how long for a skincare routine to work

SkinCare Routine | Why do we need one and how can you tell if it's working?

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Can you please explain why it's so important to have a skincare routine set in place?


This is a great question. It seems so obvious to many that a good skincare routine is important to have in place, but for others, they question why.  When we understand what our skin is, what is up to during the course of the day and night, and what we need it for, it’s far easier to understand why we need to care for it!


Our skin is :

  • Our largest organ
  • Our first line of defense
  • It protects us from the environment, infections, temperature variations
  • It cools our skin by sweating and flushing.
  • It is an important sensory organ


By understanding these key roles of our skin it is clear that it is a dynamic organ that is constantly changing.


As our first line of defense, our skin produces oil and sebum to protect us from outside allergens and pollutants.  This oil and sebum can build up leading to clogged pores in addition to acne.


Our skin has an immune system that is providing surveillance against bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the environment.


Our skin protects us from harmful UV rays and free radicals from cigarette smoke and other sources, but can also be susceptible to damage.



What are some key foundations of a good skincare routine?


The most important steps to a daily skincare routine are to cleanse, treat/repair, and protect the skin.


Cleansing involves helping remove excess dirt, sebum and oil, and buildup on the skin.  Generally, a simple cleanser is sufficient however some may find it helpful to add an exfoliant in at this step.


Treat/repair involves understanding if there are any challenges that your skin faces- acne, dry skin, wrinkles, etc.   These challenges can be addressed by the addition of products designed to address these factors.


Protecting the skin involves understanding the importance of keeping the skin’s barrier intact.  Moisturizing and hydrating the skin effectively is important here as is applying sunblock to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.


One of the most common questions I hear is- what exactly should I be using? And, don’t I need a serum or need a toner or need (insert current product trend)? 
The skin self care routine trend that will be far easier to maintain practically and financially is to return to the basics of skin care and add on based on particular concerns from there. 

The Basics
Cleanse and Protect = Simple Face Wash and Moisturizer with Sunscreen

The add ons and potential combo products

Anti aging: add in retinol

Anti acne: add in salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide 

More hydration: add in serum with Hyaluronic acid

Anti- oil: add in charcoal

There are plenty of other ingredients to consider and experiment a bit with inside of these categories.  However, it is important to take a step back and :
  • Understand what each ingredient actually does
  • Recognize that even though a product may include the ingredients in the label doesn’t mean they put a lot in unless listed as a percentage (could just be a ‘dash’ of retinol for example with little measurable effects)
  • Understand product claims (e.g., ‘reducing the appearance of wrinkles’ vs ‘rebuilding collagen to reverse wrinkles’)
  • Learning about fads to last and fads that take advantage of media buzz on topics, and sticking with products they will actually use is a welcome trend! 




What are signs that your current skincare routine isn't working?


There are many signs that indicate that your skincare routine isn’t working.


  1. Excess breakouts. If you keep struggling with acne and cannot seem to get a handle on it there is a good chance that you are not removing the excess oil and sebum buildup on your skin effectively.  Try working on the cleansing step of the routine to find a better option.
  2. Excess dryness that doesn’t seem to respond to moisturizers. Have you ever had dry patches around the nose and eyebrows that even when you put on moisturizers it’s flaky an hour later? This is actually an issue at the repair step.  This is an indication that you likely have seborrhea and may need to add in a product to help treat the pH of your skin or excess yeast that builds upon the skin over time.
  3. Increasing freckles and discoloration. There’s a good chance the last step of protecting your skin on a daily basis from sun exposure and also UV found in other sources is being missed.  Try to make sure your sunblock is on daily and effective!
  4. Premature fine lines and wrinkles.  Protecting your skin from the sun every single day of the year is key to prevention. Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock.
  5. Excess redness or flushing.  This is generally a sign of rosacea.  It is important to add into your routine between cleansing and protection and anti-inflammatory. Niacinamide Serum is a common over-the-counter ingredient to use.  It’s also important to make sure that the other steps in your routine are not aggravating the redness through irritation.



Read more as Dr Ilyas discusses with Hero Cosmetics Blog!

How long should you test a skincare routine before you can really gauge its effectiveness? 

To decide how long to wait before you really gauge the effectiveness of a new skincare routine, it is important to focus your perspective on why your new routine was started in the first place. 

For example, say you are dealing with lots of breakouts, discoloration, and clogged pores.   

  • Breakouts mean there is inflammation present. 
  • Discoloration implies excess pigment is deposited in the skin. 
  • Clogged pores denote a physical obstruction of the pore.

It stands to reason that if you start a new skincare routine then each of these elements needs to be addressed and assessed for progress.

  • Inflammation can take at least a couple of weeks to really settle down.
  • Discoloration can take closer to 6 to 12 weeks to fade substantially.
  • Clogged pores can also take closer to 6 to 12 weeks to physically exfoliate and reduce oil and sebum oil production that could make them recur. 


This means that although some improvement could start to be seen in the first couple of weeks, it will really be closer to 2 to 3 months before true improvement is noted.

With acne routines in particular there can be a bit of a “purge” when your skin has to get a little worse to empty out the excess oil and debris in your pores before you can finally start to see results.  


Skincare routines focused on dryness, inflammation, or flushing, then its possible that your new routine should give results quickly- perhaps as fast as a week or two - since this impact would be seen sooner.


What happens to your skin when you start a new routine? 


Our skin’s microenvironment is a delicate balance of bacteria, yeast, oils, sebum, keratin, and other elements that also dictate the pH of our skin.  When starting a new routine of any kind, this delicate balance can be disrupted.  


How about a new acne care routine?


Acne skincare routines are the most challenging to start because patience is essential.  Acne progresses through stages of clogged pores, followed by inflammation, potentially cystic changes, and hyperpigmentation.  Each of these stages is constantly in flux and takes time to clear.  I generally find that at least 6 weeks are needed to at least feel as though breakouts are subsiding with another 6 weeks or so to resolve residual hyperpigmentation.


 Why is important to use the products every day? 


I love this question because my youngest is 13 and just commented to me that every time he stops using his acne cream his acne comes back.  


I find that the biggest challenge in treating younger patients is to bring them to realize that their routine will only work if it is used - routinely!  There is an active process whereby these skincare products are treating, preventing, and managing your skin concerns.  If you stop using your products, chances are the skin will flare.  Using products with some level of consistency - daily or every other day or a few times a week- is helpful to keep things under better control.


Read more as Dr. Ilyas discusses with Hero Cosmetics Blog!

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