THIS Is Why Your Makeup Is Pilling — & Here’s How To Stop It

Do you ever find that your foundation balls up on your skin after you apply your favorite sunscreen or face cream? Similar to when your knitwear has seen better days and small balls of fabric sit on the material, this is called pilling — and it’s the fastest way to ruin your skin-care and makeup in one fell swoop.
So why is it happening? “Product pilling [has] to do with the ability of product to be absorbed by the skin,” Nicola Kilner, co-CEO of UK brand Deciem, tells R29. “The less a product is absorbed, the more likely it is to ball [or] pill.”
 
The question then becomes: How can we prevent this? Vanessa Crawley is a biochemist who’s worked on Epara’s skin-care formulations: “Common materials that tend to create a pilling effect are silicones. Many products contain various forms of silicones which, when rubbed or applied in a large volume, can cause this effect.”
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But that’s not the only reason. Pixi makeup artist Amanda Bell also warns against the use of too many varying ingredients at once: “It [can be] caused by ingredients being mixed that are too dissimilar — water, silicone, wax — and the main culprits are: talc, iron oxide, mica, synthetic fluorphlogopite,” she says. To prevent it, look at ingredient lists and stick to the same family groups when layering. For example, face oil with a foundation containing oil is effectively like layering oil with oil, she explains.
Crawley adds that “the Epara serum has been formulated by avoiding the use of silicones, allowing it to be more readily absorbed by the skin rather than forming a ‘layer’ on the surface.” Other silicone-free products we love that will prevent pilling are Dermalogica’s Barrier Repair, Elemis’ Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, and Phyto’s Secret de Nuit Intense Hydration Regenerating Night Cream.
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And remember no matter what you’re using, less is more. You don’t need to waste money and product by slathering it on your face when a little goes a long way, Kilner tells us: “Certainly with Deciem products they are formulated in a way that means you really only need two to three drops of a serum and a pea-sized amount of any heavier products. Any more and you increase the chances of product pilling.”
 
Now that you’re sure you’re using the right formulas and the correct amount, which order should we be applying them in? “Always go from the lightest weight and viscosity to the heaviest,” Kilner says. “Water-based products should be applied first (most toners/serums) and end with oil-based products (many creams/foundation).” And if you’re already following this rule, perhaps take your time with your routine, allowing each product to absorb and dry before applying the next. “If you like to use multiple products and steps in your regime, then it can also work to spread out your regime a little further,” she says. “If you do other tasks such as brushing your teeth or blow-drying your hair between layers it will make sure the skin has enough time to absorb the products fully and still allow you to have the best of everything!”
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And finally, now that we have our skin-care routine on anti-pilling lockdown, how can we prevent our makeup from causing it? Hydration. “Keep skin damp when you start applying your base, as this aids absorption of products,” Bell explains. So a damp sponge or brush is actually beneficial.
Have you had issues with pilling? Tell us in the comments below which of these tips worked best for you — and any additional that we may have missed — and we may rid the world of pilling for good, or at least save our face from the annoying problem.
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