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I tried microdosing my skincare so you don’t have to

WORDS BY HANNAH COHEN

A little goes a long way.

I’m no skincare aficionado. My meek little collection consists of skincare gifted to me by my boyfriend’s mum and serums that cost me no more than about $20 a pop. But recently, given my affinity for more regular self-care practices during lockdown and endless hours spent scrolling through aesthetic morning routine videos on TikTok, I’ve been inspired to upgrade my repertoire of lotions and potions. 

However, as much as I’m not an expert on all things skincare, I am loyal to the products I already use. My routine is so ingrained, and while I have been intrigued, I’ve always been hesitant to introduce new products out of fear that they’ll send my poor face into a frenzy. 


We like nosy people. Don’t be shy, head to our Beauty section for more. 


Enter, skincare microdosing. It’s a trend that’s trickled down from non-beauty related practices, like taking psychedelic drugs in small doses to having nearly undetectable injections of botox. And now, we welcome microdosing as she enters the world of skincare. Supposedly, introducing new products in this way is meant to curb those harsh effects we often associate with introducing more potent ingredients to our skincare rituals. 

Skincare microdosing sounded like the answer to any skincare newbie’s prayers, so naturally, I wanted to test out whether it was all it’s cracked up to be (note: I love my job). I got the lowdown about this trending routine from dermal specialist and skincare brand Bioligi’s co-founder, Lucy Macdougald. And then, armed with her professional advice, I dived into a two-week period of trying the method out for myself. Here’s how it all went down.

First things first, how does skincare microdosing work?

Lucy described skincare microdosing as the antidote to the current routines dominating the skincare climate online (think the excessive application of upwards of ten different products). She summarised the microdosing method simply, dubbing it a “less is more approach”.

“In a nutshell, microdosing is essentially where you use a small amount of a powerful ingredient, and do it consistently to get the results that you want without having to use a huge amount of products,” she told me.

Often, when we purchase a new skincare product that promises clear and glowy skin, our first instinct is to douse the contents of the bottle onto our faces every day of every week. Lucy told me that microdosing new skincare is a safer place to start because it protects us from irritation, allowing our skin to get used to the new ingredients slowly.

“Essentially, you begin with low doses or amounts of a product and gradually build up to using them daily. So that way, your skin is more likely to get used to the ingredient rather than being overwhelmed and potentially reacting badly.”

For those interested in the sciencey side of microdosing, Lucy revealed that microdosing is actually all about preserving the barrier function of your skin, which she likened to a protective layer of Glad Wrap covering us from top to toe. 

This layer keeps our skin’s moisture in and nasty bacteria out. She said when we overdose our skin with products that are too strong, or when we use too much of a potent product, we’re effectively poking holes in our very important layer of Glad Wrap (aka the barrier function). This lets all the moisture escape and the bacteria run rampant, leaving us with dry and irritated skin. 

“With microdosing… your skin has time to adjust and that protective layer, the barrier function of the skin, is still intact [because] you haven’t been too rough,” Lucy said.

The products

Up until this experiment, my holy grail products of the last year were none other than The Ordinary’s cult favourite hyaluronic acid and niacinamide serums. But after Lucy shared with me that introducing new products through microdosing wouldn’t put me at risk of breaking me out into a rashy, scratchy mess, I felt ready to jump onto Adore Beauty and invest in some more hardcore products.

Lucy recommended I start with some key players in the skincare scene: low-dose retinal (0.01 per cent), vitamin C serum, and glycolic acid in the gentle form of a cleanser. I’d been eyeing out these buzzy products for a while now. So, newly equipped with Lucy’s advice, into my cart went the Biologi BK Rejuvenation Vitamin C Serum, the Medik8 Cyrstal Retinal 1, and the Skinstitut Glycolic Cleanser

I was lucky enough to be provided with a specialist-sanctioned routine for my microdosing journey. She recommended I start off with these microdoses for the first two weeks, alongside my regular hydrating products, before going full steam ahead:

  • Retinal three times a week
  • Vitamin C every second day in the first week and once a day in the second week
  • Glycolic acid twice a week

The results promised from this skincare microdosing recipe? Hydrated, exfoliated and glowy-looking skin. 

The experiment

I’m a perpetually chaotic person that relies heavily on routines that have been permanently ingrained into my body clock. So as you can imagine, I initially found it difficult to remember which days to apply which new product. But once I got into the swing of things and snuck the new products comfortably into my daily skincare rituals, the results did in fact deliver.

I have pretty sensitive skin that’s prone to responding with a rash whenever I try to introduce a new product into my skincare routine. As it turns out, microdosing worked a treat on my sometimes temperamental face. I was shocked that besides a few very normal, hormonal whiteheads, I didn’t have any adverse reactions to the new products. 

What I got instead were compliments from at least four people about how radiant my skin was looking while hosting a Zoom webinar. You’re telling me that within a week, multiple people said my skin was glowing through my grainy MacBook webcam? At 6pm? In bad lighting? A miracle! 

So, after my two-week trial, do I recommend you try microdosing your fancy new skincare additions? If you’re like me and looking to up the ante on your routine, then absolutely. While some of the products I used were a little more exxy than what I’m used to spending on skincare, using the microdosing approach made the purchases absolutely worth the investment.

The results were fast and, hand on heart, my skin’s never looked so good. Not only was I getting the most out of the products themselves and reaping their benefits sans itchy breakouts, but using less of the product in a week means I’ll hit the bottom of the bottle way later down the track. Now that’s a win-win.

Want to learn more about how to microdose your skincare? Head here

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