How Much Product Should You Use?

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on September 19, 2013
3 min read

Get better results from your skin care products by using them the right way.

From cleansers and serums to moisturizers and more, top dermatologists share guidelines for how much you need to use.

Whether you choose a gel or a cream cleanser, a dime-sized amount is all you need. For foaming cleanser, one pump should get the job done. Miami dermatologist Alicia Barba, MD, suggests washing once in the morning and twice in the evening if you wear makeup, or only once at night if you don't wear makeup.

If you use too much: Overusing anti-acne cleansers can leave your skin dry and irritated. "Using more than a dime-sized amount of any cleanser will cause you to go through product a lot faster, with no extra benefits," says, Chicago-area dermatologist Amy Forman Taub, MD.

If you use too little: "Not using enough cleanser leaves dirt, debris, and makeup on the skin, which can cause clogged pores and lead to breakouts," says New York City dermatologist Eric Schweiger, MD.

A pea-sized amount of serum gives your skin a concentrated boost of ingredients that help with hydration, exfoliation, acne, or dull skin.

If you use too much: Using too much of any product leaves active ingredients sitting on your skin. Some, such as exfoliating serum, can lead to stinging or peeling.

If you use too little: "If you use too little serum, you will not get the maximal effect," Barba says.

Start with a dab of retinoid product for your entire face. Gradually work your way up to a nickel-sized amount if your skin can tolerate it, Schweiger says.

If your skin has trouble adjusting to a retinoid, ease up. Mix it with your moisturizer before applying, and use it only three times a week instead of five.

If you use too much: Using more than the recommended amount can lead to dryness, redness, and peeling.

If you use too little: Even just a little bit of retinoid will improve your skin, but it will take longer to see results.

Don't slather on eye cream. A pea-sized amount for each eye is more than enough.

If you use too much: Using too much eye cream can leave your skin sensitive, clog your pores, and irritate your eyes. Putting too much on your skin can also make it challenging to apply your makeup.

If you use too little: Skimping on eye cream can leave that delicate skin dehydrated and keep makeup from lying on the skin properly, Taub says.

If you're using a moisturizer that suits your skin type, a nickel-sized amount should be enough for your whole face.

If you use too much: Overdoing moisturizer can make your skin shiny and lead to breakouts. It can also feel heavy on your skin and make it harder to put on your makeup.

If you use too little: Your skin may feel tight, flake, and look dull because it's not as hydrated as it could be.

Use a grape-sized amount for your face. For the rest of your body, you need enough sunscreen to fit in a shot glass.

If you use too much: "Most people don't use enough sunscreen," Schweiger says. "In this case, there is no such thing as using too much."

If you use too little: You could get sunburn. Over time, you might also get sun-damaged skin that looks old before its time. You could also get skin cancer.

A dab is enough to exfoliate. Taub recommends using a scrub with round beads, not jagged edges that could make small tears in your skin.

If you use too much: Your skin may become dry, irritated, red, and sore. Other products will sting when you put them on your face.

If you use too little: There's no downside."Scrubs are not mandatory, and they do not make or break a skin care routine," Barba says.