How Long Skincare Takes 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 feel like we've wasted our money — yet again.

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

This article will go over the most commonly asked questions about how long skincare and ingredients can take to work, and we'll highlight some of the most effective skincare products. 


A Lack of Patience 

Most of us want to see the skincare we've purchased work almost instantly. You want to look 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 as though they lied to you.


Marketers play 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 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, have you ever thought that maybe 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

We've compiled a list of most asked questions about skincare and answered them for you to understand a little more about just how your skincare works. 

  1. How long should I give my new skincare ritual to work?
  2. How long should I wait to see if a skincare product is working?
  3. How long should skincare products stay on your face to work?
  4. How long does it take to clear up acne?
  5. How long does it take for acne scarring to fade?
  6. How long before these common skincare ingredients start working?
  7. How long does it take for chemicals to absorb into your skin?
  8. How long should I leave a serum on my face before moisturizing?
  9. How do I know if a skincare product is working?


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

Some products almost instantly improve your skin. But for most products in a complete ritual, you need to give it at least three months. This is especially true for treating conditions like hyperpigmentation, which can often affect the skin's epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (second layer).

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

Because products we use at home are usually not as active or fast-acting as professional clinical-grade products, it's best to give it at least three months so that all of the different ingredients have a chance to shine.

It's also essential 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 have nailed skinimalist formulas.


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

It varies between products, ingredients, and even formulas. But as a general rule, follow these time-frames:



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 cleanse and remove debris from the surface and the follicles. Start with an oil cleanser and follow up with a second gentle cleanser if you're wearing makeup.


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




If you're using a manual or physical exfoliant, we 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 discretion and gauge your skin. If it burns, remove it immediately. If your skin is very red and inflamed after removing it, discontinue using it.


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 them on for around 10 minutes, but you can also sleep in some.

For clay masks that harden, 10 minutes is usually ample time. As a general rule, mud masks that stay wet can be worn for up to 20 minutes.

To keep clay masks from drying out, you can spritz them with water to 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 a hormonal change or imbalance often causes acne. 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 becoming a scar.

Surface scarring, including red and brown marks, can take more than six months to fade. For deeper or more visible scarring, professional treatments are often necessary to achieve results and take several 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 reduces acne and oil from the skin's surface. Salicylic acid penetrates the pores and clears up dead skin and bacteria that cause breakouts. It can take 6-12 weeks to see results.

You'll find it in the Refresh Papaya and Salicylic Acid Cleanser


Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a terrific skincare ingredient. It's used for several reasons, like lightening hyperpigmentation and sunspots, brightening the skin's overall complexion, and as an antioxidant known to protect and 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 help 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 remarkable properties. This compound, from minimizing signs of aging to helping with acne, is dubbed a "miracle" ingredient beneficial for just about every skin type (though not always suitable for sensitive skin). It takes over four weeks for the skin to see an improvement from retinol.

Find it in this natural alternative 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. 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 we put on it? It takes around 26 seconds for this to happen (1). This is why it's essential to know the ingredients in your skincare.

Chemical sunscreen is the most recent product to come under fire for the chemicals we've been absorbing into our systems for years. Some brands were contaminated with benzene, a known carcinogen, and were pulled from shelves everywhere.

Instead of using a chemical sunscreen that absorbs into the skin, opt for 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. They act as a "seal" to the rest of the products. 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?

When determining whether a skincare product has started working, there are three things to look for:

  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, you should notice visible improvements in the skin after a few weeks. 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 everyday 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 Jade 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 profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition