how much of each skincare product do you need

Ever wondered what’s the right amount of each skincare product to use? Back in the day, I was a huge Girls Aloud fan back in the day (I’m going somewhere with this, I swear). My music taste is a little more grown up these days, but I still listen to them when I work out. Their uptempo tracks are just the thing to power me through that last set of squats. As I was sweating it out the other day, I remembered the advice Kimberley Walsh would give whenever she was asked her beauty secrets: “I put on lots and lots of moisturiser. When I wake up in the morning, my skin is super soft and smooth.”

*shakes head*

No, no, no, Kimba! Putting on lots and lots of moisturiser doesn’t make it work better. You’re just throwing money away. There’s only so much moisturiser your skin can absorb. The rest stays on its surface and does nothing. Well, ok, it may make your skin a little softer, but you’re not getting the most out of it.

Using too much product can backfire in other ways. Use too much retinol or glycolic acid and your skin will be a red and irritated mess. “Underusing products will give you a less than ideal result in terms of desired effect,” says Connecticut-based dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. “Overusing can create irritation and redness, and it in some cases can cause a filmy or oily residue on your face.”

So, how much moisturiser should you use? And how much serum or cleanser for that matter? I’ve got all the answers below. This is how much of each skincare product you should use:

cerave hydrating cleanser

Cleanser: A Dime

A pump (if you’re using a cleanser dispensed through a pump) or dime (for all other cleansers). Anything more will dry out your skin. It may seem like a small amount, but when you mix it with water, the cleanser will naturally lather and be enough to remove all kinds of impurities.

You know that squeaky feeling you sometimes get after cleansing? It’s not a sign the cleanser’s working. It’s a sign the cleanser has stripped your skin bare of all its natural oils. That leaves it all dry and flaky. Ouch! So don’t use more than the recommended amount. More is rarely better when it comes to skincare.

Best Picks:

  • Cerave Hydrating Cleanser ($16.99): One of my fave cleansers for dry and sensitive skin, it’s loaded with ceramides to moisturise skin. Plus, it does a good job at cleansing skin, too. Oh, did I mention the bottom is so huge, it’ll last you forever? Available at BootsCult Beauty, Dermstore, Look FantasticSephoraUlta and Walmart
  • Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Cleanser ($11.00): A gentle, no-frills morning cleanser that gets the job done without irritating skin. Plus, it has a skin-friendly pH that doesn’t destroy the skin’s protective barrier. Available at Beauty BayBootsSephoraStylevanaUlta, and Yes Style
  • La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser ($23.99): A lightweight formula that effectively removes impurities and makeup without stripping away your skin’s natural moisture. Plus, it’s fragrance-free, so it won’t cause any unnecessary irritation. Available at BootsCult BeautySephora, and Ulta.

Related: How To Choose The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

Don’t know how to mix and match skincare products and ingredients without compromising their effectiveness? Download your FREE “How To Combine Actives Like A Pro” to find out:

eucerin dermopurifyer oil control toner

Toner, Essence, And Anything Liquidy: A Few Drops

I don’t think you need a toner or an essence. I haven’t used one in ages and my skin isn’t missing it one bit. Your skin may be different and need the extra hydrating boost a toner provides. In that case, use a few drops, around a quarter’s worth. No point in using more.

Board-certified dermatologist Corey L. Hartman, MD advises against using cotton pads because “you lose a lot of product in the applicator.” Instead, he recommends pouring the liquid directly into the palm of your hand. “Then use your other hand to gently pat the product all around the face.”

Best Picks:

  • Cosrx Centella Water Alcohol-Free Toner (£16.00): A no-frills toner with centella asiatica and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and soothe skin. Available at Beauty BayStylevana, and Yes Style.
  • Cosrx Full Fit Propolis Synergy Toner ($22.00): You don’t need a toner, but this is a great way to add honey (and its cousin properly) into your skincare routine. Super hydrating, it makes skin softer and soothes irritations. Available at iHerbSephoraSoko GlamStylevanaUlta, and Yes Style.
  • Paula’s Choice Earth Sourced Purely Natural Refreshing Toner ($25.00): A hydrating toner loaded with antioxidants to prevent premature wrinkles and soothing agents to calm down irritations. It’s fragrance-free. Available at Paula’s Choice.

