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Creams, oils and serums are essential for a good skincare routine, but knowing how much of each you need to apply can sometimes be tricky. Photo: Shutterstock

For the best skincare routine, how much cream, oil, serum and lotion should you use? Experts give tips on achieving glowing results

  • Layering your products is a widely known and important part of skincare, but not so well known is how much of each product to use to avoid negative side effects
  • From cleansers to toners and moisturisers to sunscreen, we reveal how much of each formula is best for your skin, and what determines how much you should apply

When it comes to building a proper skincare routine, one of the most talked about steps is the correct layering of products – applying the lightest creams first and the densest last as a general rule.

Another important consideration in skincare that isn’t talked about as much, however, is the amount of each product to use.

Applying the wrong amount of a skincare product can result in issues such as irritation, inflammation, redness, unwanted pilling, residue on the skin, or insufficient protection. So it pays to learn exactly how much of each formula is needed to do its job correctly.

There are two crucial factors that determine how much of a product to apply. The first is its texture – for example, a drop of facial oil can be spread over an extensive area, but a drop of moisturiser will most likely only cover your chin. The second factor is the concentration of active ingredients in the formula.

As well as layering products correctly, it’s important to know how much of each to apply, in order to get the best results for your skin. Photo: Shutterstock

Board-certified dermatologist Dr Marisa Garshick explains that one of the first signs you are using too much of a product is a sudden episode of dry, irritated, flaky skin or the product not absorbing correctly.

“You’ll know you’re using too much when the product moves around the skin and doesn’t actually sink in,” she says. So how much of each product do you need to apply? Here’s what experts recommend.

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A cleanser’s consistency will determine how much of it you need to apply. As a general rule, you should use a hazelnut-sized amount – this primarily applies to gel, lotion and cream cleansers.

If your formula comes out of a pump as foam, aim for a ping-pong-ball-sized helping. Keep in mind this will only be enough for your face, so if you’re also cleansing your neck, double the amount.

Cleaners come in many forms. For foams, a bigger amount is needed than for gels, lotions and creams.

Toner and essence

Toners and essences are used to hydrate the skin, and while some people prefer to use cloths or cotton pads to apply them, experts recommend squeezing them directly into your palms and gently pressing them into your skin. This way, none of the product is lost to the applicator.

For toner, you’ll need at least a cherry-sized helping to adequately cover your face, but you can apply multiple layers if you want your skin to look dewy and plump.

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Serum bottles tend to be small because the formulas use high concentrations of certain ingredients to combat specific skin problems, so a little bit goes a long way.

In terms of quantity, apply an almond-sized portion to skin that is moist with either toner or essence, to maximise absorption.

Board-certified dermatologist Corey Hartman also recommends using the “dot” technique: “Dot a few times across the forehead, once on the nose and chin, and a few times on each cheek. Then gently rub the serum into the skin until it is fully absorbed.”

For serums, an almond-sized dollop will suffice. Photo: Today

Eye cream

The area to which eye cream is applied is relatively small, with no more than a lentil-sized amount needed.

Overdoing it with eye cream can lead to some unwanted side effects like irritation, hypersensitivity, milia cysts, or product transferring into your eyes and causing puffiness and under-eye bags.

Using too much eye cream can lead to unwanted side effects like irritation and milia.


There’s one main goal when it comes to moisturiser application: getting an even, thin layer that covers your entire face. Bear in mind that your skin type determines how much product you’ll need.

“For balanced to combination skin, a [US] nickel-sized amount [about 2cm in diameter] of moisturiser works well,” Hartman says. “If you have overly dry skin, you may benefit from using slightly more to ensure you have enough.”

Around a US-nickel-sized dollop of moisturiser is usually the perfect amount for the face.


Your face alone needs at least a ¼ teaspoon of sunscreen, and a ½ teaspoon is needed if you’re also applying to your neck and chest.

The two-finger method makes getting the amount easy: just squeeze the sunscreen in two separate lines the lengths of your index and middle fingers, and apply that to your face.

Remember that the same amount of sunscreen should be reapplied every two to three hours, and make-up or moisturiser infused with sun protection usually won’t cut it. You’d need to apply multiple layers of foundation to achieve the minimum amount of protection your skin needs against the sun.
Skincare products come in many colours and textures.

Facial oil

Oils have the largest molecular size of all skincare products; that’s why they’re applied at the very end of your routine on top of moisturiser – your skin will struggle to absorb anything you layer over an oil.

Two to three drops of oil should be more than enough to cover your entire face and help create a barrier to stop moisture escaping your skin. Instead of rubbing it in, spread the oil over your hands and gently pat your face.

From oils to serums to creams to gels, different skincare products should be applied in varying quantities for the best results.

Application technique

Once you know about the right amounts of product to apply, it’s important to employ the correct method of application.

Toners, essences, serums, eye creams, lotions, and creams absorb better when you pat them onto your face. This is not only gentler on your skin, but it also boosts blood circulation and provides a more even product distribution.