How Long You Need to Use New Hair- and Skin-Care Products to *Actually* See Results

Don't throw those products away just yet. Here's the lowdown on when you should notice a difference.

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When it comes to your beauty products, instant gratification is definitely something everyone wants. You just dropped bank on a fancy eye cream so it should zap all fine lines and dark circles overnight, right? But as they say, patience is a virtue. And the reality is that most hair and skin care products don't work right away — no matter what the commercials say — though there are a few exceptions that will actually deliver a quick fix.

Ahead, the real deal on how long you need to use beauty products to actually see a noticeable difference. Go ahead, mark your calendars.


You'll have to suds up more than once before you can truly tell how a new shampoo affects your strands. "Plan on using it at least seven times in a row in order to best see how it works on your hair," explains Dana Tizzio, expert stylist at Butterfly Studio Salon in NYC. "Buildup and residue from previous products can alter the hair's chemical makeup, so it takes some time for your hair to get used to a new shampoo and everything to normalize," she adds. And if your hair is damaged or overly processed and you're using a moisturizing or reparative formula, it may even take a few more washes for it to fully penetrate and smooth the hair cuticle to make your mane as soft and shiny as possible.

Try it: If you're on the hunt for a clarifying shampoo to use every other week to remove buildup and residue left behind from your products, check out Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo (Buy It, $26,, a favorite of Gina Rivera, founder of Phenix Salon Suites in Encinitas, CA. In the market for an everyday option? Look to this guide, featuring the best sulfate-free shampoos out there.

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Moroccanoil Clarifying Shampoo

clarifying shampoo moroccanoil

Hair Strengthening Treatments

Just like one heavy lifting session won't immediately leave you with ripped biceps, strength in your strands is also built up over time, says Tizzio. Exactly how long these take to work depends on the particular product and how damaged your hair is. But if you're using one regularly (at least three times a week) you should see results at about the one-month mark, she says. It takes time for the reparative ingredients (often proteins, like keratin) to fill in and strengthen broken, damaged, strands. (The one exception? Heat protectants coat the hair to safeguard it from damaging heat right away, and will leave your locks feeling and looking softer and more manageable after one use.) For a fast fix, Tizzio suggests booking an in-salon treatment. Their highly concentrated, fast-acting ingredients will likely let you see a change right away, she says.

Try It: Try any of these home hair treatments or, if your hair goals consist of seeing new hair growth, do yourself a favor and pick up Pura D'Or Hair Thinning Therapy Energizing Scalp Serum (Buy It, $20, It boasts 15 different actives that include (but are not limited to) circulation-boosting caffeine and biotin — which can strengthen the hair follicle, according to Gretchen Friese, a trichologist for BosleyMD.

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Pura D'Or Hair Thinning Therapy Energizing Scalp Serum

best hair growth serum purador

Hair Masks

The good news: "You'll notice improved softness and shine even after just one use," says Tizzio. The even better news: Incorporate a hair mask into your regular routine (using once or twice weekly instead of conditioner), and over the next month your hair will get significantly stronger and healthier. To maximize and speed up these results, be sure to squeeze out any excess water from your hair before applying the mask. "This will ensure the product goes deeper into the cuticle. If there's too much water in the hair, it keeps the mask from working as well and reduces the potential benefits," explains Tizzio.

Try it: The Amika Flash Instant Shine Mask (Buy It, $23, has been vetted by the Shape Squad, and it's *so* good that it won the "best mask" category in the 2020 Beauty Awards. Using it for just a minute helps to hydrate and seal off strands. Or get crafty and check out these DIY hair masks you can totally concoct at home.

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amika Flash Instant Shine Mask


Acne Treatment

When you're dealing with legit acne, it will take at least four to twelve weeks for any kind of topical treatment to take effect, says Chicago-based dermatologist Jordan Carqueville, M.D. "Acne is caused by oil, clogged pores, and P. acnes bacteria. It takes that long for the active ingredients to address these three factors and reduce oil, unclog pores, and eradicate the bacteria," she explains. That timeline goes for OTC treatments with common zit-zapping ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and/or salicylic acid, as well as prescription options, like retinoids. Happily, if it's just one pesky pimple that you need to get rid of, most of the over-the-counter spot treatments will work within a week to dry it out and reduce inflammation, notes Dr. Carqueville.

Try it: You don't have to break the bank for an effective acne-treatment — derms are huge fans of the CeraVe brand, found at drugstores. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., founder of Mudgil Dermatology in New York, especially loves their Salicylic Acid Cleanser (Buy It, $13,, which he says is a great option for sensitive skin types and those prone to acne, since it won't clog pores, combats breakouts, and hydrates the skin while cleansing.

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CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser


Need to make your complexion look better, like, now? Reach for an exfoliator. "Whether you choose a mechanical exfoliant that's sloughing off the dead skin cells or a chemical exfoliant that's dissolving them, you'll notice an instantaneous result," says Dr. Carqueville. Getting rid of dead, dry cells leaves skin looking fresher and more radiant right away, though, as with most things, the effects are cumulative and will only get better if you're exfoliating regularly, she adds. (

Try It: Drawn to celeb-loved skincare products? Give the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel (Buy It, $88 for 30-count, a shot. It has a cult following of A-listers — including Chrissy Teigen, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Constance Wu, and Lily Aldridge — and it's so popular that one peel is sold every three seconds.

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Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel


Here's another speedy skin saver, especially if you choose one that contains humectants (ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which draw water to the skin) and/or occlusive ingredients (things like shea butter and petrolatum that sit on top of the skin and lock in moisture), says Sue Ann Wee, M.D., of the Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC. "Both of these work fast. The humectants immediately plump and smooth the skin, while the occlusives stop water loss within hours," she explains. Many moisturizers also contain barrier repair ingredients (ceramides, sunflower oil), which strengthen the skin barrier, though these take a bit longer to work — about two to four weeks, notes Dr. Wee. To reap both the instant and long-term benefits, choose a moisturizer with all three of these types of ingredients.

Try It: Devika Icecreamwala, M.D., a dermatologist in Berkley, California, really likes Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel (Buy It, $16, if you have normal run-of-the-mill dry skin. The gel formula feels more lightweight than other moisturizers, and yet seriously hydrates and plumps skin to reduce the appearance of fine lines, thanks to hyaluronic acid, she previously told Shape.

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Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

best drugstore skincare products neutrogena hydro boost water gel


Thanks to their well-studied and well-proven effects, these vitamin-A derivatives are by far the gold standard when it comes to anti-agers...the caveat is that it takes some time to see these effects. Prescription retinoid options will take about three to six months to work, whereas weaker OTC options take closer to six, notes Dr. Wee. Within this time frame you can expect some improvement in the tone and texture of your skin, as retinoids work by thinning the stratum corneum (the top layer) of your skin. Still, for the full anti-wrinkle benefits, you'll need to diligently use a retinoid for up to year, since it takes that long for the ingredient to stimulate collagen production, points out Dr. Carqueville. But it will work, so don't ditch it just because your skin doesn't look any different overnight.

Try It: Believe it or not, you don't need a prescription from your derm when it comes to a solid retinol. Case in point: the RoC Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Anti-Aging Crème (Buy It, $19, is one of the best-selling moisturizers on Amazon and the drugstore find is constantly being raved about by skin-care junkies on the r/SkincareAddiction subreddit. (Check out more over-the-counter retinol creams here.)

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RoC Retinol Correction Max Daily Hydration Creme

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