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Moisturizer Junkie: How Much Is Too Much?

By Amalah

I go through a small tub of moisturizer (nivea Q10) every 2 weeks and I’m beginning to think something is wrong. When I was at the Clinique beauty counter at a store recently, the saleslady tested the moisturizer by applying a teeny tiny amount to the tip of a Q-tip and then proceeded to spread it over my whole face. This is the exact opposite of how I apply my own at home by using a generous dollop on each cheek, a generous dollop on nose and chin and another dollop on forehead. Then spending a minute or two rubbing it all in until it’s absorbed. The Clinique lady told me a tub of their cream — which is about the same size as the one I use at home — would last me three months – in my world, it would only last a few weeks.
My theory is that the more I use and the process of really rubbing it in til it’s absorbed makes it more effective than just smearing a small amount over the surface.
So my question is: how much is enough per serving?

So this is another one of those questions that I have an immediate simple answer for, but then proceed to spend several wishy-washy paragraphs on anyway.
Immediate, simple answer: OMG TOO MUCH MOISTURIZER!
Wishy-washy answer: Well, since I am not sitting in front of you in a white esthetician’s jacket examining your skin texture and pores, I do need to say that if your skin seems to like and handle that much moisturizer, dollop away. I mean, if you were actually doing harm to your skin, you’d know it.
But really, I’m a believer in quality over quantity. I also cannot stand products that DON’T last me several months. I use a pea-sized dollop of moisturizer on my whole face. (The teensy drop on a Q-tip seems a little unrealistic — was probably mostly for show, I’m thinking.) If I use more and spend a ton of time rubbing it in, my pores eventually revolt. I also don’t like to touch my face with my hands for very long, so a nice thin coat goes on easily and keeps my skin nice and soft. Oh, and if I DO happen to over-moisturize (especially in the winter), my skin is prone to chapping. (This is true of any body part — too much hand cream or body lotion does the same thing, so I use them sparingly and then seal the moisture in with a thin coating of Rosebud salve or Vaseline.)
Oh, and a bottle of moisturizer lasts me about six months. Which is good, because otherwise my entire family would be living on cans of cat food.
1586.jpgBut that’s MY skin. I’ve never had to deal with extremely dry skin, so I don’t know. Maybe you do need several tablespoons of moisturizer, and your question didn’t come with a side order of shine or blackheads or redness. Question, though: did your skin feel dry after the Clinique demonstration? Did it feel tight? Did you notice visible dry patches by nighttime? If not, then take this as a sign that you can use less of your current cream. If it did feel dry, well…I’m still going to encourage you to experiment with using less. There’s a limit to how much our skin can really absorb and use — after that you’ve just got gunk sitting on the surface. Those health food snack bars sure are tasty and good and wholesome, but if you eat five of them in one sitting they’re still mostly gonna end up on your ass.
Facial moisturizers are very concentrated. They aren’t like body moisturizers and often absorb faster — which may be why you feel like you need to apply a ton just so it doesn’t vanish into your skin in a few seconds. But try to get down to one jar a month. Try a quarter or nickel-sized dollop and spread a single, thin coat over your face. It’ll save you money, shorten your prep time in the morning, and probably won’t change the state of your skin as much as you might think.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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