How Long Does It Take Acne Products to Work? by Alex AliceJune 11, 2018November 12, 2020 You may not hold up a boom box blaring love songs for an acne treatment (or maybe you do, in which case please share your playlist), but the feelings that come with trying a brand new one aren’t completely unlike that of a romantic relationship: You start off hopeful and excited, with a restored sense of optimism that you’ve finally found The One. So when a product isn’t working out in the way you had hoped, it’s easy to feel depleted — but sometimes, like in life, the best thing you can do for your skin is to let it go. Unfortunately, and like Neil Sedaka could tell you, breaking up is hard to do. You want to give your acne product ample time to work its magic, but how can you know when it’s time to move on? The answer, according to dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, at Wexler Dermatology, is all in the timing: “It can take up to a week for your skin to adjust to a new acne product, and that applies to both topical and oral treatments,” she told POPSUGAR. “But adjusting to a new skincare product is different from seeing total clearance. That can take anywhere from two to six weeks.” Keep reading for a better breakdown of when, exactly, it’s appropriate to start planning that “it’s not you, it’s me” speech in your head — and when you should hold on tight, and never let go. When it’s been less than a month . . . The sense of urgency that comes with acne can feel like an internal ticking time bomb, but it’s important to lend yourself some time before making any brash decisions about treatment. “One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is that they don’t give medications a chance to work,” Dr. Fusco said. “They’ll use something for a few days or a week, and then, when they don’t see the results they expected, just stop and switch to something else.” As a general rule of thumb, she recommends giving an acne product a full 30 days before upping its strength, swapping it with another, or nixing it from your routine entirely. “If you’re on prescription-strength medications, always contact your dermatologist before you stop treatment,” Dr. Fusco said. When your skin is getting worse . . . While the whole “it gets worse before it gets better” stage of a skincare routine (better known as “purging”) is very real — and benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids can cause slight irritation and dryness at first, Dr. Fusco said — if you’re developing more acne than ever, especially in areas that were never a problem before, this is a good indicator that this particular product is not for you. When nothing is happening . . . You never want to give up on a good thing, but if it’s been at least six weeks and you’re seeing little to no improvement, it may be time to kick your acne product to the curb. “This is definitely a sign that the product isn’t working for your specific skin type,” said Dr. Fusco. A good way to keep track of your progress is by taking photos each week, so you’ll be able to closely monitor even the slightest improvement. When your acne cleared up — in just a week . . . So your skin is on the up and up? Breathe a sigh of relief, but don’t stop using the product. “Even if a patient sees a clearance within a very short period of time, it is important to continue to use your acne medications for the full month, or until your follow-up appointment with your dermatologist,” Dr. Fusco said. Bottom line: keep the course.