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Mixing Skincare Products | How much to use and how to layer...

The question as to how much product to use and how is probably why we all have a drawer or box of barely used products. No one seems to be able to figure out where to fit things into their routine and if they decide to use a little of everything, they just feel like there is this buildup on their skin. Read more...



how much product

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

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 full coverage application

  • Moisturizer

  • 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.

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

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 sunburn 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 products 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. For 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 for 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 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.

They are concentrated with their active ingredients so it's important to not overuse these products. The risk with concentrated alpha or beta hydroxy acids 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 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 their hand. Take your finger and dab the pea and dab your face repeatedly. Dab each cheek, forehead, nose, and chin then rub the product into your skin.

There is no difference 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 proportions – pea size amount of retinol with dime size amount of moisturizer. However, some retinoids such as Tazarotene have been shown to maintain efficacy even if the moisturizer is applied first and Tazarotene 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, it's important to reapply. If you sweat or swim it's difficult to say how effective your product still is so it's worth reapplying right after.

how much product


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