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What is Microdosing for Your Skin?

You might have heard about microdosing before, but within the context of skincare, it’s not exactly what you think it is. It’s similar in the sense that you use small amounts of product in order to avoid the potential adverse side effects. In the context of skincare, we’re referring to products such as serums, acids, and other things that contain active ingredients, which, when used in copious amounts, can actually irritate your skin. Microdosing the application of these products may help you avoid such risks.

So why is microdosing the next big thing? And is it actually better for your skin? Here, we’ll explain everything we know about microdosing and why you should consider adopting this method, especially if you have sensitive skin. 

Explain again: what’s microdosing?

Just like those who microdose psychoactive drugs like LSD and shrooms, those who microdose skincare products still benefit from the effects of said product, but manage to avoid negative side effects, such as irritation. When minuscule amounts of LSD are used, it’s reported that the usual “high” isn’t experienced. There are no hallucinations; instead, users report that their anxiety, sleep, and creativity improved. 

Similarly, using smaller doses that are more specific and tailored to your skincare needs will help you reap the benefits of products like glycolic acid and retinol—two things that many people are sensitive to. A 30-step nighttime skincare routine may not be for everyone, and it can ultimately damage one’s skin. Microdosing really is the answer for those who have sensitive skin but still wish to improve the look of fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and overall skin texture.

Many products will contain instructions that ask you to apply a standard amount even though your skin’s needs are unique. Think about it like Goldilocks: you’re looking for a dosage that’s just right, and this might take some experimenting.

Which products should I be microdosing?

There isn’t necessarily a list of products that you should strictly microdose, but there are some that are commonly harsh on sensitive skin. Known as “actives” in the skincare world, products like retinoids, exfoliating acids like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, and vitamin C are commonly good for microdosing. 

According to dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, retinols and exfoliating acids are particularly popular for microdosing because “using them less frequently or in a diluted form allows your skin to go through a smoother adjustment period.” It’s commonly reported that those who are using retinol for the first time will react to it as their skin cells must adapt and build tolerance against it—and this can take about three weeks.

Are there products I shouldn’t microdose?

There’s only one product that you shouldn’t consider microdosing, and that’s sunscreen. As we’ve discussed in the past, sunscreen is crucial for healthy skin, and in order to get the SPF value that’s labeled on the bottle, you must use enough of it for it to be effective. Not enough sunscreen will lead to sunburns and skin damage.

Sunscreen is the one item that you should really be slathering on—and especially on your face— daily! Beyond sunscreen, though, microdosing is appropriate for every other skincare product since you’ll get the same results without having to disrupt your skin barrier. There are virtually no risks to microdosing as it’s simply a more gentle way to introduce your skin to certain products.

So how do I microdose?

Though there are brands that carry retinol products that contain up to 3% retinol, there are others that have products that are much more tolerable. Look for retinol products in the 0.1% to 0.3% range, and your skin will thank you. 

If you are happy with the brand that you use, but you’re hoping to avoid itchiness, flaking, redness, dryness, and burning, you can always simply add a single or few drops (depending on its concentration) of your product into your moisturizer to dilute it while also ensuring even application. 

Some companies have introduced customizable moisturizers so you can get something that’s perfect for your skin. Not only will it be custom to what exact products you need, but also in the appropriate amounts. 

One thing to keep in mind is to build up your skin’s tolerance, which means you may want to apply a retinoid starting at twice a week. But, since you are microdosing, you can avoid having to set up a skincare calendar and use a loser dosage daily instead. 

Evidently, there are a myriad of reasons as to why you should consider microdosing, especially if you’re thinking of introducing a retinoid or an acid (vitamin C, AHAs, BHAs, etc.) to your skincare routine. 

A word of caution, though: one thing that pops up time and again is the reminder to put on sunscreen—and do not skimp on this, and make sure you use a minimum of SPF 30.