There’s a reason that beauty experts swear by sticking to a skincare routine for at least a month, and recommend not introducing new ingredients and products prematurely like it’s NBD. Because healthy, young skin is on a 28-day cycle (meaning that’s typically how long it takes for skin cells to mature, move up, then slough off the surface naturally), a month is a realistic timeframe to see a change from proven ingredients and formulations.
And that’s why scientists at Olay usually have women test-drive products over the course of four weeks. “It’s long enough that they can see results and get to the bottom of the jar,” says Olay Principal Scientist Dr. Frauke Neuser.
We asked dermatologists and skin experts to map out a 28-day plan. The goal: Achieve gorgeous, clear, down-right-amazing skin without the guesswork (and dropping crazy cash in the process). Here’s what you need to know.
Spend week one resetting your skin, suggests New York City dermatologist Sejal Shah. “You want to reassess what you’re doing right and try to fix the mistakes,” she says. “Get rid of all the extra products you don’t need and master skincare basics.”
Focus on your face washing skills. “I know how to wash my face!” is what you’re likely thinking, but according to Shah, you’re probably not doing a great job 90 percent of the time. Optimizing your face washing technique is so important because it creates the right environment for all the skincare products that come next.
“You have to take the time to thoroughly wash your face every day, especially at the end of the day to get all the makeup and all [the stuff] you’ve come in contact with during the day,” she says. Of course, gentleness is key, so avoid harsh scrubs and drying ingredients and opt for formulas also laced with hydrating ingredients such as glycerin and grape seed extract. (We like Olay Daily Facials 5-in-1 Cleansing Cloths.)
Make moisturizer in the a.m and p.m a must. You can buy a slew of super chic bottles of who-knows-what skincare, but the bottom line is this: If your skin isn’t hydrated 24/7, it simply isn’t going to live its best life.
Look for mega hydrators that increase your skin’s water content but also ingredients that bolster its ability to hold on to moisture, too. For example, glycerin as well as hyaluronic acid are powerful humectants, which means they attract water, and niacinamide is a form of vitamin B that strengthens skin, making it able to retain H20 and therefore, remain plump and dewy. (We like Olay Regenerist Whip Fragrance-Free, which also contains skin smoothing peptides along with moisture-boosting glycerin.) “I also like ceramides, which are natural lipids found in skin that you start to lose with age and the colder months,” explains Yunyoung Claire Chang, a dermatologist in New York City.
The best part? Choose a stellar face cream and you’ll see results IRL fast. “You can notice an increase in hydration even after one use of a good moisturizer,” says Dr. Neuser. “Hydration is an immediate effect, especially if your skin is slightly dehydrated. We can see and measure results just 10 minutes after applying a powerful moisturizer like Olay Total Effects Whip Fragrance-Free SPF 25 and we continue to see the effect 12 to 14 hours later.”
Okay, you’ve got the basics down. Now it’s time to “start incorporating some of the products and ingredients that are going to really ignite change,” says Shah.
Eye-specific treatments are your new BFF. The skin around your eyes lacks sebaceous glands, so it’s almost always dry and doesn’t have a ton of collagen and elastin (the fibers that help keep skin smooth and plump). Then, factor in that the average person blinks 10,000 times a day and, well, no wonder it’s the first place noticeable lines pop up. “This is where you’re going to see signs of aging first—whether that’s puffiness, dryness, crows feet, or under-eye wrinkles,” says Dr. Neuser.
According to Olay research, caring for the skin around your eyes is super important because it legit can look and act significantly older than the skin on the rest of your face. In one study, scientists took a small skin biopsy from around the eye of 35-year-old woman, then another biopsy from a different part of her face. The result: The skin cells from her cheek biologically matched her real age. But the skin around her eyes? It seemed to be more like the skin from a 59-year old.
“This study confirmed that, biologically speaking, the under-eye skin is the oldest skin on your face,” Dr. Neuser explains. But you can turn back the clock on this area: “Using a good eye cream consistently for four weeks can really make a difference,” she notes. And be heavy handed when you apply it. “Usually the under-eye area doesn’t get enough product,” Dr. Neuser notes. Her recommendation: “Spend 30 seconds every morning and evening.”
