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Today, I'm tackling one of my most-asked questions on social media: how long should it take to see real results with your skincare products? It's not a simple question, but there are a few rules of thumb I use that have helped me along the way and will hopefully give you some clarity on the matter...
First, let's talk about cleansers. The job of the cleanser is to clean the skin and you're looking for a texture that suits your skin type; generally, if you're dry, a cream or milk will work best and oily skin responds well to gel formulas. You want your skin to feel clean, with no excess or residue on the surface and you definitely need a formula that doesn't dry out your skin. In terms of these basic functions, I personally think you will know if a cleanser isn't for you within the first couple of uses, so I'm going to say immediately for this product type. For example, I recently tried the much-hyped Allies of Skin Molecular Silk Amino Hydrating Cleanser | £39 | and from my first use, I noticed it made my skin feel tight, uncomfortable and dry. I decided to continue with it for a few more days (just to be sure it was the cleanser, I suppose), but the dryness got worse and I had to abandon it. One area in which you should give a cleanser longer to deliver is where the formula incorporates active ingredients. Personally, I find actives work best for me in leave-on products, but there are still cleansers with Vitamin C, acids or retinol in them that can give you a mild hit of the ingredient. If you're looking to see results relating to those ingredients, as opposed to a product that just cleanses the skin; give it a minimum of 30 days.
When it comes to moisturisers, oils and eye creams, I find it takes a little longer to figure out if something is working for me. I stick to the 30 day rule when it comes to active ingredients in moisturising products - for example the Wildsmith Active Repair Copper Peptide Cream* | £100 - however, for a formula that's designed to provide basic moisture, I find two weeks tends to be enough for me. The reason I wouldn't form an opinion too quickly is that issues relating to the richness of the texture may not be immediately apparent. Recently I tried a gel moisturiser that wasn't enough for my skin at all, and I didn't need to use it more than once to figure this out! However, the other way round is difficult; that squalane-based cream that looks like it's giving you a gorgeous glow could be too rich for your skin and it may take a couple of weeks for milia, breakouts and bumpy skin as a result of excess oils to appear. Therefore, I caution against declaring your love for a new moisturiser, oil or eye cream too soon!
For serums and treatments, I think you need to give a product a good 4-6 weeks to figure out if it's for you. On the lower end of this scale, I place moisturising and hydrating products, given they should provide some immediate relief and are highly unlikely to cause irritation. When it comes to certain active treatments and serums, you might find that even 2-3 weeks into using a product; it doesn't seem to be doing a great deal, however some ingredients (Vitamin C and niacinamide are very much like this for me personally) take a while to kick in. I used the Summer Fridays CC Me Vitamin C Serum | £57 | full review | for weeks before it started to work for me, and when it did kick in; it became my favourite Vitamin C! If I'd just given up a few weeks in, I'd never have experienced such amazing results in terms of reducing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. However, remember: it's important not to push through if your skin is irritated or reacting. A little bit of tingling is normal for some ingredients, particularly if you've gone for a high-concentration formula, however itching, burning and redness that doesn't disappear quickly, isn't.
Finally, let's get into toners and exfoliators. A hydrating toner is designed to offer immediate moisture and softer skin, so you should be able to tell quickly if it's doing it for you or not. However, many people use exfoliating toners and the effects of this are really twofold. After use, you are likely to experience an immediate glow boost as a result of removing dead cells from the surface of your skin. The skin will feel softer and smoother, too. Exfoliators have another purpose, though, which is to even out the texture and tone of your skin, fading areas of hyperpigmentation. I feel it takes at least 4 weeks to see these sorts of results, so if your exfoliating ingredient, its intensity and your regularity of application are all working for you, give it at least a month before expecting to see these results.
Overall, skincare is incredibly personal and I'm definitely learning that product-hopping every week isn't the way to go. It's a delicate balance between giving your skin what it's asking for in the moment and not creating problems for yourself by changing your routine constantly. If I'm testing an active product; I give it a month, and quite often I'll stick to certain ingredients but try out a new version or brand for it each time I use it up. I often see on platforms like Instagram that there's a real pressure to post a new skincare routine on a daily basis, and I think this approach prevents us from using products consistently and really reaping those benefits. However, I personally think it's important to stick to a routine if you want to see results, as well as to figure out what's not working for you (if you introduce 5 new products all at once and have a reaction, how are you supposed to know what's causing it?) I appreciate that a lot of brands might see me as slow to review and share products, but I believe in this system and won't be using a new serum every week in order to appease PRs! I also think it's good to show everyone reading and following that it's fine to stick to your tried and true favourites.
Do you agree or disagree with any of my conclusions? Which ingredients and products do you find take the longest to see results with?