How Much of Each Skincare Product Should I Apply?

June 11, 2024
Writer for
By: Jamie Allison Sanders | by L'Oréal
How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

When it comes to applying your skincare, there’s more to it than using the right products: equally important is knowing how much skincare product to use. Dollop, dime size, pea or quarter—it all depends on the product at hand (or on your face, as it were). We spoke to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and expert, Dr. Hadley King, to break down everything you need to consider before layering on your skincare products. Keep reading to find out more.

Consider the Texture and Ingredients of Each Skincare Product

We could break down how much skincare product to use (and we will!), but there are other factors to keep in mind, too. Namely, texture—in general, the thinner a product is, the less you’ll need to use, since they spread so easily. “Small amounts can be used to cover an entire area,” explains Dr. King. You should also go light with heavy or rich products—like overnight masks—since occlusive ingredients, like petrolatum, aren’t readily absorbed into the skin. A heavy application could leave your face feeling greasy.

Ingredients matter, too. Keep in mind that potentially irritating ingredients, like retinol or vitamin C, should be used sparingly—especially if you haven’t used them before. “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.” Once your skin becomes used to the ingredient, you can increase how much you use. (And for those wondering “what is a pea-sized amount?”, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a dollop roughly the size of an English pea).

How Much Skincare Product To Use in Each Step of Your Routine

Dermatologists often use a variety of technical terms to describe how much skincare product to use. If we’re being honest, though, those terms may not be the easiest to understand. Instead, it can be helpful to think about the sizes of U.S. coins, especially dimes and nickels.

A standard skincare routine includes cleanser, serum, moisturizer, eye cream, and sunscreen. Depending on your skin type or skin concerns, you can also add products like toner, face oil, or a retinoid. Here’s the breakdown of how much of each skincare product to use.

1. Cleanser

Regardless of your skin type or concerns, your skincare routine should always begin with a thorough cleanse. And while using the right cleanser amount is important, it’s not as strict a guideline as other skincare products in your routine. Dr. King says that when patients ask her “how much cleanser should I use?” she typically reccommends aiming for a dime-to-nickel sized amount, depending on the formula’s consistency.

You can also take a look at the instructions on the product’s packaging to get a clearer idea of how much to use. For a gel cleanser like the Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser, one to two pumps—roughly a nickel-sized amount—is ideal. If you’re using an oil-based cleanser, you may be able to use a bit less.

How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

2. Toner and essence

Knowing how much skincare product to use includes liquids like toners, essences, and micellar waters, too. Generally, Dr. King recommends using no more than a dime-sized amount of product. Granted, liquids can be a bit tricky to eyeball, especially if you’re pouring them onto a cotton round or reusable cloth first. For a more controlled usage, we recommend skipping the cotton round and simply pouring a dime-sized amount of your favorite facial toner (we love Thayer’s Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Facial Toner) onto your hands, then gently patting it onto your skin.

How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

3. Serum

When it comes to figuring out how much serum to use, a little goes a long way. A dime-sized dollop is enough to cover your face, neck, and chest. You can also use a dropper to disperse a few drops across your forehead, cheeks, and chin, and then massage into the skin. Try a serum like Youth To The People Superfood Skin Drip Smooth + Glow Serum to help strengthen and replenish skin for a dewy, lit-from-within glow.

How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

4. Face oil

As we mentioned earlier, face oil’s thinner, liquid-y texture helps it spread more easily, so not much is needed to cover the entire face. Start with one or two drops, and gently massage into the skin. It’s also a good idea to seek out a lightweight formula to avoid an unpleasant greasy feel. We love Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate Moisturizing Face Oil Serum, as it boasts a light texture and absorbs easily to leave skin feeling soft, supple, and hydrated.

How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

5. Moisturizer

If you’ve been asking yourself, “How much moisturizer should I use?” the answer is simple.

For lighter-weight lotions and creams, like the CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 30, Dr. King recommends using anywhere from a dime- to nickel-sized amount, which should be enough to completely hydrate and nourish the skin. This goes for how much night cream to use, too, unless it’s an incredibly rich formula, in which case, less is more.

How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

6. Eye cream

The skin around your eyes is thinner and more delicate than the skin on the rest of your body—and, as such, it needs a little extra TLC. Dr. King recommends applying a dime-sized amount of eye cream, although you may be able to get away with a pea-sized amount, too. To apply, tap in lightly with your ring finger so you don’t stretch, pull, or tug at the skin. Or, use an eye cream with a built-in applicator, like the SkinBetter Science Instant Effect Gel Eye, which boasts a steel roller ball applicator that helps massage the skin around your eyes.

How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

7. Sunscreen

We’re sure you know this already, but just in case—you should never, ever (ever) skip sunscreen. Cloudy, rainy, sunny, indoors or out, it’s beyond important to protect yourself from harmful UV rays with a daily sunscreen like SkinCeuticals Daily Soothing UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50. When it comes to applying the right amount of sunscreen, Dr. King says a nickel-sized amount is the minimum. “Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen,” she adds. “You need to apply one ounce—enough to fill a shot glass—to the exposed areas of the face and body, [and] a nickel-sized dollop to the face.”

How Much Skincare Product To Use for Each Step in Your Routine

Signs You’re Using Too Much (Or Too Little) of a Skincare Product

To make sure you’re reaping the full benefits of the products in your routine, it’s important to make sure you know how much of each skincare product to use—which goes for too little as well as 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 intended area. Additionally, if you’re experiencing dryness or redness after using a hydrating product, that may be a sign for you to use more.

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

Next Up: Our Favorite Skincare Tips for Healthy-Looking, Glowing Skin

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