How Many Skincare Products Can You Use?

by Gio

how many skincare products is it safe to use

How many skincare products can you use in your skincare routine before your skin says “enough is enough”?

In the old days, it was just cleanse, tone and moisturise. But in the past couple of years, I’ve seen women’s skincare routines get out of control.

Korean skincare encourages you to use 10+ products morning and night. The Ordinary gives you powerful actives at cheap prices – but only one per bottle. If you want to get them all, you’ll end up slathering 30 serums on your skin.

Why not? Isn’t more the merrier?

Not always. If you’ve got super dry skin, using 3 or 4 moisturising products may help you heal it faster. But using 3 exfoliants in the same skincare routine like I’ve seen women do more and more often? That’s asking for irritation.

But how do you know what the limit is? Here’s how many skincare products it’s safe to use:

How Many Skincare Products Should You Use?

Well, there really isn’t a definite number. That’d be too easy, wouldn’t it?

The truth is, it’s not a matter of how many skincare products you can use, but it’s how many layers of them your skin can tolerate.

It's not a matter of how many skincare products you can use, but of how many layers of them skin can tolerate.Click to Tweet

You see, to function, feel, and look its best, skin needs more than just one ingredient. It needs:

Just to be clear, YOUR skin DOESN’T need all of them. Sure, everyone can use emollients, antioxidants and UV filters. But skin-lighteners? They’re only for you if you need to fade dark spots.

I can’t stress this enough: it’s NOT about using every IT product of the moment. It’s about figuring out what YOUR skincare woes are and finding products can that fix them.

If you’re dealing with several problems – let’s say wrinkles and acne – look for multitasking products that can deal with both.

Sure, you could spend hours debating whether you need The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic 3%, The Ordinary EUK 134.1% or The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% and then decide that – what the heck – you’re gonna get them all.

Or just go for a Paula’s Choice antioxidant serum that already has 10+ antioxidants.  Your choice.

My point is: listen to your skin, not to marketing hype. Bring it extra products when your skin needs it, not when the same skincare product pops up all over your Instagram feed (if that’s what’s happening, the brand’s paying for the advertisiment).

It’s The Texture, Not The Number, Of Products That Can Cause Problems

Having said that, there IS a limit to the amounts of products you can use. But, this limit is not set at a specific number. It’s not like you can use 10 products without problems, but when you add the 11th, all hell breaks loose.

You can use 5 products and have all hell break loose if they all have rich textures. Rich textures are very moisturizing, but, they can also clog pores and create a barrier that prevents anything you apply next from penetrating into the skin. That’s why, as a rule, you apply heavily-textured products last and lightly-textured products first.

If you plan to use a ton of products, they’d better have a lightweight texture. That’s why the Korean skincare routine works so well. Korean women may use 10+ products, but they’re all so lightweight, so they can penetrate skin easily without leaving a greasy residue behind.

But, Western products usually have richer and creamier textures. So, how do you know when you’ve reached your limit? “When one product just doesn’t seem to set”, says Dr Schultz, “or seems to be sliding off your skin, because you have so many others underneath, then you’ve probably reached your limit.”

Until then, you can use as many products as you feel your skin needs.

Related: What’s The Correct Order To Apply Skincare Products? 

Don’t Use Too Many Products With Harsh Actives

By harsh accounts I mean retinoids and exfoliants.

Gone are the days when you were scrubbing your face with apricot kernels. Now, acids are having a moment. You’ve heard that glycolic acid boosts collagen, salicylic unclog pores and lactic hydrates and thought, “why not use them all and get ALL the benefits?”

Now you’re wondering why your skin’s so dry and flaky. It hurts like hell too.

I can’t stress this enough: you only need ONE exfoliant. And that includes Clarisonic, Foreo Luna, washcloth or whatever you use to exfoliate.

Here’s the deal: those dead cells on the surface of the skin are there for a reason. Their job is to protect the newer cells underneath that aren’t ready to come to the surface yet.

When you use ONE exfoliant, you remove enough dead cells to make your skin smoother and brighter BUT not enough to expose the raw skin underneath.

But when you use more than one exfoliant? That’s when you remove TOO MANY dead cells. That’s not gonna give you the dewy glow and smoother skin you crave. It’s just gonna irritate your skin like hell.

Same deal with retinoids. Retinoids are forms of vitamin A, like retinol, tretinoin and Differin. Using one is gonna help you reduce those pesky wrinkles. Using two or three will just irritate your skin.

The more isn’t always merrier. When it comes to exfoliants and retinoids, pick your fave and stick to it.

Related: What’s The Best Exfoliator For Your Skin Type?

How many skincare products do you use in your skincare routine? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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18 comments

Trisha September 25, 2012 - 6:50 pm

I’ve definitely had that heavy feeling with some skincare products. I like to wait between each product. Just usually until it soaks in. Then I move onto the next. It makes my skin feel a lot less inundated.

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2012 - 5:44 am

Trisha, I agree that’s it’s a good habit to wait that one product has soaked in properly before applying the next. It can feel really uncomfortable otherwise. 🙂

Reply
Ana September 25, 2012 - 10:24 pm

I cleanse, that’s a constant.
They maybe I tone and moisturize, but that depends on my skin at that moment.

