turnover [of] every 45–84 days. 

“Your skin cell turnover rate impacts how quickly or not you will likely see results from a new skincare product. The faster they turn over, the quicker you'll see impact. And on the flipside, the slower they turn over, the longer you'll have to wait. 

Retinols, AHAs [alpha hydroxy acids], and in-office chemical peels [and] lasers can help speed [the skin cell turnover] process up, which is why they are popular skincare staples in aging skin. They help keep healthy skin cells at the surface and dull, dead cells on the move.

“On average, you’ll start to see [a] benefit after about 30 days, but full impact would be expected closer to three to four months after regular use. There are some skincare products that show an instant effect. One that comes to mind is hyaluronic acid, which will instantly hydrate and plump up the skin. 

“Products that work at a deeper, cellular level — retinols, antioxidants, peptides, serums overall — will take longer to show their result as they impact the skin cells working their way up to the surface. Products that work at the surface, however — AHAs, physical exfoliants, mineral SPFs, moisturizers — will typically show their benefit immediately, with increased benefit over time. 

“It's the consistency of use and the skincare regimen that has the greatest impact on your skin long term. A good example of this is proper use of SPF, which … is preserving collagen and elastin and overall skin health.”

Ask an Expert is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, mental-health professional, or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. By submitting a question, you are agreeing to let theSkimm use it—in part or in full—and we may edit its answer for length and/or clarity.

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