Beauty

This is exactly how long it takes to see results from your skincare

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Chloe Burcham
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Skincare results

Ever wondered how long it takes before you actually start seeing visible results from your skincare? Here, top dermatologists reveal a timeline for some of our favourite skincare ingredients.

When it comes to beauty (or, let’s be honest, most things in life), we’re an impatient nation. We’ve become accustomed to instant results – whether it’s same-day deliveries or a quick-fix facial – we don’t really want to wait around for the things we want. 

But skincare is one of those things where instant results aren’t always possible. In fact, it can take days, weeks or even months to see the best results. 

So how do you know if your skincare routine is actually working or whether it’s time to pack in the peptides and reach for a stronger serum? We asked three skin experts to reveal how long certain ingredients actually take to work on our skin – so that you can bear this in mind, next time you’re waiting and wondering whether your skincare is actually working. 

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid products help to hydrate the skin and lock in moisture. “You should be able to see results pretty much immediately,” says consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto. “Depending on the product formulation, these hydrating and plumping effects can be ongoing for up to 12 hours.”

“For me, the key thing to look out for with hyaluronic acid is the molecular weight,” explains FRCP consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Hextall. “My favourite formulations contain multi-weight molecules. Smaller molecular weights can penetrate deeper into the skin while larger molecules sit at the surface holding moisture at all levels of the skin.”

Want to optimise the effects of your hyaluronic acid? “Apply a hydrating moisturiser on top of your hyaluronic acid to hold in this moisture,” advises Dr Hextall. “Applying a hydrating mist during the day to top up can also help.” 

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Squalane

“Similarly to hyaluronic acid, squalane can be seen to plump and hydrate the skin,” explains Dr Mahto. 

“Squalane will have an effect on skin almost immediately from an emollient point of view, helping to hydrate and protect the skin barrier. If used for several months it will start to have a benefit on unwanted pigmentation, fine lines and other signs of photoageing too,” says Dr Hextall. 

Glycolic acid

“This chemical exfoliant can give an instant boost as it can remove dead skin cells and reveal more radiant skin,” explains Dr Hextall. “In a mask form, skin can look and feel smoother and be more radiant after just a few minutes,” reveals reveals Dr AJ Sturnham, a GP specialising in dermatology. 

“In some instances however, the skin may appear slightly drier and duller-looking in the first few days after application, until the top layer exfoliates,” says Dr Hextall. “Repeated glycolic peels can stimulate collagen so there will also be longer-term benefits that may not be seen for several months.” 

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Lactic acid

“Lactic acid is part of the AHA family,” explains Dr Sturnham. “It’s a fruit acid with exfoliation properties but it also acts as a humectant, providing a boost of hydration. Skin can look brighter and more hydrated after just a few minutes post application.” 

Vitamin C

“Vitamin C is an ingredient favoured by dermatologists for its many skincare benefits,” explains Dr Hextall. “It works quickly and most individuals will notice a brightening effect within a few weeks of application.” For best results, look for formulations that combine other antioxidants within its formula – such as vitamin E and ferulic acid. “This combination of antioxidants can also increase vitamin C’s overall skin benefits.”

Vitamin C can also help to brighten skin tone and boost the production of collagen and elastin – however Dr Hextall explains that these longer-term benefits will take several months to have visible effects. 

Retinol

“The retinoid family are your gold standard superheroes in the world of skincare but they need time to achieve their potential in your skin,” explains Dr Sturnham. “They work at the epidermal (superficial) and dermal (deep) layers of your skin to activate cell renewal, fibroblasts (collagen making cells) for new collagen production and reduce pigmentation.” 

“You need to use retinol consistently to see its benefits,” suggests Dr Mahto. “Visible results should be noticeable within 8-12 weeks of regular daily use.”

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Niacinamide

“Niacinamide is a really multi-tasking active ingredient,” says Dr Hextall. “It protects the skin from UV and pollution damage, reduces inflammation, improves skin texture and helps with unwanted pigmentation.”

Dr Hextall explains that you can expect to see changes to your skin barrier function within a few weeks of using niacinamide. “By strengthening the skin barrier, it helps to reduce redness and irritation. It has a rapid calming benefit on inflamed skin.”

“Another benefit to using niacinamide is its apparent longer-term protection against external aggressors like UV rays and pollution. These benefits will start to kick in after 3-6 months of regular use.”

Salicylic acid

“Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid – meaning it’s perfect for unblocking pores and is often used as a go-to acne treatment,” explains Dr Hextall. “It penetrates deep into pores dissolving the build up of oil and dead skin cells. At higher concentrations it can also be used to give the skin a light peel effect – to help smooth post-acne blemishes and pigmentation disorders such as melasma.”

“I find that salicylic acid works very quickly for acne, with results seen as quickly as one week’s use. As with most acne treatments though, optimum results are usually seen after several weeks of use.” 

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Chloe Burcham