Have you noticed that after following a perfectly organized skincare routine and applying your makeup that it starts balling up like an old sweater? This might have left you wondering what went wrong while you were using your skincare or makeup that led to this disaster.
Pilling skincare and makeup products can make your makeup appear unappealing and bumpy. If you’re unsure why skincare and makeup products keep pilling on your face and how you can prevent it, no worries! Now let’s get started!
What is Skin Pilling?
Piling has been generally related to clothes. You may have encountered your clothes pilling and seeing little balls of fabric appear. However, pilling can be equally unattractive and frustrating when it happens on the face. The term skin pilling may be confusing because it’s not the skin that actually pills but the skincare products you apply.
What Causes Skin Piling?
Skin pilling can happen due to a variety of factors. Some factors for skin pilling include:
- Skin's texture
- How you apply your skincare and makeup
- Ingredients in your skincare products
- Amount of product applied
- Using skincare products that don’t work well together
- Layering too many products
- Layering the products incorrectly
- The buildup of dead skin cells
Skin pilling commonly occurs when a skincare product, such as a moisturizer or face serum doesn't penetrate the skin properly. Instead of seeping into the skin, the product turns into tiny balls, which accumulate on the skin's outer surface.
Skin pilling is noticeable right after you apply your skincare or makeup. It can also occur when you touch your face after applying makeup.
Who is More Prone to Skin Pilling?
Skin pilling can affect anyone. However, people with dry and flaky skin are more susceptible to pilling due to skincare and makeup products. Additionally, if you have dry skin and haven’t exfoliated your skin in a while, you might be putting your skin at a higher risk of pilling.
Those with oily skin are also commonly affected by skin pilling when applying thick and creamy products to the skin. This is because such products can be too rich or heavy for oily skin and can pave the way to pilling.
Are There Any Ingredients that Are More Prone to Pilling?
Although various skincare ingredients can lead to pilling on the skin, silicone is one of the primary compounds that can lead to this issue. Silicone is often labeled as dimethicone on the ingredient list of skincare products.¹ Since it does not fully absorb into the skin, it can cause the skin to pill.
So, if you’ve used silicone-based foundations and moisturizers, consider switching to silicone-free formulas. Also, give your moisturizer some time to absorb into the skin before you continue applying your makeup. Some mineral-based makeup products can also be the causing factors behind skin pilling.²
How to Stop and Prevent Pilling?
Now that we know what skin pilling is and what the common causes behind it are. Let’s move on to some tips on how you can prevent and stop pilling:
Exfoliate Regularly - Although dead skin accumulation isn’t what the balls of skincare or makeup products are made of, it can still be a factor that can make the products roll up on the skin. Hence, the first step in ensuring your makeup and skincare products don’t pill is to keep your skin thoroughly exfoliated.
Regular exfoliation prevents uneven and rough texture on the skin, which can halt the absorption of skincare products and cause the products to build up on the top of the skin.
Ditch Silicones - As mentioned earlier, silicone or dimethicone is the leading compound added to skincare and makeup products that can cause skin pilling. This is because silicone doesn’t enter the skin and forms a film or coating on the epidermal layer of the skin.
The problem can be avoided by choosing silicone-free makeup and skincare products or finding a formula with a low amount of silicone. The easiest way to ensure that your product is free from silicone or has a low concentration is to scan for it in the first five ingredients on the ingredient list.
Use Lesser Products - Sometimes, applying too much of certain skincare products can also cause pilling because you’re applying more product to your skin than needed. The surplus of the product forms a layer on the skin instead of sinking in when you follow it with other skincare products and makeup.
Try reducing the amount of skincare products you apply to rule out the possibility of too much product causing pilling. As a simple rule of thumb, only apply a few drops of your facial serum and a dime to nickel-sized quantity of moisturizer.
Avoid Touching or Rubbing the Skin - One way to prevent skin pilling is by avoiding overworking the skincare products. Touching and rubbing the skin while applying your skincare products can disturb the products, leading to the surface residue of these products rolling up.
The bunching of these products can cause a pilling effect on the skin. Therefore, instead of slapping on and rubbing the products on your skin, apply them in light, patting, or pressing movements, allowing the products to seep into the skin.
Layer Skincare Products Correctly - One of the biggest mistakes that can end up in the formation of small particles on the skin is layering your skincare products in the wrong order. The general rule for applying skincare products is to start with the thinnest formulas and move to the thicker formulas. Thinner skincare products are gel, lotion, or water-based and are more likely to absorb instantly into the skin.
Heavier products applied afterward lock in moisture and absorb the skin. Using facial serums, essences, and lotions on top of thick formulas won’t allow these products to enter the skin and cause them to build up, leading to pilling.³
Wait for Products to Absorb - Waiting for each of your products to absorb into the skin while layering your skincare products can reduce and prevent pilling.
If you want to check if the problem is arising due to rushing the layers of your skincare products, give a few minutes for each layer of your skincare products to penetrate the skin before continuing with the following skincare products.
Use Lightweight Products - Are you experiencing skin pilling despite following the correct order of application and allowing enough time for the products to work? In that case, you might need to see if the formulas of your makeup and skincare products are too heavy.
Some thick and heavy formulas are too occlusive to melt into the skin and end up sitting on top of the skin, yielding a pilling effect. Instead, lighten up your makeup and skincare products to prevent those tiny balls from rolling up on your skin. Your skin will absorb lightweight products more easily without pilling.
Ingredients You are Using - It’s imperative to be mindful of the ingredients you’re using together because some ingredients in your makeup and skincare products might not get along well.
Ingredients that don’t work well together can eventually lead to skin pilling. For example, some ingredients that make the skin more likely to pill include silicone, talc, mica, and iron oxide. Therefore, using too many ingredients or layering many products containing these compounds can cause pilling.
Similarly, applying oil and water-based products together may also result in roll-ups on the skin as these ingredients don’t mix well and can cause makeup or skincare products to flake off or shred off.
It’s not uncommon to experience tiny balls of skincare or makeup products on the skin, known as skin pilling. Various factors can lead to the formation of this buildup on the outer layer of the skin, such as using incompatible products/ingredients together, applying them in the wrong order, not exfoliating the skin, using heavy formulas, and using too much of a product.
We hope the tips above will help you cut down on skin pilling and enjoy smooth and flawless skincare and makeup application.
- Hello Giggles. (2022). ‘The truth about dimethicone, the controversial ingredient in cosmetics’, hellogiggles.com. Accessed June 29, 2022. Available at: https://hellogiggles.com/beauty/what-is-dimethicone-in-cosmetics/
- Ricapito, Maria. ((2012). ‘The Benefits of Mineral Makeup’, WebMD. Accessed June 29, 2022. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/whats-up-with-mineral-makeup
- Cheng, Andrea. (2018). ‘What Is an Essence and Why is It More Important Than Moisturizer?’, NYTimes. Accessed June 30, 2022. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/style/skin-care-essence.html