Related: Is Toner Really Necessary?

first aid beauty ultra repair hydrating serum

Serum: A Pea

A pea or dime-sized dollop is more than enough to cover your entire face and neck. Serums contain a higher concentration of actives than toners or moisturisers so you DON’T want to go overboard with them. This is especially true for serums that contain powerful actives like retinol and Vitamin C. In the best case scenario, you’re wasting all of those goodies. In the worst case scenario, they’ll irritate your skin.

Best Picks:

  • Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid (£25.00): The most hydrating and plumping serum I’ve tried, it has 13+ forms of Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate every layer of skin. Available at Beauty BayCult Beauty, and Niod
  • Paula’s Choice C15 Booster ($49.00): A powerful Vitamin C serum with Ferulic Acid and Vitamin E that brightens skin and fights premature aging. Available at SephoraNordstrom and Paula’s Choice
  • Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM ($65.00): A micro encapsulated 1.5% retinol serum in an oily, moisturising base to fight wrinkles and fade away dark spots. Available at Beauty BayCult Beauty, and Peter Thomas Roth.

Related: Why You Should Add A Serum To Your Skincare Routine

alpha h essential hydration cream

Moisturiser: A Nickel

If we want to get all scientific, you need around 2 milligrams of moisturiser per square centimetre of skin. How much is that in plain English? About the size of a nickel. But for once, you don’t have to be so rigid. If your skin is normal or oily, you can apply a bit less. If your skin is feeling dry or it’s a very windy, cold day, then you can slather on a bit more.

But don’t overdo it! Your skin will absorb what it can and let the excess sit comfortably on its surface. If your skin is on the dry side, you may just be wasting product away. But if it’s oily, that’s a sure recipe for pimples. (Got it, Kimba?)

Best Picks:

  • CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($15.99): One of my fave moisturisers, it has ceramides and niacinamide to strengthen the skin’s protective barrier and make every skin type soft and smooth without clogging pores. But it’s not anti-aging. Available at BootsCult BeautyLook Fantastic, and Ulta.
  • EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer ($44.00): A niacinamide-based moisturiser to brighten and hydrate dry skin. It works, but it’s the most basic formula on this list. Available at DermstoreLook Fantastic, and Skin Store.
  • Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturiser ($35.00): A rich moisturiser loaded with ceramides, fatty acids, and natural oils that repair your skin’s protective barrier and make skin softer and smoother. Available at Cult BeautyDermstore, Paula’s Choice, and Sephora.

Related: Day VS Night Moisturizer: Is There A Difference?

boots ingredients caffeine eye

Eye Cream: A Pea

You don’t need an eye cream either. Most of the time, they’re facial moisturisers packaged in smaller jars. They’ll just charge you twice as much for them.

But if you’ve found one you can’t live without, use a pea-sized amount – for both eyes. And when I say eyes, I mean the area underneath, above, and around them. The area is small and using more moisturiser than you need won’t do it any good. It may even give you milia seeds (those are a pain to remove!).

While you’re at it, use your ring finger, the gentlest fingers. Hartman shares: “Your ring finger will apply less pressure to the delicate eye area than your pointer finger would. [This] can help reduce pulling or tugging at the skin, which can lead to fine lines and wrinkles.”

Best Picks:

  • CeraVe Eye Repair Cream ($15.99/£11.00): It has a huge dollop of niacinamide, plus ceramides to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin. Available at BootsDermstoreUlta and Walmart
  • Mad Hippie Eye Cream ($25.99): This unassuming eye cream contains literally everything you eye area needs: shea butter and squalene deeply moisturise and plump up skin; antioxidants like Vitamins C and E to prevent wrinkles; chamomile and other skin soothing agents reduce irritations; caffeine helps with dark circles (but only if they’re caused by leaky blood vessels). Available at iHerb and Ulta
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Eye Cream ($37.00/£32.00): Its rich texture is super moisturizing and makes even the driest of skin types soft and smooth again. Plus, it’s loaded with antioxidants and soothing ingredients that fight free radicals and reduce inflammation. Available at Dermstore, and Paula’s Choice

Related: Do You Really Need Eye Cream?

badger balm zinc oxide sunscreen cream spf 30

Sunscreen: 1/4 Of A Teaspoon

This is where getting it right really matters. If you’re using less than the recommended amount, you will leave your skin defenceless against sun damage. Applying half the recommended amount, for example, drastically reduces sun protection! So, what’s the recommended amount?

“Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen,” says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King. “The guidelines are to apply approximately two milligrams of product per square centimeter of skin. This means one ounce—that’s enough to fill a shot glass—to the exposed areas of the face and body; a nickel-sized dollop to the face alone.” That’s around 1/4 of a teaspoon for your face alone.

If that leaves your skin greasy or white, change the sunscreen. Don’t apply less! And don’t use moisturisers with SPF. You’d need to apply the exact amount you would with a sunscreen to get the level of sun protection stated on the label, so it’d still feel greasy and caked.

Best Picks:

  • EltaMD UV Pure BroadSpectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): A wonderful, lightweight formula for oily skin that provides broad-spectrum protection without leaving a greasy, white mess. Available at Dermstore and Walmart
  • Murad City Skin Age Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 / PA++++ ($69.00): A mineral sunscreen enriched with natural oils, soothing agents, and antioxidants to provide broad-spectrum protection, prevent wrinkles, and soothe inflammation. It rubs in well and isn’t greasy. Available at Cult BeautyLook FantasticMuradSephoraSpaceNK and Ulta.
  • Paula’s Choice Defense Essential Glow Moisturiser SPF30 ($26.40): Suitable for all skin types, this tinted mineral sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection, fights premature wrinkles, and dries to a luminous finish. Available at Cult BeautyPaula’s ChoiceSephoraSelfridges, and SpaceNK.

Related: How Much Sunscreen Should You Apply?

Face Oils: Two To Three Drops

Facial oils pack a more moisturising punch than most moisturisers – and have a greasier texture to boot. Overdoing it will result in a shiny, sticky mess. So, what’s the right amount? Two to three drops is more than enough to cover the entire face.

“I recommend you only apply face oils at night, to ensure they don’t interfere with your daytime sunscreen,” says Hartman. You can either use them in place of a moisturiser or, if your skin is very dry and needs the extra moisture, just afterwards.

Best Picks:

  • FaceTheory Organic Marula Oil Cold-Pressed (£19.00): This oil has marula oil to moisturise skin and plump up wrinkles and antioxidant Vitamin E to make it last longer. Available at FaceTheory.
  • Good Molecules Pure Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil ($10.00): Just like what the name says. There’s nothing else bar rose hip seed oil here. It gets the job done without breaking the bank. Available at Ulta.
  • The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil ($10.90): Again, the name says it all. You get pure rosehip seed oil (and only that) at a price that doesn’t break the bank. What’s not to like? Available at Beauty BayBootsCult BeautySephoraThe Ordinary and Ulta.

Face Mask: Enough For A Thin Layer

Face masks are the anomaly in skincare. The only case where a bit more is usually better and gets the job done faster. The right amount of product to use also depends on what type of mask you’re using: a clay mask, a sleeping mask, a hydrating mask… Your best bet is to use them as instructed on the label. As a general rule, Hartman says that “the amount of product you use for a mask should be enough for a thin layer on the face.”

Best Picks:

  • Elizavecca Carbonated Clay Mask ($11.15): The original and first bubble mask ever, this clay mask removes excess oil, cleanses skin, and leaves your complexion soft and clean. Available at iHerbStylevana, and Yes Style.
  • Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask with 10.5% Squalane ($45.00): A simple, no-frills hydrating mask with Squalane to deeply moisturise skin. Available at BootsKiehl’sSephoraSpaceNK, and Ulta.
  • Niod Flavanone Mud (£29.00): It absorbs excess oil, prevents acne, and t’s easier to remove and feels more comfortable on the skin. Read: no mess when cleaning it up! Available at Beauty BayCult Beauty, and Niod

The Bottom Line

There you have it, the right amount of each skincare product to use for clearer, younger-looking skin without the irritation. When it comes to applying your skincare products, more is not necessarily better. Go overboard and you may end up with dry patches, pimples and irritations.