How Long Does Skin Care (Really) Take to Show?

We’ve all been there: Caught up in the promised results and gushing reviews of a new skin care product, holding it in your hands when you bring it home, feeling that thrill of excitement to try it out. Doesn’t it feel like choirs of angels should be singing the first time you apply it to your face?

Of course, we know that’s not really how it works. Even though it may feel great to use, and you might find that your skin feels a little softer or looks a little brighter right away, it’s still going to take some time before you really see a difference and know for sure whether that product is right for you.


But how much time is enough?

 

While it’s tempting to product-hop in search of a fast-acting miracle solution, the truth is that many of us shortchange ourselves and waste time and money when we’re too impatient with our skin care. In general, the deeper-acting a product is, the more time you’ll need to see results.

A good rule of thumb is to give a new product or regimen 4-6 weeks before making a final decision about it—that’s about the amount of time it takes for one whole skin growth cycle. But there are factors that can affect that, too. Here are some tips about getting the most out of your trial period:

  • Consider your age. As we get into our mid- to late 40’s and beyond, skin cell turnover does slow down, so you might need to take as much as 2-3 months to see results.
  • Document your progress. Take a good close-up photo of your face at the same time of day and in the same light when you start something new and then every 2-3 weeks and compare them to see if you notice a difference. Don’t rely just on memory—it’s too easy to misremember visual details.
  • One change at a time. If you’re starting a whole new regimen of products that work together, start them at the same time. If you’re just adding one new serum, moisturizer, or treatment, try to avoid making any other changes for the next month or so. That way, you won’t get confused about which product is working for you.
  • Be consistent. Use the product as often as intended, and try not to skip it too often. One day here or there might not make a difference, but if its claims are based on daily use, you’re going to need to stick to it to really tell what your results are.
  • Use the product correctly. Sometimes, it seems like a product isn’t effective, when the truth is that we’re not using it right. Check the instructions and make sure that you’re using enough of it, that you’re using it at the right time of day (yes, it does matter!), and especially that your skin is really absorbing it, if it’s a leave-on product. Massage it in thoroughly and give it at least a few minutes to absorb before moving on to the next step in your regimen.
  • Use up the product completely. Most face care products are packaged with enough product to last about 2 months, so another good rule of thumb is that if you’re using a fresh product consistently, by the time you’ve used it up, you should know how well it works for you.
  • Consider the type of product. Cleansers, toners, and moisturizers tend to work more on the outer layers of the skin, so you may see anything from an immediate superficial difference to a change within the first couple of weeks. Treatments and serums are often formulated to penetrate more deeply, so you may need young skin to come to the surface before you see real change. Anything that affects cellular growth or stimulates production of collagen or other substances in the skin, or heals damage, may take a few months to show significant change.
  • Don’t work against the product. Pay attention to anything that may affect your skin care’s performance—for example, retinols break down quickly in sunlight and are best used at night. A product that protects against or repairs environmental damage is going to be less effective if you smoke or stay out too long in the sun.

 


 A word about samples and tester sizes

 

With all that said, then, what’s the point of getting a smaller tester size or a tiny sample packet of a skin care product?

There are actually some really good reasons to use them—just don’t expect to tell whether a product is your perfect long-term solution based on them! First and possibly most important, you’ll have enough of the product to tell whether it’s going to give you an allergic or other averse reaction. If you have sensitive skin or are prone to breakouts, this could be a real skin-saver. (Note that professional opinions are still divided about whether some skin products cause a “purge” effect where skin gets temporarily worse before it gets better, or whether any sign of reactions and breakouts is bad. In general, though, an immediate negative reaction should be taken seriously as a possible sign of allergy.)

Second, you can decide whether you like the texture, smell, and overall experience of the product. Some skin care, like ferulic acid products, can have a powerful smell that not everyone can tolerate. Other products may feel too greasy, drying, sharp, or heavy for your preference.

Third, they can make good travel or on-the-go solutions when you don’t want to carry a whole bottle or kit (like in your gym bag). Just make sure they don’t sit around long enough to expire!

Finally, you can get a feel for how much you need to use, and how to apply it properly, without wasting any of the full-size and more expensive product. Here’s a tip for making the most of a sample product that comes in a small foil packet: Use a sterile pin or needle, inserted slightly sideways, to pierce a small hole in one side of the packet. Press around the hole to squeeze out the product. Put a small piece of clear tape over the hole to protect it, and remove it next time you use the product. You may get 2-3 uses out of a packet instead of just one!


Yes, it’s hard sometimes to be patient when trying out new skin care—especially when there are so many other products and trends clamoring for your attention. But think of it this way: when you’re willing to slow down and really give a product or regimen a chance to work, you’re going to save a lot of money and frustration from trying a bunch of things that are more hype than substance, and your bathroom storage will be streamlined and elegant, not cluttered with dozens of half-used products causing you guilt and stress until you finally throw them out. And the less stressed you are, the better your skin will look and feel!

Want to make sure you always have fresh skin care products on hand so you can keep up your regular habits? Choose a SkinMedica regimen from our products and subscribe to the ones you use most often! You’ll save 20%, get free shipping on those products, and never run out.

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