Find Out How to Stop Makeup From Pilling

Makeup can improve your appearance, make you more confident, and, best of all, allow you to be creative and have fun with your look. So when your makeup fluffs (that’s when you see that your coverage has turned into little balls on your skin), it’s easy to get frustrated and discouraged.

Plus, your makeup may still pill even if you change your foundation. So what’s going on? It turns out that it’s not just the coverage to blame. Our experts explain why pilling occurs and how to prevent it.

Why does makeup pill?

It’s probably obvious when pilling occurs: “Skin pilling occurs as soon as makeup is applied-the foundation turns into tiny beads or balls on the surface of the skin,” says Naseeha Khan, makeup artist and co-founder of CTZN Cosmetics.

Pilling can also be more subtle, making skin texture appear uneven, rough or bumpy. “It can sometimes look like skin peeling, especially if the makeup is a shade similar to your skin color,” adds Sarah Villafranco, founder and CEO of Osmia. “It feels like little grains under your fingertips.”

There could be several reasons for this:

  • Your products or ingredients are incompatible. “For example, you’re using a water-based product over an oil-based product,” says Suchismita (Tia) Paul, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Orange County, Calif.
  • Incorrect use of skin care products: Applying a thick moisturizer before a thinner product, like a facial serum, can cause the serum to settle on the skin.
  • Overusing skin care: “If you use too many products or apply too much of them, the skin can’t absorb the products, which leads to pilling,” Dr. Paul says. “If your routine includes 12 products, eventually the products will only interact with each other and not with your skin,” adds Villafranco.
  • Rushing your routine: “Pilling can occur when you apply too much moisturizer or layer too many products without giving your skin enough time to let the cream or serum absorb into your skin before applying foundation,” says Khan.

Unfortunately, makeup can’t be salvaged once it’s caked on. “It’s beneficial to start over instead of spending time picking off the little pills,” Khan says.

How to prevent pilling

The good thing about if pilling happens to you is that it’s easy to prevent it in the future.

Start with clean skin

“Make sure your face is thoroughly cleansed before applying skincare and makeup. Murad’s Soothing Oat and Peptide Cleanser is a creamy, ultra-gentle micellar cleanser that removes dirt, oil and debris while preserving skin’s moisture,” says Dr. Paul.

Then, use a chemical exfoliator to slough off dead skin cells and make it easier to absorb skin care products. Or use a multipurpose product like the Fenty Skin Cherry Dub Superfine Daily Cleansing Face Scrub, which gently polishes and refines the skin as it cleanses.

Consider the ingredients

While silicones are a popular ingredient in skincare (especially in makeup primers) for their smoothing effects, “silicones such as dimethicone or cyclopentasiloxanes can cause pilling when used in excess or when not compatible with other ingredients,” says Dr. Paul.

“The same can happen with rich mineral sunscreens, petroleum products such as mineral oil, or high concentrations of high-molecular-weight hyaluronic acid, such as those found in a sheet mask,” Villafranco says.

So choose lightweight formulas for both your skincare and makeup products. Or switch up when you use certain ingredients – for example, use your thick emollients in your evening routine when you’re not wearing makeup to bed.

Layer your skincare properly

Although your routine will vary depending on your skin type and concerns, “it’s generally correct to apply skincare products in order of thinnest to thickest consistency,” says Dr. Paul. In other words, start with water-based products like serums and then move on to creamy or oil-based products.

Apply products carefully

Whether it’s your moisturizer or your foundation, in many cases, a small amount goes a long way. Start with a tiny amount of product and then size it up. It’s easier to apply more when needed than to take it away.

In addition, the way you apply products is important to reduce the risk of pilling. “Avoid rubbing your skin care products excessively, as friction can exacerbate pilling,” Dr. Paul says. Then use a damp makeup sponge or brush to spread the makeup.

Take your time

Rushing your skincare routine will only smear the previous product. “Allow enough time for products to absorb or dry before applying another layer,” Dr. Paul advises. A minute or two between skincare layers should be sufficient. “Then wait at least five minutes before applying makeup,” Villafranco says.