How Long It Really Takes to See Results from Your Acne Treatments

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When acne rears its ugly head, you want to get rid of it fast, so it’s important to know just how quickly your products and treatments get to work to clear up your skin. Just like moisturizers and firming treatments, the type of acne you have and the ingredients you use to get rid of it play a big role in when you’ll see results. We asked dermatologist and founder of VMV Hypoallergenics, Dr. Vermén Verallo-Rowell, when we can expect acne products to start working.

Benzoyl Peroxide Products
For lotions and creams with benzoyl peroxide and other antimicrobials, the onset of the acne drying happens in about one to two weeks. “The treatment has to be continued for several more weeks or months, depending on the severity of the acne. Ask your doctor if you have P. acne, a bacterium that grows deep inside of pores that can reside in the follicle and on the surface of the skin, because that may affect the success of these lotions and creams,” says Dr. Verallo-Rowell.

Retinol, AHA, or Salicylic Acid Products
Lotion and creams with exfoliants like retinoids (retinoic acid or retinol), alphahydroxy acids (glycolic and mandelic, among others), and betahydroxy acid (salicylic acid) are best to use if your acne is comedonal, meaning mostly whitehead- and blackhead-type acne. “And, as long as the external cause of the comedones is removed, the onset of the comedonal plugs flattening and exfoliating the acne will occur within one to two weeks,” says Dr. Verallo-Rowell. Just like benzoyl peroxide products, this treatment needs to be continued for several weeks or months depending on the severity of the acne.

Spot Treatments
Waking up with a big whitehead is a sure way to ruin your day. Everyone knows an acne spot treatment is an effective and necessary beauty product. All ingredients mentioned above can also be found in spot treatments. “The results with these products are much faster than other treatments because they generally have higher concentrations of actives,” says Dr. Verallo-Rowell. “Make sure to only apply to acne spots, as the high concentration of actives may irritate acne-free skin.”

Oral Medications
Lotions and creams don’t work for everyone. Another alternative is oral medication, which would be a prescription antibiotic like Isotretinoin. “The onset of dryness is about one to two weeks, but the medicine will need to be continued for several more months to sustain the immediately visible effects,” explains Dr. Verallo-Rowell. Some hormonal acne is best treated with birth control pills. “Because birth control pills need a month to regulate your hormones and body, the pills require at least a month before you start seeing progress with your acne.”

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