Are Your Skin-Care Products Going To Waste?

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embPhotographed by Sara Kerens.
We're of the mindset that it's impossible to have too much of a good thing. We often apply this philosophy to our skin care, liberally applying layer upon layer of our favorite lotions, potions, and creams both morning and night. (And, this regimen makes us feel pretty fancy-pants, if we're being honest.) But, we have to wonder — is our skin really reaping the benefits of this more-is-more approach?

To find out, we gave dermatologist Dr. Ariel Ostad a ring. And, what he had to say just might save us a small fortune on skin care: Turns out, there's most definitely a point at which the face can become overwhelmed with product. "Once the active ingredient has reached its threshold, your skin is not going to be able to do anything with it," says Dr. Ostad. "It goes back to understanding the science behind absorption. Your skin has an absorption coefficient — it's a semipermeable membrane and can only take so much."

But, even more upsetting than the prospect of wasting product is the fact that over-application might actually be damaging our skin. "Depending on the product, it can be irritating," says Dr. Ostad. "With retinols and anti-aging products, if you over-apply beyond a certain concentration, you can actually make your skin dry and inflamed." According to Dr. Ostad, even moisturizer can have adverse effects when applied too liberally. "Too much moisturizer means too much oil. You're clogging the oil glands, which can cause breakouts." Oh, joy — sounds like we'd need a whole other arsenal of products to combat that.

Ultimately, all of this raises the question: How much skin care should we be applying? In terms of both the number of products and the quantity of each, Dr. Ostad recommends that you keep it simple. "In my practice, I usually suggest patients limit their routine to one or two products," he says. "In the morning, moisturizer and sunscreen. And, then at night, an antioxidant, retinol, and moisturizer." Just a "thin layer covering your entire face" of each should do the trick, he adds. Dr. Ostad also advises waiting roughly 15 to 30 minutes (or even longer, if your schedule allows) between the application of each product to allow the skin to absorb each to its fullest extent. "If you've got more time at night, start your routine after dinner, adding a different layer before bed," he says.

All in all, we've learned our lesson: When it comes to skin care, there's a point where enough is enough, quality beats quantity — and less is definitely more.


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