How Long Will It Take for My Skincare to Start Working?

When Cassandra gets pimples, she often reaches for some of her acne product essentials. but how long does it take for these things to work? How long do you have to use something in order to see results? Well, some products can work instantly while others can take quite a bit of time. Let’s review a few of them.


Photocred: Dr. Sylvia skincare

Antioxidants actually start working the quickest which is why we find them in a lot of cleansers and moisturizers. Antioxidants protect against reactive oxygen species and bind to harmful free radicals so they don’t bind to your skin. This is why antioxidants need to be applied regularly. 


Photocred: Real Simple.

When we look at things like our AHAs and BHAs, they are the ones that will give the fastest improvement. But again, it still takes time. When it comes to things like salicylic acid, a BHA, it can take around 2 weeks. For AHAs like glycolic, lactic, and tartaric acid, those take around the same amount of time.

Medical studies have shown that people who start using AHAs start to see benefits around 2 weeks as well. At that point, your skin is able to absorb those AHAs and BHAs and start having them get to work on pimples. However, when it comes to pigmentation or dark spots, those take a little longer. Scars don’t disappear within two weeks, but based on the medical literature, AHAs and BHAs will still give you the most visibly immediate results.

Benzoyl Peroxide


Benzoyl peroxide is one of Cassandra’s acne-prone favorites. However, if you use too much of it, benzoyl peroxide dries out the skin so it's best to use it with a moisturizer. As for results, many people see therapeutic treatment or benefits within 2-3 weeks. 

Azelaic acid

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To truly see noticeable benefits, azelaic acid can take around 4-6 weeks to start working If you have really bad rosacea. Also to see these results within this time frame, you probably need to use a high-quality azelaic acid or prescription. When prescribed, azelaic acid is normally used for pustular rosacea, the rosacea that kind of looks like acne. It can also be used for skin discoloration and acne Moreover, azelaic is a dicarboxylic acid, and it is safe for pregnancy. 

Vitamin C and tyrosinase inhibitors

Photocred: Urban Skin Rx

How long does it take to see better benefits from vitamin C? The second you start applying it, Vitamin C works as an antioxidant. But, if you’re using vitamin C or azelaic acid to help with pigmentation or discoloration it can take 4-6 or even 8 weeks for vitamin C or other tyrosinase inhibitorsto start working on pigmentation. 

Pigment is created by melanocytes, and they create this pigment called melanin and melanin sits like umbrellas on top of our little bricks or keratinocytes that are our skin cells. As you can imagine, pigment takes time to produce, spread, and form. If we’re trying to break that down, it does take time for products to soak into the skin and get the skin to work, So, for pigmentary things, it can take much longer. This is usually in regards to things like vitamin C, azelaic acid, licorice, tranexamic acid, or alpha arbutin.


Photocred: The Skincare Edit

Retinoids are known for being a dermatologist's best friend, especially if they’re prescription. But you can get over-the-counter retinoids too. Unfortunately, OTC retinoids can take four or five months to really start working. As for prescriptions, it can take 4-5 weeks to see results. This is why dermatologists prescribe prescription retinoids and say to come back in 3 months. This is also why it’s so important to be consistent with your routine. 

Retinoids work by penetrating into the skin and binding to the specific receptors, the RAR and RxR receptors. Over time, this leads to a chain of reactions that causes the skin to produce more EGF, an epidermal growth factor. This is the signal that tells skin cells in the stratum basale to produce more of themselves. 

Once they get the signal, skin cells create more of themselves and get pushed to the top. So, even though the skin might peel upon using a retinoid, the skin is actually getting thicker. This process is beneficial for the treatment of acne and fine lines. 

If you feel a skincare product is not working, as a general rule of thumb, give it 2-3 weeks

Photocred: Skin Enhance Clinic

You need to switch things out gradually. It’s important to isolate variables too. Give your skin a few weeks to actually let your skin cells overturn themselves. 

The skin has multiple layers, and new skin cells are created in the stratum basale or the basal layer (bottom layer) of the skin. But, these new skin cells need to get pushed up all the way to the top of the skin. Then, they slough off.

That entire process on average takes 28 days. If you’re younger, using retinoids, or have a condition like psoriasis or eczema, this happens much quicker. It can happen in as little as two weeks. If you tend to be older and your skin has more collagen and elastin damage, it could take 40 days or more. That's why you need to give new skincare at least 2-3 or more to see if it's truly working.