How Long Does it Take For Skincare to Work?

When you purchase a new skincare product do you expect it to work instantly? You’re not alone. Most of us want to see results from our skincare, and if we don’t see improvements within a few applications, it’s easy to become disheartened, and to feel like we’ve wasted our money on “yet another scam”.

But you may not know that some skin care products, and ingredients, need a little longer to work. It can take weeks, and daily consistency, to see even the smallest change or improvement in our skin.

In this article, I’ll go over the most commonly asked questions about how long skincare and ingredients can take to work, and I’ll highlight some effective skincare products. 

Our Lack of Patience in Skincare 

If you’re anything like me, you want to see the skincare you’ve just purchased work almost instantly. You want to wake up looking younger, with clearer skin, and a more youthful glow. 

This is the angle marketers use when they sell you their products. But what usually happens is you wake up day after day looking no different from the day before, and you start to feel ripped off by the brand. “They lied to me!” We think.

Marketers are playing to your emotions because they know that we all want to look younger. The anti-aging market is the largest in the beauty industry, and cosmetic injections are only increasing in popularity, so it’s really no secret that we’re all chasing that fountain of youth.

The problem is, many of us want instant gratification in our skincare ritual. We want fast results. And if we don’t see them, we switch to the next product, hoping to see something work. But, let me tell you, you’re doing it wrong.

It can take weeks before we see any results in our skincare ritual, and that’s often only after using them consistently with the same combination of other products. So instead of tossing your “useless” skincare products into the trash, try them until you’ve finished the bottle, and have a little patience.

Most Asked Skincare Questions Answered

I’ve compiled a list of most asked questions about skincare and answered them for you so you can understand a little more about just how your skincare works. Let’s dive in!

How long should I give my new skincare ritual to work?

Many products may have an almost instant effect on your skin, but to see results from an entire ritual you really need to give it at least three months. This is especially true for treating conditions like hyperpigmentation.

How long should I wait to see if a skincare product is working?

When I would treat a client's skin conditions, and give them a home ritual to follow, I would always tell them to give it at least three months so that all of the different ingredients have a chance to shine. It’s also important to be using high-quality skincare products that contain minimal (or preferably zero) filler ingredients so that the potency is higher. The Ordinary and Three Ships are two brands that do skinimalist formulas best.

How long should skincare products stay on your face to work?

This varies between products, ingredients, and even formulas. But as a general rule, follow these times:


You should work a cleanser into the skin for at least 60 seconds. This gives the product enough time to work into the pores to properly cleanse and remove debris from the surface and the pores. If you’re wearing makeup, always start with an oil cleanse, and follow up with a second gentle cleanse.

Try Sunshine Dew Antioxidant Cleansing Oil + Ahoy Love Nourishing Cream Cleanser.


If you’re using a manual exfoliant I suggest exfoliating no longer than 45 seconds as this can irritate the skin and cause microtears the longer and harder you scrub. For chemical exfoliants, often there are instructions to leave on for no longer than 2-10 minutes, depending on how active the ingredients are, and how sensitive your skin feels. Use your own discretion and gauge your own skin. If it burns, remove it immediately. If your skin is very red and inflamed after removing it, discontinue using.

Try Jaipur Brightening Enzyme Mask.


There are various kinds of masks out there. Sheet masks have gained popularity in recent years for their hydration-boosting properties. However, you can’t go wrong with a good old-fashioned mud or clay mask. Most masks tell you to leave on for around 10 minutes, but some can also be slept in. For clay masks that harden, you may want to stick to 10 minutes. Mud masks can be worn for up to 20 minutes, as a general rule. To keep clay masks from drying out, you can spritz with water, as this can help the ingredients work for longer.

Try Soothe Rosehip Vitamin C Clay Mask.

How long does it take to clear up acne?

This varies from person to person, as often acne is caused by a hormonal change or imbalance. However, when you’re using one product or ritual consistently, you should start to notice improvements after four weeks.

How long does it take for acne scarring to fade?

Acne scars often start as red marks after we’ve popped a pimple or extracted blackheads, and have broken the skin. These red marks last a few weeks before turning brown and then becoming a scar. For surface scarring, including red and brown marks, can take more than six months to fade. For deeper or more visible scarring, professional treatments might be necessary to achieve results and can take a number of treatments over a few months to a few years. It’s best to see a skin specialist if you’re serious about fading your scarring.

