How much of every skincare product should you be using?

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It does seem a little excessive, the amount of skin care products on the market for various needs—the steps almost seem endless)—can you share your thoughts on which are necessary and which might be unnecessary? 


The most important steps to a daily skin care routine are to cleanse, treat/repair, and protect the skin. 

Cleansing involves helping remove excess dirt, sebum and oil, and buildup on the skin.

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Generally speaking, a simple cleanser is sufficient however some may find it helpful to add an exfoliant in at this step.  If you do have trouble with acne prone or oily skin it can help to consider cleansers with added ingredients to address these issues. 

Treat/repair involves understanding if there are any challenges that your skin faces- acne, dry skin, wrinkles, etc.   These challenges can be addressed by the addition of products designed to address these factors. This is where you  will find a lot of variability.  Toners, Serums, Essences, Masks, etc… There is not one “necessary” product or product type- this is where routine become individualized based on desired results.

Protecting the skin involves understanding the importance of keeping the skin’s barrier intact.  Moisturizing and hydrating the skin effectively is important here as is applying a sun block to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.




With so many skin care products you're supposed to include in your daily regimen, it can be confusing to know how much of everything to use—you don't want to go overboard and slather too much stuff on your face. In general, can you share your thoughts on this? Is there a golden rule?



This is such an important question and probably why we all have a drawer of barely used products.  No one seems to be able to figure out where to fit things in their routine and if they decide to use a little of everything, they just feel like there is this buildup on their skin. 


For your basics : moisturizers and sunscreens- a good rule of thumb for the face and neck is ½ tsp of product.  This is about a dime size amount. 

Products needing to be applied for full coverage:


-sunscreen (or combo moisturizer + sunscreen product)

-preventative acne products: such as retinoids

-anti aging products focused on skin quality, texture, wrinkles and/or overall discoloration

-rosacea medications


These products require full coverage.  Acne products focused on spot treatment will only treat the spot and not prevent new acne.  These are fine for spots but part of the overall acne routine should include preventative measures.


For anti-aging products, we don’t just age on the cheeks – we age all over.  If you want a benefit then treat all over.


Can you briefly explain why skin care should be a multi-step process? 

There are a lot of people that swear by just splashing water on their face! 


The point of a multistep process is to address common issues or concerns that arise as well as addressing prevention when it comes to protecting the skin.

Our skin is our largest organ, first line of defense, protects us from the environment, infections, temperature variations, cools our skin by sweating and flushing, and an important sensory organ 

Our skin is a dynamic organ that is constantly changing. As our first line of defense, our skin produces oil and sebum to protect us from outside allergens and pollutants.  This oil and sebum can build up leading to clogged.  Our skin has an immune system that is providing surveillance against bacteria, viruses and fungi in the environment.  Our skin protects us from harmful UV rays and free radicals from cigarette smoke and other sources, but can also be susceptible to damage.

By recognizing the key roles the skin plays it can make it easier to understand why each step in a skin care routine plays a role in addressing these complexities.


For each of the following skin-care products, can you please share 1) what it is 2) why it’s important 3) how MUCH you should be using 4) how to apply



  1. Protects our skin from harmful UV rays. 
  2. Can prevent skin cancer and premature aging of the skin
  3. A shot glass full (about an ounce) to cover exposed areas of the skin.  This can vary based on body surface area
  4. Application technique is based on type of product.  If the sunscreen is a lotion or cream, apply a thin layer and rub into the skin.  If it is a spray, apply by spraying the skin to see a thin film over the skin.  Be cautious when applying on windy days or at the beach as much of the product can be lost to the air and not make it to your skin.

Face wash

  1. Cleanses excess oil, sebum and dirt from our skin. 
  2. Can prevent the accumulation of oil, dirt and sebum from building up on our skin.  This buildup can clog pores or even host bacteria, yeast and other organisms on our skin.
  3. A ‘dollop’ or  nickel size amount should be enough to have adequate coverage
  4. Add a little water to help spread evenly and gently apply to your skin and rinse


  1. The origin of toners was to pH balance the skin and help remove excess oil
  2. Potentially can reduce residual makeup buildup
  3. A moistened cotton swab
  4. Wipe cotton swab across your skin



  1. Serums are lightweight products that do not have the thickness or greasiness of a cream or lotion.
  2. A simple way to deliver more potent ingredients to the skin
  3. Just a few drops can go a long long way
  4. Apply a thin layer over the skin.  Many are meant to go underneath moisturizers or other products.

Daytime Moisturizer 

  1. Emollients and hydrating agents for the skin
  2. Daily effective method to restore hydration to the skin, maintain skin turgor and make the skin less susceptible to environmental stressors.
  3. A dime  size amount is generally enough to cover the face.
  4. Apply a thin layer and gently rub into the skin.


Eye Cream

  1. Daily creams to address the signs of aging around the eyes
  2. Depending on the concern, these creams can either reduce discoloration around the eyes, add hydration, reduce puffiness, and improve fine lines and wrinkles.
  3. Droplet size or half a pea size amount on the tip of your finger.
  4. Dot above and below the eye by simple finger taps and gently rub in.


Nighttime Moisturizer 

  1. Emollients and hydrating agents for the skin
  2. Daily effective method to restore hydration to the skin, maintain skin turgor and make the skin less susceptible to environmental stressors and allow the skin to repair itself overnight.
  3. A dime size amount is generally enough to cover the face.
  4. Apply a thin layer and gently rub into the skin.

Mask (hydrating/exfoliating—is there a diff in amount?)

  1. Emollients or exfoliating agents for the skin
  2. Method to deliver concentrated products to the skin over a short period of time
  3. Often come already in mask form.  May come in stick form or in a jar
  4. Apply a visible layer to the skin. Allow to dry. Rinse.



