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Dot, Dab, or Dollop: How Much Product Do You Need?

To get the most out of your skincare, you need to know how to apply it correctly. Here, Kiehl’s reveals how much product to use in your skincare routine.

More is sometimes better, like when it comes to vacation days or dessert. With skincare, however, more product doesn’t necessarily equate to more benefits—in fact, some products can irritate your skin if used in excess (looking at you, prescription retinoids). On the other hand, if you use too little product, you may not get the results you want. In other words, you want to think like Goldilocks when determining how much skincare product to use: Not too little but not too much.

To help you figure out exactly how much of each product type you should use, we’ve put together this guide. Here, Kiehl’s explains how much face product to use in each step of your skincare routine. We’ll also offer tips on how to layer your products for maximum efficacy. Read on for all the details.

Cleansers and Scrubs

Generally speaking, you want to wash your face twice per day: Once in the morning and once at night. Since cleanser is washed off, you don’t have to be too precise with the amount used. That said, you don’t want to overdo it and waste the product. For gel and cream cleansers, such as the iconic Ultra Facial Cleanser, we usually recommend starting with a small dollop roughly the size of a penny. When combined with water, our mild formula creates a gentle lather that dissolves dirt and impurities without stripping the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used twice daily as the first step in your skincare routine. If you find that a penny-sized amount isn’t quite enough for your needs, you can always add more.

For exfoliating cleansers and scrubs, like Facial Fuel Scrub, we suggest taking a less-is-more approach, as over-exfoliating can damage your skin. A dime-sized amount of this effective men’s face scrub should be more than enough to slough away impurities and soften the skin. Note that how much product you use is as important as how often you use it, especially where exfoliants are concerned. With Facial Fuel Scrub, we recommend usage no more than three times per week. If you’re unsure how often to use your chosen scrub, take a look at the package instructions—they should give you a clearer idea of how frequently you can use the product.

Toners and Essences

Though toners and essences differ in several ways, we’re categorizing them together here because they’re applied in a similar fashion. Both toners and liquid essences can be applied either with a clean cotton round or by patting the formula directly onto your face.

With mild cleansing toners, like Ultra Facial Toner, we recommend the cotton round method. Shake the bottle, then pour a generous amount of the hydrating, pH-balanced toner onto the cotton pad—the idea is to get it thoroughly wet (though it doesn’t need to be totally soaked). From there, you can swipe the dampened cotton pad over your face to remove lingering dirt and impurities and help prepare your skin for the remainder of your routine.

If you’re opting for the splash method—our suggested method of application for Ferulic Brew Antioxidant Treatment Essence with Lactic Acid—you’ll want to be a little bit more precise so as not to waste product unnecessarily. To start, shake the bottle thoroughly and dispense about five drops of antioxidant-rich essence onto your palm. Rub your hands together, then gently press your palms onto your face, focusing on the cheeks, forehead, and chin. The 99% naturally-derived facial essence helps remove dull surface skin to visibly improve skin’s texture and tone.* It’s suitable for all skin types and can be used twice daily to reveal a more even, glowing appearance over time.

*We consider ingredients to be naturally-derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source.

Eye Creams

Eye cream is an essential component of an effective skincare routine, but it needs to be used properly. Too little, and you’re unlikely to get the product’s full benefits; too much, and the product could migrate into your eyes (which, trust us, is not ideal). You’ll also want to be sure that the product you’re using around your eye area is actually formulated for your eye area because the skin there differs from the rest of your facial skin in many critical ways.

With thicker eye cream formulas, like Avocado Eye Cream, we suggest using a pea-sized amount of product for both eyes (in other words, half a pea per eye). Warm the cream between your fingers, then gently tap it around each eye in a circular pattern. The concentrated water-in-oil formula provides instant hydration and helps de-puff the under-eye area. Use this classic eye cream morning and night—alone or layered over a water-based eye serum—for brighter-looking eyes over time.

Kiehl’s Tip: Avocado Eye Cream also doubles as a hydrating under-eye makeup primer. Let the creamy formula sink into your skin before applying under-eye concealer to help ensure a smooth, crease-free finish.


Our skincare experts are constantly fielding questions about how much serum to use for maximum skin benefits. It’s a tricky question to answer because it’s largely dependent upon the formula you’re using and what ingredients it contains.

With that being said, all of our products at Kiehl’s are formulated to be as concentrated as possible, so you can use less and still reap noticeable benefits. For liquid serums that come in a dropper bottle, two to three drops is usually ideal. Any Kiehl’s serums that come in a pump bottle, such as Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide, are designed with dosage in mind. A single pump of the carefully-formulated retinol serum, applied once daily, helps promote gentle skin surface turnover for more youthful-looking skin. The creamy serum is clinically-demonstrated to visibly diminish wrinkles and firm the skin without causing dryness, redness, or irritation.* And while retinol can be intimidating for some, this gentle formula is suitable for all skin types—including retinol newbies.

*Results based on expert grading in a clinical test for subjects showing improvement after 12 weeks of use.


If your skin feels dry, it can be tempting to slather on a ton of moisturizer—after all, there’s no such thing as too much hydration. To an extent, that’s true. However, it’s also true that there’s only so much product your skin can absorb. Over-using moisturizer usually just ends up wasting product or leaving your skin looking slick. Again, it’s quality over quantity.

A dime-sized dollop of Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane, for example, instantly helps balance the skin and boosts hydration by up to 132%.* The lightweight, squalane-infused formula is suitable for all skin types and can be used daily for smoother, softer-feeling skin over time. Note that this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule—if you’re going to extend application down to your neck and decolletage, you can always use a bit more product than the recommended dime-sized amount.

*Based on stripped skin instrumental study.

Kiehl’s Tip: “How much moisturizer should I use” is a question we’re asked frequently. Though a dime-sized dollop is sufficient in most cases, it’s not necessarily a universal measurement. Learn more about how much moisturizer to use on your face and body in our article How Much Lotion or Moisturizer Should You Apply?

Face Oils

With face oils, less is definitely more—the line between greasy-looking and dewy is surprisingly thin. This goes for all face oils, even lightweight formulas like Daily Reviving Concentrate. This antioxidant-rich daytime face oil is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores, but it is an oil, so it’s best used sparingly. We advise dispensing two to three drops onto your palms, then rubbing your hands together and patting the oil onto your face, much in the same way we recommend applying our facial essences. If you feel you’ve overdone it (it happens to the best of us sometimes), you can remove excess product by lightly pressing a blotting sheet onto the overly-oily areas.


Sunscreen is the one product you don’t want to use sparingly: If you don’t apply enough, you’re unlikely to get full protection from the sun’s damaging rays. Experts generally recommend using one ounce of sunscreen (about a shot glass’ worth) for your entire body. That may sound like a lot, but research shows that most people don’t use nearly enough product when applying SPF.I When it comes to sun protection, it’s better to overdo it than to underdo it.

For your face, it’s recommended to use enough to evenly cover all exposed skin. This is often about a nickel-sized dollop. We advise reaching for a non-comedogenic formula like Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+ to help ensure that your efforts won’t result in clogged pores. The broad-spectrum formula absorbs quickly and leaves behind a matte finish. It’s suitable for use under makeup, as well; just hold off on your makeup routine until the sunscreen has absorbed.


I. Neale, Rachel et al. “Application patterns among participants randomized to daily sunscreen use in a skin cancer prevention trial.” Archives of Dermatology. 2002 Oct; 138, 1319-1325.

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