What's The Correct Amount Of Serum To Use In Your Skincare Routine?

Although face serums are not a must in one's skincare regimen, they are a necessary step for anyone wanting to intensify the skin's absorption of moisturizing ingredients. Due to their light formulation and less dense consistency than lotions and creams, serums can be absorbed into the skin easily, carrying with them nutrients that hydrate the skin, reduce blemishes and sun damage, and minimize aging signs, per Neostrata. Hyaluronic acid, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), retinoids, and vitamin C are some potent active ingredients commonly used in face serums. If you're wondering if you can replace serum with moisturizer, the answer is it depends. These two formulas benefit the skin differently.

"Serums have a higher concentration of active ingredients than a traditional moisturizer," dermatologist Deanne Robinson explains (via Everyday Health). "They are formulated to penetrate the skin versus sit on the surface of skin and lock moisture in, which is the role of a [traditional] moisturizer." Moisturizers are about skin conditioning, while serums can tackle skin concerns. Since serums are super concentrated, many might wonder how many drops of serum suffice to make a difference in the skin. Insufficient application won't do your skin any good, while overusing it might cause your costly product to run dry too fast and result in skin irritation. If you've been using a serum for a while but haven't seen desired results, chances are you're not applying it right. Below, check out the correct amount of serum to use and when to use it.

A pea size goes a long way

As it turns out, a dime-sized drop of serum is all it takes to cover your entire face, neck, and chest. The best way to make sure the serum goes on evenly on your skin, as dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman tells Byrdie, is to dot the serum across the areas that need application. "Dot a few times across the forehead, once on the nose and chin, and a few times on each cheek," says Hartman. After that, gently massage the product into the skin until it is fully absorbed. 

Echoing this sentiment, dermatologist Dr. Lauren Abramowitz notes that the type of product you use on the skin is more important than how much of it is delivered into the skin. Abramowitz tells Well + Good, "A pea size amount of any type of skin is usually the gold standard for a retinol or an eye serum, whereas if you're using a cream for the face and neck you would more than likely use a quarter size." 

The rule of thumb is to patch-test first and apply sparingly if your serum is formulated with strong active ingredients like niacinamide or retinol. After dropping a thin amount of serum on your fingertips, apply the formula to your cheeks, chin, forehead, and your neck. Then, gently press the formula into your skin with sweeping motions and tap at your skin until the serum properly settles into the skin. Once you're done, wait for five minutes before layering moisturizer.

The right time to use serum

Using a serum at the right time of the day also makes sure the skincare ingredients go to work as intended and boost your treatment results. According to Dr. Carlos A. Charles, founder and medical director of Derma di Colore (via HuffPost), you can apply serums in the morning, at night, or both, but you should not include them in your nighttime skincare routine if you're already using a retinoid. A retinoid combined with serum can irritate your skin, Charles says.

Meanwhile, serums formulated with retinol should be used at night time only, as sunlight can break down retinol and compromise its efficacy, Skin Type Solutions warns. Skincare ingredients that make your skin more sensitive to the sun — like glycolic, lactic, or salicylic — are better reserved for nighttime. On the other hand, serums containing antioxidants such as beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and green tea, are better applied in the morning so they can make your skin better equipped against free radicals and prevent damage during the day.

If you have eczema or rosacea, using serums that contain potent active ingredients can aggravate your compromised skin. For those with chronic skin conditions, look for those containing hydrating and sensitive skin-friendly ingredients like ceramide and hyaluronic acid. During summer when the air is hot and humid, you can ditch moisturizer and use a serum alone to avoid overloading your skin.