How to prevent skincare pilling

For many of us, doing our skincare routine is a happy place. A Zen moment to ourselves. A chance to take a breath and pamper our skin. Or it should be until you experience something called skincare pilling. Plenty of us have experienced it at least once. We do our skincare routine and proceed to apply our sunscreen and foundation. And then all we feel are these tiny little bobbles of product underneath our fingers. It is a) ew and b) annoying because the only solution is to wash our face and start again. What is skincare pilling, and why does it happen? How can you prevent it?

What is skincare pilling?

Skincare pilling happens when products ball up and flake/roll off the skin. It can happen immediately or after a few hours. You touch your face and can feel the bobbles forming underneath your fingers.

Why does skincare pilling happen?

It’s simple – the product doesn’t absorb into the skin. There are several reasons why that might happen.

Too much product

This problem is especially noticeable with eye creams and moisturisers. If you use too much of the product, the skin can’t absorb it. Use the product as directed and see how you get on, you can use less or more.

Too many products

Look, having a multi-step routine is fantastic! But the more products you use, the bigger chance of skincare pilling. So, take a look at your skincare routine and remove products to see what works best.

Layering correctly


The rule of the thumb is – apply your products based on their consistency. Thinnest/lightest formulas go first. Follow them up with thicker ones.

Not enough time for the products to absorb

If you are layering your skincare products, are you allowing enough time for the product to absorb? Sometimes taking your time between the products can make all the difference. Let your moisturiser dry before you apply your sunscreen.

Rubbing the products in

Sometimes we can be a bit aggressive in the way we apply skincare products. Rubbing the product in can cause it to ball up. Try patting the product instead to see if that will make a difference.

Water and oil don’t mix well


What does that mean? Should you avoid oils or water-based serums? No. It just means you need to be mindful of the products you are using. Let’s say you are using an oil-based serum, and then you follow it up with a gel moisturiser. Chances are these products will pill because they are incompatible.

Products with silicones

Silicones stay on the surface of the skin and don’t get absorbed by it. That’s great if you want a smooth surface to apply your makeup. But it can get tricky if you are using a skincare product with a lot of silicone since whatever you might apply after it can pill. If you are using a moisturiser with silicones and your foundation pills, check if it is water- or oil-based. That might be the cause of the issue.

Have you ever experienced skincare pilling? How did you resolve it?

Roberta Striga