Derm DMs: How Much of Each Skincare Product Should I Be Applying?

October 05, 2021
Mary Honkus
By: Mary Honkus | by L'Oréal
Derm DMs: How Much of Each Skincare Product Should I Be Applying?

When it comes to applying your skincare, there are a few rules you should follow to ensure your products work to the best of their abilities. You need to layer your skincare in a specific order, choose products that are suitable for your skin type and apply the adequate amount of each. But how much of each product is the right amount? The optimal skincare serving size goes way beyond just how much cleanser, serum or moisturizer you should apply. To break down everything you need to consider before slathering an excessive amount of product all over your face, we spoke to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and expert, Dr. Hadley King. Below she talks about various factors to look at — including texture and ingredient composition.

Why Texture matters

We could explain the optimal amount of each product you should be applying to your face (and we will!), but there are other factors that help determine that, like texture. Take face oils for example: you really only need to dispense one drop because oils naturally have a thinner, liquid-y consistency, which makes them easy to spread over a large area. “Oils spread easily and small amounts can be used to cover an entire area,” says Dr. King

Similarly, you’ll want to use a minimal amount of heavy moisturizers. Thicker creams, like the L’Oréal Paris Collagen Moisture Filler Day/Night Cream, are often packed with occlusive properties which are designed to create a protective seal over the skin to lock in hydration rather than immediately absorbing into the skin. “The more occlusive properties of a product, the less you need because it won't absorb as quickly,” Dr. King explains. 

L’Oréal Paris Collagen Moisture Filler Day/Night Cream

Why Ingredients Matter

You also want to consider whether your skincare product has any ingredients that can potentially be irritating — like retinol. “It is generally recommended to use a pea-size amount of a topical retinoid,” says Dr. King. “This is a sufficient amount to be effective, while minimizing skin irritation.” Using this amount is especially recommended if you’re new to retinol. It’s also a good idea to start with a product that has a low concentration of retinol. The Kiehl’s Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum contains a very minimal (yet effective) amount of retinol and is formulated with ceramides and peptides to promote gentle skin surface turnover so you’re less likely to feel irritated. The same rules apply for products with vitamin C — start with a pea-sized amount and increase only once your skin has gotten used to the ingredient. 

How to Tell if You’re Using too Little (or too Much) Product 

To avoid adverse reactions and ensure that you’re reaping the full benefits of your products, it’s imperative to avoid using too little as well too much. According to Dr. King, an obvious sign that you’re not using enough product is when you’re not able to fully cover the area you're focusing on. Digging a little deeper, if you’re still experiencing dryness or redness after using a hydrating product, it can also be a sign you should be using more. 

On the other hand, the telltale sign that you’re using too much product is “if you are left with a significant residue that does not absorb into your skin,” says Dr. King. When this happens, the product can clog your pores and potentially lead to breakouts and irritation. 

How Much of Each Skincare Product to Use

There are a variety of technical terms that dermatologists often use to describe how much of each skincare product you should apply to your face, but to make things a bit more understandable, compare the optimal amounts to the sizes of U.S. coins — particularly dimes and nickels. 

For cleansers, facial exfoliators and moisturizers, Dr. King recommends applying a dime-to-nickel-sized amount to your face. When it comes to toners, serums and eye creams, the optimal amount is no bigger than a dime-sized dollop. 

For sunscreen, a nickel-sized amount is the minimum for your face. “Most people only apply 25 to 50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen,” says Dr. King. “You need to apply one ounce — enough to fill a shot glass — to the exposed areas of the face and body; a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone.”

Design: Hannah Packer

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