How Much of Each Skin Care Product Should You Use?
In the world of skin care, there’s a lot of talk about the order in which you’re supposed to apply your products (they should layer from the thinnest to thickest formula, FYI), the type of products and number of steps in our routines. But if you’ve ever tried to rub in an excessive amount of product only to be met with a pilling mess, you know that the amount of each product to use is equally as important. Skin-care serving sizes can vary from one product to another because of their texture. A single drop of oil can spread over a large area of skin, while a drop of a thick cream would only cover half the forehead.
Additionally, different skin-care products have different concentrations of active ingredients. While many of us will do whatever we can to keep our skin free of acne, hyperpigmentation, or any other ailment, it’s important to be cautious with how much product you’re using in order to avoid irritating the skin’s natural barrier. Bottom line: Using too much product can not only be ineffective and a waste of product, but actually cause skin irritation, redness, and oily residue, too.
While there’s technically no exact science behind how much of your skincare products you should be using (because we all have different skin types, face sizes, and a whole lot of other factors), we recommend the below as a barometer.
How much of each skin-care product should you use?
Pour a nickel-sized amount into your palm and massage into your skin. Using too much could dry out and irritate your skin. Remember that the squeaky-clean feeling is a no, no! While some may think that a tight face is as a sign that they’ve sufficiently cleansed their skin, it’s actually the opposite. That feeling means you’ve stripped your skin of its natural oils. When your skin is stripped of these oils, it will go into overdrive to replenish them which can lead to an overproduction of oil and an increase in breakouts. And who wants breakouts?! Learn more about this in, Facial Cleansing 101 and How to Tell if You’re Overwashing Your Face.
A few drops on a cotton pad or in your hands is more than enough! Traditional toners are liquid products that help balance the skin’s pH levels and absorb excess grease, oil and dirt. “The skin naturally has a slightly acidic pH of around 5.5, but this may become disrupted from harsh cleansers or scrubs. That is where toners come in handy.
Because serums are so emollient, all you need is a pea-sized amount. Skin serum is an essential step that should be followed after applying toner and before applying a moisturizer since they tend to be more lightweight and do not have the thickness or greasiness of a cream or lotion. Creams or lotions are heavier because they are designed to adhere to the skin to help maintain hydration, while serums usually contain other active ingredients that address a particular concern (discoloration and anti-aging are most common). These active ingredients are more concentrated and will, therefore, be a bit more potent. Because these ingredients are so concentrated, they can sometimes be more irritating to the skin. Aim for 2-3 drops on the face and neck no matter what the serum contains, as even too much of hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid can potentially clog the pores. Learn more about this in, Clogged Pores: Why You Get Them and How to Get Rid of Them.
For lotions and creams, you’ll need nickel-sized amount for only your face, but should up it to a quarter if you’re going to be including your neck (which you should be). Like serums, daytime moisturizers also vary a lot. They can be gel moisturizers for those with acneic skin or a heavier moisturizer for someone with dehydrated skin. Applying excessive moisturizer doesn’t end up efficiently hydrating your skin. The goal is to restore hydration and maintain the elasticity of the skin. A moisturizer with antioxidants will also help fight free radicals caused by the environment, which can lead to premature aging. Depending on the skin type a few drops of a gel moisturizer to a pea-sized amount of a heavier moisturizer works well.
Again, your skin will absorb as much product as it can, but the excess will only lay on top of the skin not allowing it to breathe. This can lead to clogged pores and unnecessary breakouts.
Depending on the type of mask, use anywhere from a dime- to a quarter-sized dollop—or rather, an amount that will allow you to cover your face. You should use a face mask suited for your skin type and condition once or twice per week (or as often as works best for your skin type).
Most derms and aestheticians will recommend using a chemical exfoliator over a physical scrub—there’s less risk of causing microtears in the skin. An AHA or BHA formula will gently slough off dead skin cells, buildup, and oil, and help reveal a brighter, smoother complexion. We recommend using a dime-sized amount, but if you’re applying with a cotton pad, the amount can vary. If you still prefer the feel of a scrub, stick with smaller particles, and use gentle pressure when massaging the product over your face.
Exfoliation gives the skin a beautiful radiance however, overuse of exfoliants can strip the skin of its natural barriers, causing sensitivity and irritation. If you use too little it’s a fast-track to dull skin and cellular build-up. Skin will look congested and flaky. If you use too much over-exfoliation can cause dryness, redness, irritation and stinging upon application. Stop and allow the skin to recover. Learn more about this in, 7 Important Benefits of Exfoliation.
Use a dab the size of a pea, split between both eyes. Skin thinning is most apparent for many around the eyes in this age group where the skin is the thinnest and most fragile. Eye creams aid in skin hydration and plump in this delicate area while masking under-eye darkness.
Like serums, eye creams contain highly concentrated amounts of ingredients meant to address skin conditions at a maximum level so using a very minimal amount—will produce the same effect as slathering on a ton of product. No matter which eye cream you use, the eye area is extremely delicate, so using too much eye cream will have an adverse effect and could lead to sensitive and irritated eyes. Also, using too much eye cream could result in those annoying little bumps called milia, and those are never fun.
Retinoids help promote skin cell turnover, thus evening out skin tone and smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles over time. There are various types of topical retinoids including prescription-strength tretinoin and tazarotene (Tazorac), as well as over-the-counter adapalene. The general rule of thumb for all of these retinoids is a pea-sized amount for the entire face. Despite the benefit of retinoids, with most of these products everyday use is limited by skin irritation, peeling, drying and burning. These issues are avoided with Environ Skin Care retinol products due to their Vitamin STEP-UP SYSTEM™.
If you’re using retinol products from another brand some tricks to help with tolerating retinoids include: shorter contact time (applying at dinner and washing off at bedtime), mixing with a nighttime non-comedogenic moisturizer and starting 1-2 nights weekly and increasing to nightly as tolerated. If you mix your retinol with your moisturizer, you can use a pea-sized amount of retinol with a dime-sized amount of moisturizer.
You want to apply an ample amount of sunscreen and approximately a tablespoon. It’s the number one way to protect your skin from wrinkles, pigmentation and the other signs of premature aging. Unlike the other products listed, most people don’t use enough of this because they want to avoid a white cast or feeling greasy, but if that’s the case, then that just means you’re using the wrong SPF product. Check out Environ Broad Spectrum Sunscreen—it isn’t greasy and doesn’t leave a white cast!
Using approximately a tablespoon (for your face and neck) may seem like a lot, but it’s the best way to assure that you’re getting the level of SPF promised on the bottle. Just apply the sunscreen in layers. If your face is smaller, use about a teaspoon and apply that in layers. The reason it’s such a large amount is because when companies test the effectiveness of sunscreens, they have to put about that much to achieve the sun protection factor (SPF) referenced on the packaging. So if you only apply a small amount of SPF 50 sunscreen, you may only achieve the coverage of an SPF 30 sunscreen. This is why it’s so important to reapply sunscreen throughout the day. The SPF value listed on a product is thought to only be valid or effective for 2 hours after application.
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