Why Your Skincare & Make-Up Is Pilling

Ever noticed something’s just not right when applying your skincare or make-up? Pilling is what happens when your products start rolling – almost peeling – off. Irritating, yes, but it can be easily rectified once you know where you’re going wrong. Here, two experts share their advice.


Know What’s Happening

“Pilling is when your products form small beads that literally roll off the skin as you apply your make-up or skincare,” explains professional make-up artist, Lee Pycroft. “It is often due to product formulations not agreeing with one another, combined with the friction of a brush, or a rubbing motion.” Skincare expert and aesthetician director of Joyful Skin Clinic, Dr. Kemi Fab agrees: “It happens a lot with skincare as you layer various lotions. This could be because the products are too thick in consistency, you’re using too much, or the skin underneath is too rough in texture.” 

Avoid Certain Ingredients 

“A big culprit of pilling is specific ingredients. Products that contain talc, mica and iron oxides can be troublesome, all of which are often found in sunscreens,” explains Lee. “Though applying SPF is essential, overdoing it can leave a film of residue on the skin that isn’t absorbed.” Dr. Kemi adds: “Silicones are also notorious for pilling in both make-up and skincare, as they’re designed to sit on the skin for a smoother appearance, but this also means they’re not as readily absorbed. Always check the ingredients list – especially for your primers.” 

Primers & SPF’s To Try: Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen; REN Clean Skincare Clean Screen Mineral SPF30; ELF Glow Up Primer Serum; NYX Honey Dew Me Up Primer 

Opt For Thin Layers

“It’s important to allow time to apply and layer your skincare,” says Lee. “After applying each product, let it sit and absorb for a few minutes before moving on to your make-up. Always apply from the thinnest to thickest formula, and use any water-based products first. Pressing products into the skin will help, too, whereas rubbing just creates friction and more peeling.”

Try To Exfoliate 

“You may want to consider upping your exfoliation with a gentle, chemical formula,” advises Dr. Kemi. “Doing this once or twice a week will remove the upper layer of dead and dying skin cells, so you’ll find all your products absorb much better into the skin. It’s also important to increase the time you wait between applying your various serums and oils. Try to let each layer dry as much as possible before moving onto the next step – this will make the biggest difference.” 

Exfoliators To Try: Elemis Pro-Collagen Tri-Acid Peel; Eve Lom Rescue Exfoliating Peel Pads; Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant; Versed The Overnight Facial Peel

Don’t Believe The Myths 

“A lot of people say you should use the same brands to avoid pilling, but this isn’t always true,” adds Dr. Kemi. “While products from the same brand are designed to compliment one another, this won’t actually prevent them from pilling if you’re using too much. It’s more down to consistency and not leaving enough time between application.” Lee agrees: “It’s important to avoid silicones wherever you can in make-up. Likewise, if you use a silicone primer and then a water-based foundation, you’re bound to get pilling because the two textures just don’t blend. Try to stick to formulas that match, but not necessarily the same brand.” 

Pay Attention To Your Application

“This is especially important with make-up,” finishes Lee. “Only apply product to the areas that need it most to avoid having an unnecessary layer of product sitting on the skin. Use foundation after primer, then concealer last – this helps to establish where it’s actually needed. Finally, take a dot-to-dot approach across your forehead, cheeks, jaw and chin using a press motion so there is less weight on the skin when you spread the product. A damp beautyblender can help tap make-up on without the heavy finish. You can also try using a light, fluffy synthetic brush for a light, seamless blend.” 

Tools To Try: Beautyblender; iT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush; Urban Decay Flat Optical Blurring Foundation Brush; Zoeva Luxe Fan Brush

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