I don’t count cleanser and toner as layers since they don’t stay on my skin.

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2012 - 5:45 am

Ana, cleansers are an important part of any skincare routine, but they shouldn’t be considered as layers, I agree. 🙂

Reply
Janessa Lynn September 26, 2012 - 3:45 am

None of the products I use leave a heavy feeling on my skin :] and I use quite a bit. I like to alternate or use whatever I feel like but I don’t put on everything at once or even use everything daily.
Daily: antioxidant serum which is thin and watery, firming serum (just another antioxidant serum but it’s moisturizing) around the orbital and frontal. Eyecream. Face moisturizer. Lip balm.
Usually: eye and lip serum, retinol, NUDE’s oil

I don’t use every product all over my face. Instead, I generally apply based on product consistency, and how moisturizing it is. They’re also not full-sized and come in kits. (I don’t have skin that reacts poorly to most products so I can try out many without breaking out.)

I have several face moisturizers! I have a day cream and night cream from The Body Shop, an omega-3 moisturizer (lotion), Clinique moisturizing gel, H20 Face Oasis (gel), a gel-type mask and some others (deluxe/sample sizes from kits and such).

But the amount of products I use consistently total 6 (antioxidant, serum, retinol [recently], eye moisturizer, face moisturizer).

Sunscreen is a given 😀 Hopefully I wasn’t too repetitive.

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2012 - 5:48 am

Janessa, that’s great that your skin allows you to try lots of different products without reacting badly. And I like your routine. You use a lot of beneficial ingredients such as retinol, antioxidants and sunscreen agents, which really help skin look and feel its best as you get older. 🙂

Reply
Janessa Lynn September 26, 2012 - 3:50 am

Oo, I forgot about cleansers! One is super gentle and doesn’t take off makeup and I use that in the morning. I have one that takes off my daily sunscreen and one that takes off makeup. I have an alcohol-free toner too which helps me take off any left-over makeup.

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2012 - 5:50 am

Janessa, I use a gentle cleanser in the morning and a “stronger” one to remove makeup at night too. I feel in the morning a gentle one is enough as that’s not much to remove then. 🙂

Reply
kuri September 26, 2012 - 4:16 am

Right now I’m using:
makeup remover (often an oil cleanser)
face wash
toner
serum (currently testing out a Vitamin C one for night)
thick moisturizer
acne spot treatment (occasionally)
sunscreen
aha exfoliator (occasionally)

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2012 - 5:51 am

Kuri, I like your skincare routine, it has lots of good products. I hope the Vitamin C serum works well for you. 🙂

Reply
BebeTaian September 26, 2012 - 5:11 am

I used to use a Neutrogena anti-aging creme with copper and some other ingredients, but I discovered that I’m allergic to copper. x.x Eeeek!

Now, it’s just witch hazel to get rid of excess oil if I don’t have time for a proper scrub. For dry skin days, I have a ‘mineral milk’ soap (one of the Dead Sea products you can get cheaply in malls). For oily skin days, a clear glycerine bar soap or a black charcoal bar soap is lovely.

If I need it, sunscreen, moisturizer, or makeup with an SPF goes on. Otherwise, I leave my skin alone as much as possible. I’d like a creme that really does prevent/lessen wrinkles, but I haven’t found one yet that’s worth it!

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2012 - 5:56 am

BebeTaian, what a shame you’re allergic to copper. And I’m glad you’ve found a skincare routine that works well for you.

Vitamin A, in all its forms, can prevent and lessen wrinkles, but only to an extent. It doesn’t work as well as Botox, and it takes months to see the first, minimal results, but it’s the best option we have in skincare products. Prescription products with Vitamin A work best as its concentration is quite high, but they also can also be irritating. OTC ones work too, but very slowly.

Reply
xin September 26, 2012 - 7:51 am

i am not sure how many i use at one go, i use it depending on skin condition everyday. but minimally there are at least 5 products at one time. as long as they can be absorbed by our skin, why not? 😉

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 26, 2012 - 5:34 pm

Xin, I completely agree. As long as they are absorbed properly, you can use as many as you feel you need to.

Reply
Rads September 27, 2012 - 9:48 am

Hmm..I use a cleanser, sometimes a toner, and a moisturizer…an occasional scrub and a mask. I totally agree with you – so long as it gets absorbed and not just sit on the skin, it’s okay 🙂

Reply
beautifulwithbrains September 27, 2012 - 7:13 pm

Rads, I agree with you. As long as they get absorbed properly, you can use as many as you like. 🙂

Reply
camila April 1, 2019 - 5:58 pm

hi gio, with what products can i put together TO EUK ? with retinoids? vit c? lactic acid? glycolic? salicylic? TO niacinamide? NIOD copper amino isolate? NIOD superoxide dismutase?

i have those products and i just dont know which ones are able to mix with the others 🙂

Reply
Gio April 4, 2019 - 11:50 am

Camila, what do you NEED? Even if they can be mixed together, there’s no point in using stuff you don’t need.

For example, you don’t need glycolic, lactic or salicylic. You just need one of them.

Reply

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