How long does a skincare product take to work?

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Hanna Ibraheem
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Five skincare products sitting in a row against a pink background

This clever Instagram post explains how long it takes for skincare ingredients, including glycolic acid, niacinamide and salicylic acid, to work before you start to see any noticeable differences in your skin.

In order to create your ideal skincare routine, there are a few factors to consider. The best place to start is determining your skin type. From here, you can pick the best skincare products according to your skin needs and create an effective morning and evening routine. But then, you may wonder: ‘how long will it take before I see a difference in my skin?’

Like many things, consistency is key and that’s why it’s a good idea to know how long each ingredient takes to get to work properly.

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“It’s important to know how long it takes for your skincare to work in order for you to set expectations and not give up on your products,” Dr Kemi Fabusiwa, junior doctor and medical director at Joyful Skin Clinic, tells “Chopping and changing from one ingredient to the next won’t give give you the desired results and can even lead to irritation.

“Patience is often the key when it comes to skincare. Be diligent with each ingredient and the rewards will come.”

To make things clear, Dr Fabusiwa created a handy infographic, in which she breaks down how long it takes for individual skincare ingredients to start working and how long it takes before you see any major improvements.

In the post, she covers the most popular ingredients in skincare at the moment: hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, niacinamide, retinols and vitamin C.

In the caption, she further breaks down the key signs to look out for in order to know your skin is improving.

Of course, these skincare ingredients are effective but Dr Fabusiwa wants people to know that they need to stick with their routines for a sufficient amount of time.

“In general, acne takes weeks to improve,” she explains. “Hyperpigmentation can take many months and scarring can take years to see improvements.

“People often give up on their skincare too early or get frustrated when they’re not seeing results. The key is to be consistent and to focus on prevention of skin problems rather than cure.”

She adds that lots of factors determine whether you’re making the most of each product.

“They include: how long you’re using the product, how much product you’re using, what time of the day you’re using your products, what other products are you using how long you’re leaving on your product and how well exfoliated your skin is,” says Dr Fabusiwa. “For instance, retinols work best at night, you should use it consistently every night and leave it on your skin for 30 minutes.”

So stick with it, you’ll see a difference, too.

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