Acne treatment 


  1. Exfoliating or antibacterial ingredients for the skin
  2. Treat the cause of acne by reducing oil build up that can clog pores and actively treat acne by exfoliating clogged pores.
  3. Often come as spot treatments, cleansers or other topicals.
  4. If spot treatment, apply directly to the affected spot over night and rinse in am.




What would happen to your skin if you will use more/less of a certain product, or products, than you need? Please explain?


Using less of a product will clearly provide less of a benefit overall.  If you do not use enough sunscreen, for example, you may be at risk for chronic UV damage affecting your skin.  You may not experience a sun burn when this occurs simply because the minimal amount of product used is preventing an outright burn.  However, there can be a false sense of security where you think you are covered when you are not.


Using more of a product can yield varying results depending on the product used.


Using too much moisturizer will not necessarily ‘over hydrate’ your skin- there is a maximal amount that can get into the superficial layers of skin.  More product will just sit on the surface.  Theoretically this could run the risk of clogging your pores however.


For acne and antiaging products, using ‘too much’ could potentially have an adverse effect on the skin depending on the ingredients in the product.  Products that work at a cellular level, there is probably a maximum that can be taken up into our cells to have an impact.  However, many antiaging products and anti aging products contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.  These can significantly irritate the skin directly and break down skin cells.  This can give the appearance of a chemical peel!


Can you please explain the purpose and importance of using a toner; how much one should use (and why) and perhaps what skin type might benefit from it the most?


Toners are not a necessity. That being said, I can’t convince all of my patients of this! I usually tell them to do an experiment where they just stop using their toner cold turkey. The first week they might feel like something is missing but after that they won’t know it was gone!  
Most people that use these simply like the ‘feel’ of the astringent action on their skin. It just ‘feels clean’. Couple that with some discoloration they see on the cotton swab after swiping and people are usually sold on them.

I recommend avoiding alcohol based toners as these are much too drying and often conflict with other things we do recommend using such as retinol based products or other acne fighting agents. For what it’s worth, the origin of toners was to pH balance the skin and help remove excess oil. Cleansers have evolved effectively to address these concerns without the need of a toner.

Modern day toners tend to have different ingredients to target different concerns. For example, several contain rosewater. This is an age old ingredient that has anti acne and anti aging properties. Green tea extracts are also found in some for the antioxidant properties these extracts have. Chamomile is seen is some and thought to have calming qualities. And, some do have salicylic acid for acne. However, if someone is choosing a toner for this I would caution to make sure you are not overdoing it with the acne products. I worry that some of my new acne patients come in telling me that they are using an acne cleanser, an acne toner, an acne spot treatment, an acne moisturizer and acne makeup. Chances are- you need to see your dermatologist for something more precise!


Toners are best used by dampening a cotton ball or swab and gently wiping across the skin.  The cotton swab should not be so damp as to leave the toner built up on the skin or dripping.


When it comes to serums, is there a way to know how much to use (how many drops)? Does this change depending on the ingredients (i.e. if it contains AHA/BHA or retinol or hyaluronic acid or any other ingredient)?


Serums are lightweight products that 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. 

Serums usually have other active ingredients in them designed to address a particular concern. For example, discoloration and anti-aging are the most common. These active ingredients are more concentrated and will therefore be a bit more potent. 

Because these active ingredients are so concentrated they can be a bit more irritating for some skin types depending on the active ingredients. 


To use a serum the goal is to not have too much buildup on the skin simply because these are designed to get into the superficial layers of the skin and not leave much of a residue.  T


hey are concentrated with their active ingredients so its important to not over use these products.  The risk with concentrated alpha or beta hydroxyacids is to get too much irritation of the skin.  The risk with hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid is potentially clogging the pores.


2-3 drops should be sufficient to cover the face and neck.



Could applying too much eye cream cause a milia?


It is a misconception that milia are caused by products ‘clogging pores’.  Milia are small cysts that can develop from a variety of causes.  They are found in newborns or can result from trauma to the skin, diseases, or medications.  They are one of the most common reasons we see patients in the office.  I have seen cases of ‘eruptive milia’ develop in areas where someone had severe poison ivy. 


So, no- too much eye cream itself is not likely causing milia. In other words, the product is not building up in the pores if that’s what some think.  However,  chronic friction, eyelid rubbing or irritation from too much eye cream could lead to some milia.


How much of each topical retinoid should you apply in one sitting— and why? 

- prescription-strength tretinoin 

-tazarotene (Tazorac)

-over-the-counter adapalene



The general rule of thumb for all of these retinoids is a pea sized amount for the entire face.  I tell my patients to squeeze a pea size amount in the palm of your hand.   Take your finger and dab the pea and dab your face repeatedly. Dab each cheek, the forehead, nose and chin and then rub the product into your skin.


There is no different in how much to apply for each of the 3 products listed.  Each of these is a retinoid with similar effects but varying strengths.


If you mix retinol with a nighttime non-comedogenic moisturizer, what's the best proportion?


These two can be mixed together by sticking with the same proporitions – pea size amount of retinol with dime size amount of moisturizer.  However, some retinoids such as tazorac have been shown to maintain efficacy even if moisturizer is applied first and tazorac on top.  It also reduces the irritation from the product itself. 



How often should you reapply spray-on sunscreen — and how often should you reapply a lotion or cream? 


Reapplication of sunscreen products is less based on the type of product (spray, lotion or cream).  Reapplication frequency is based on multiple factors : how long we are spending time outdoors, the potential for our products to be sweat off or washed off with water, and the SPF of the product used.


The SPF value listed on a product is thought to only be valid or effective for 2 hours after application.  If outdoors longer, its important to reapply.  If you sweat or swim its difficult to say how effective your product still is so its worth reapplying right after.


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