While some skincare products have fast results, the most impactful benefits come from long-term, continued use. Here is what to expect, and when, from your regimen.
One of the most common questions guys have about skincare products is: “How long until I see results from using this?” And it’s not that anyone is impatient, but it can be frustrating to use a product and not see results immediately. We all want that clear complexion and smooth skin, stat!
Think of skincare like a daily workout: You can feel great after one workout, and you might even see your muscles swell up momentarily, or feel “the burn” hours later. Your metabolism goes up, as do your serotonin levels. But you’re also working out for the long-term benefits: staying healthy, looking and feeling your best… and skincare should be approached in the same manner.
Oftentimes, when people buy a skincare product, they think it’s going to change everything, and that it’ll happen overnight. “If I use this moisturizer with SPF, I’ll look five years younger than my friends!” or “This product will undo all the sleepless nights and hangovers!” The good news is that there are some products that can help reduce the visual effects of last night’s restlessness or binge drinking—a dark-circle eye serum, chief among them. (It also helps prevent wrinkles long term.) And SPF moisturizers can indeed help you look five years younger than your friends—but that’s after many years of use. On a daily basis, they can prevent things like sunburns, skin cancer, and sun spots, too.
So, the first thing to do when building a skincare regimen is to set your expectations accordingly—and to frame it as “skin fitness.” Some products may offer short-term benefits, but the regimen itself plays a longer game (lifelong, that is). The idea is that you’ll build an everlasting routine, so that you enjoy results on a daily basis for the rest of your years.
That being said, here’s a general timeline of what to expect when you begin a skincare regimen.
The Sample Regimen
Level 1: Basic Skincare
For the sake of things, let’s imagine that you’re building a mid-level regimen. This will incorporate everything from the baseline regimen, which includes:
- A gentle cleanser: To remove grime and excess oil, while unclogging pores and preventing over-dryness. Used morning and night, at minimum.
- A exfoliating toner: To balance pH level and help regulate oil production. Look for one that can also help exfoliate to remove dead skin.
- An SPF moisturizer: To defend the skin from skin-aging UV rays and pollution, while providing nourishing and hydrating nutrients. Used in the morning after cleansing, and throughout the day. (SPF lasts two hours.)
- A nighttime moisturizer: To help skin rejuvenate while you sleep, by synchronizing with the body’s regenerative cycle. Applied before bed, after cleansing.
Level 2: Intermediate Steps
In addition to these core products, let’s assume you add the following “Level 2” steps.
- A daily serum or weekly hydrating mask: To seep deep into the skin and correctively smooth fine lines or reduce blemishes, while also boosting hydration and firmness.
- A daily eye serum or cream: To minimize or mitigate short-term issues (like dark circles and puffiness), while minimizing and preventing fine lines and wrinkles.
- A exfoliating agent (physical scrub or chemical serum): To lift or dissolve dead skin cells, leaving skin smoother and clearer (by preventing clogged pores and reducing rough patches).
Optionally, you might also incorporate a prescription-level retinol (like tretinoin) from your board-certified dermatologist. Applied nightly, it can significantly smooth skin, stall signs of aging, boost cellular turnover, and prevent acne. Read more about the best ingredients you can incorporate into your routine, depending on your skincare concerns, here.
The Skincare Regimen: How Long Until You See Results?
How Long Until You See Results?
Same day / Next Day benefits
If you use this regimen, you’ll notice lots of immediate results. These include more “alert” skin around the eyes, and smoother, soothed skin around the face. You can treat conditions like oily skin and excessive dryness by balancing the Level 1 cleansing and hydrating steps. The nourishing ingredients in these products work quickly to calm skin and provide hydrating, softening benefits. If you've developed a pimple overnight, you can look for pimple patches with salicylic acid and dissolvable microneedles to target your pimple at it's source.
Note, if you do use retinol (especially a prescription-strength one), you might notice slight peeling at first. This is because your skin is adjusting to the harsh ingredient, and over time it will stabilize. But there might be redness and irritation at first.
Within 3-4 Weeks
By following this regimen for a few weeks, you should start to see some of the extended benefits, in addition to those you’re experiencing on a daily basis. If you are acne-prone, then you should be seeing fewer blemishes and breakouts. If you had any dark spots or lingering acne marks, then perhaps they are starting to disappear gradually, especially with the addition of the Level 2 steps and the rejuvenating night cream from Level 1. Any sensitivities (particularly to retinol or exfoliating products) should start to ease up, too.
Your skin replenishes itself approximately every 27 days, so by giving your regimen enough time to work itself into this turnover cycle, the newer cells (which have been bolstered by your efforts) should start showing through, too. You’ll have generally brighter skin—the word many use is “radiant.” However, you still need to maintain healthy habits in order to maximize these benefits. (Like minimizing alcohol and smoking, eating healthily, staying hydrated and active, and sleeping 7-8 hours each night.)
Within 3 months
This is the general “sweet spot,” where your long-term regimen begins rewarding you with permanent results (you will need to continue using all of these products). Your skin will have replenished itself a few times over so the corrective products like night creams, serums/masks, eye products, and retinol will have provided noticeable boosts to your overall appearance. Plus, the continued use of the daily SPF moisturizer and cleanser, and weekly exfoliator, will have provided significant benefits in terms of protecting the skin against outside threats, and mitigating breakouts. This is also the period where nightly retinol use really expresses itself in your complexion: Smoother and firmer skin, smaller pore appearance, balanced oil levels, lessened acne, fewer dark spots...the benefits pile on.
Again: Continued use is imperative to keep these results. Skin fitness is a lifelong game, and a habit to build and maintain—exactly like maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle.
Citing the long-long-long term benefits of a skincare regimen is sometimes like congratulating someone for avoiding a big mistake. You don’t see the results of the mistake—in this case, tired-looking, plus sun- and pollution-aged skin. But you might notice that your friends appear to be “aging less gracefully” than you, by contrast. And that’s when you can reveal the big secret to them: Those things that seem so trivial, like daily applications of SPF and eye creams and retinols, provide far more benefits than just the same-day/overnight results that so many expect. It’s truly an investment in yourself.