Choose a texture that gives you all the feels (a true cream such as Olay Eyes Brightening Eye Cream or a light gel like Olay Eyes Deep Hydrating Eye Gel), but always look for multi-benefits and a range of proven anti-agers. Think glycerin to quickly smooth and plump lines, as well as hydrate over time; niacinamide to strengthen this thin skin; vitamin C and E to protect; and circulation boosters and pigment minimizers so you look bright-eyed every a.m.
Sunscreen and antioxidants are the secret heroes of your skincare routine. Chang suggests using products that contain antioxidants to help reverse damage that’s happening every day. “Niacinamide is a powerful antioxidant that helps repair skin from damage and remove free radicals,” she notes.
All experts interviewed swore up and down about the importance of applying a broad spectrum sunscreen every morning (rain or shine!) to minimize pigment production, prevent collagen degradation, and protect skin overall in the short and long term. Try a super light face cream that contains a minimum of SPF 25, as well as antioxidants and powerful moisturizers in an easy all-in-one formula. (We like Olay Total Effects Whip Fragrance-Free SPF 25.)
Now is the time to treat specific skin concerns that you currently see in the mirror or want to prevent from seeing in your near future. From clogged pores to dullness and more, there’s a way to get it all under control.
Multi-mask weekly. Shah recommends giving different areas of your face the love they need. Look for mask formulations meant to clean out pores and help rev cell turnover like those that contain kaolin clay, charcoal, and other healthy skin ingredients. (Try Olay Masks Pore Detox Black Charcoal Clay Stick and Olay Masks Glow Boost White Charcoal Clay Stick, which contain skin-softening glycerin so they glide on easily and don’t feel tight on skin.) “I have a lot of patients who complain of clogged pores, blackheads, and enlarged pores,” says Chang. “I tell them that pores are a natural part of your skin anatomy and there’s no way to completely get rid of them—but, that the goal is to unclog them and minimize their appearance.”
The biggest causes of large pores: dirt, oil, and build up from dead skin cells. The golden rule to getting an Instagram filter-worthy complexion naturally: hands off. Squeezing skin to manually extract gunk can lead to harming the skin and may even leave a scar. The second rule: Use products that naturally break down clogs and clean out pores to make them look as tiny as possible. (This is where charcoal and kaolin clay come in.)
Layer products for more beauty benefits. Get extra hydration with moisture-boosting essences and facial mists. Natural botanicals such as bergamot, chamomile, lavender, or aloe leaf extract, as well as skin-softening ingredients like glycerin laced into a water-based essence can instantly refresh skin and take your daily moisturizer to the next level, too. (Try Olay Mist Ultimate Hydration Essence with Aloe Leaf and Chamomile Extract or Olay Mist Ultimate Hydration Essence with Vitamin C and Bergamot.)
You’re doing all the right things when it comes to your skincare (keep it up!). If you haven’t done so already, be mindful that amazing skin requires a 360-approach, so make healthy tweaks outside of your skincare routine, too.
Channel your inner fit-fluencer. Tiny tweaks—cauliflower pizza crust, a green juice instead of a soda, and putting down your phone for a few before bed—will all greatly impact how you look and feel.
After surveying approximately 150,000 women, research by Olay proves the mind-body connection when it comes to skin is legit. Those that claimed to maintain a positive outlook on life most of the time were 30 percent more likely to look significantly younger than other women the same age who did not have this approach.
Remain committed to proven products. The last seven days of your 4-week commitment is a pivotal time when it comes to your skincare, explains Dr. Neuser. “This is when women will really see results around the eyes—they have told us that that after using Olay Eyes Brightening Eye Cream, that the area is smoother, crow’s feet are diminished, and dark circles and puffiness is reduced,” she notes.
Another reason to stick to the same skincare products: a change in skin tone and texture as well as pore size. “Now is when the overall effect of an effective cream—like Olay Regenerist Whip Fragrance-Free or Olay Total Effects Whip Fragrance-Free SPF 25—will be the most significant,” she explains. “Women tell us, ‘My skin texture looks better’ and also usually specifically mention pores—they’ll say, ‘My pores appear smaller.”