How long before these common skincare ingredients start working:

Salicylic Acid

This common ingredient is used for reducing acne and oil from the skin’s surface. Salicylic acid works by penetrating into the pores and clearing up dead skin and bacteria that cause breakouts. It can take 6-12 weeks to see results.

Find it in the Refresh Papaya and Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a terrific skincare ingredient. It’s used for a number of reasons, like lightening hyperpigmentation and sunspots, brightening the skin’s overall complexion, and is also an antioxidant, known to protect neutralize free radicals. It can take over eight weeks to notice improvements when used consistently in a ritual.

Find it in the Dew Drops Mushroom Hyaluronic Acid + Vitamin C Serum.

Hyaluronic Acid
There aren’t many ingredients that work almost instantly. But hyaluronic acid is one. Hyaluronic acid can hold a thousand times its weight in water, drawing in moisture molecules into the skin and holding them there to plump and hydrate skin.

Find it in the Hyaluronic Acid Intense Soothing Serum


Retinol has been around for years and is known for its range of incredible properties. From minimizing signs of aging to helping with acne, this compound has been dubbed a “miracle” ingredient that is beneficial for just about every skin type (though, not suitable for sensitive skin). It takes over four weeks for the skin to see an improvement from retinol.

Find it in this natural alternative that is suitable for even the most sensitive skin, Samphire Sea Retinol Digital Serum

AHA’s can be found in fruit enzymes and is terrific for minimizing signs of aging and brightening your overall complexion. It takes about a month to see noticeable improvements in the skin.

Find it in the Hawaiian Beauty Water


If you suffer from puffy eyes and water retention, a caffeine serum or eye treatment can work wonders for you. Caffeine is known to work within hours of application, so invest in a caffeine eye serum if you often wake up with puffy eyes.

Find it in the Eye Cream with Maple and Coffee

How long does it take for chemicals to absorb into your skin?

Did you know that our skin absorbs 60-70% of everything that we put on it? It takes around 26 seconds for this to happen (1). This is why it’s important to know the ingredients in your skincare. Chemical sunscreen is the most recent product to come under fire for the chemicals that we’ve been absorbing into our systems for years. Some brands were found to have contaminated benzene, a known carcinogen, and were pulled from shelves everywhere. Use non-nano zinc oxide mineral sunscreens that sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays.

Try Eclipse Sheer Mineral Sunscreen.

How long should I leave a serum on my face before moisturizing?

The general rule here is to wait around five minutes, although some dermatologists say it doesn’t really matter. But if you have the time, you can wait a few minutes as this gives the serum ample time to absorb into the deeper layers of the skin before applying moisturizer, which acts as a barrier to seal in the serum and other products from your ritual.

Try Helios Anti-Pollution Youth Ampoule.

How long does moisturizer take to absorb?

Moisturizers are one of the last steps in a ritual and act as a “seal” to the rest of the ritual. These usually take around 30 seconds to absorb and can be followed with facial oils and sunscreen. Overall, a complete ritual can take up to 30 minutes for all products to settle into the skin, so avoid a sweaty workout straight after your ritual.

Try Face Moisturizer with Argan.

How do I know if a skincare product is working?

There are three things to look for when determining whether a skincare product has started working. 

  1. Skincare is active when using
  2. You can see visible skin improvements
  3. Skin feels more supple

If a product tingles or feels “active” when it’s on the skin, then it means that it is working. You don’t want it to burn, as burning means it’s too harsh for your skin, can be causing damage, and should be removed immediately.

If a product is working, after a few weeks you should notice visible improvements with the skin. Hyperpigmentation may be less visible, pores can appear smaller and clearer, you may have fewer fine lines, etc.

The third way to tell is to feel the skin. Press into your cheeks to feel the “plumpness”. Dehydrated skin won’t feel as “bouncy”. The skin may also feel smoother to touch.

When we start a new skincare ritual or add a new product to our current ritual, we often become impatient and want to see results quickly. But investing in our skin takes time. Hopefully, with this article, you have learned the importance of consistency. 

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to skincare.

Emma Masotti is an Australian now living in Austin, TX, and has been a trained esthetician for over 15 years. She is a sustainable skincare writer, educating and building awareness around proper skin health that doesn’t cost the earth.


Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition