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The Reason Why Your Products Pill and How to Prevent It

Why do products pill and how can you prevent this annoying thing from ever happening again? We asked a dermatologist to explain and help.

Ever finished your skin care routine, start applying your foundation, and then become shocked and mad when you see that your foundation has turned into little balls on top of your skin? Welcome to the world of pilling!
It’s extremely frustrating to deal with this issue. When makeup pilling happens, it feels like you have to wash your face and start again from scratch. Also, it’s not always your makeup’s fault. It’s also your skin care. We reached out to dermatologist Neil Sadick from Sadick Dermatology in New York City to finally figure out why this happens and how we can avoid it for good. Keep reading to find out!

Why do products pill?

“The overarching reason products pill is that they aren’t absorbed and can’t be penetrated the epidermis,” says Sadick. “This can be due the consistency (it could be too thick), the amount (could be too much product) or uneven and rough skin that needs to be exfoliated.”
I’ve definitely been guilty applying too much product, especially moisturizer, and it makes sense that this can cause pilling, but that’s not the only reason why pilling occurs. It also comes down to the ingredients. Some ingredients are more prone to pilling than others. Silicones, particularly dimethicone, can cause products to pill. I tend to think of silicones like velvety primers. They help fill in pores and create a smooth canvas. This is where the whole “less is more” ideas comes into practice, in that you should definitely be using less than the normal amount of primer you normally use.
“Talc, iron oxide, mica, and fluorphlogopite are other ingredients that can cause pilling,” says Sadick.
Another reason products can pill is because of uneven or rough skin, which can decrease the ability for your products to absorb into the skin effectively. We’ve gone over exfoliation several times here at The Klog, and the most important reason why we exfoliate is to slough off dead skin cells. If we don’t regularly exfoliate, skin care products aren’t able to penetrate the skin. This can lead to the products sitting on top of the skin, and therefore cause pilling when you try to apply anything over them.
It’s not only skin care products that can cause pilling, but makeup ones as well. This happens for similar reasons (too many silicones and the lack of absorption), but it’s also important to note that certain ingredients in different makeup products can interact and disagree with others. This doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the makeup products themselves, but rather the formulations can interact with one another and cause pilling.
Using products with similar formulas can avoid pilling. So, a winning non-pilling combination could be using an oil-based foundation stick with an oil-based concealer.

How can I avoid pilling?

Sadick always advises that you “allow time at each stage of your beauty routine for makeup products to dry” before moving onto the next one. This also applies to your skin care routine. You’ll want to allow your skin care products to absorb into the skin before moving onto your makeup application.
There are also general measures to take to avoid pilling. “Exfoliate regularly, use judicious amount of product, and if you’re putting many products on at a time, make sure each is fully absorbed prior to adding another layer,” says Sadick.
A great product to use before applying makeup is the Neogen Bio Peel Gauze Peeling Pads in Wine. These pads are easy-to-use and provide a gentle physical and chemical exfoliation that will exfoliate skin for better product absorption and a smoother makeup application.

If you have more sensitive skin, you can use the Neogen Dermalogy Cica Pads. They not only soothe skin, thanks to the addition of centella asiatica, but they also provide a super light exfoliation that won’t irritate skin.

Another tip to avoid makeup pilling is to use moisturizers with a lighter weight, like the Banila Co Dear Hydration Boosting Cream. This moisturizer contains mint, basil, and neem leaf extracts that boost hydration levels and protects the skin from external stressors like pollution. It’s also formulated to smooth and prep skin for makeup application, working to create a perfect canvas. Remember a little goes a long way, so avoid overusing the product!

Bottom Line

Pilling can be extremely annoying, but if we take certain measures, like exfoliating regularly, allowing products to absorb before applying new ones, and using products with similar formulations, we can avoid this issue from happening.

+ How do you prevent your products pilling? Share your tips in the comments below!

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