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January 31, 2023 4 min read

Why is your foundation Pilling and how can you prevent it?

It’s an odd phenomenon- but pilling can really upset ones makeup routine, causing the foundation you purchased to quite literally roll off your face. Not okay and immensely frustrating when you’ve got a life to be getting on with. Don't stress It even happens to makeup pros. 

You’re rushing your regime

Rushing your skincare application is one of the most common factors in makeup pilling. Wiping off one product when you apply the next, making it impossible for your makeup to adhere well to your skin.

The solution: Taking your time- means you build up a nice smooth base which ultimately leads to easy makeup application. Wait for your skincare to be absorbed, then apply your makeup. Simplify your routine as much as possible with well-formulated products for example a foundation that already has sunscreen in it- is going to be much easier to apply and that’s so important in your morning routine where product pilling can ruin your day! 


You’re applying too much product

We’ve all done this before- when you’ve got a vial of something silky and comforting to dive into it’s all too tempting, yet applying a surplus of product not only wastes your money but it makes pilling more probable as loading on skincare and makeup decreases absorption and adherence to your skin. Use a little bit less of everything in your routine because pilling can be caused by using too much product.

The solution: You knew this was coming - apply less product to encourage penetration. 

Ingredients in your skincare or makeup are ‘reacting’

If you don't use complimentary skincare and makeup this can often be the biggest cause of makeup pilling.

Oil-based and water-based products often react with one another causing pilling. As you might remember from school chemistry lessons, the two don’t mix all that well and can ‘separate’ on the skin, essentially opposing each other and causing skincare or makeup to shed off, snake-style.

The main culprit here is the ever-popular super hydrator hyaluronic acid, which creates a film on the surface of the skin. Even 'low molecular weight' hyaluronic acid serums tend to leave a measure of this film. HA-based hydrating sheet masks are prime offenders as well, as they leave a super-load of the hydrator sitting on your face. Top it too soon with an oil based cream and the whole lot will roll off like a pilling party.

Silicones are also a major contributor to pilling issues, they essentially sit on the surface of your skin creating a fake skin layer, which is why you’ll see ingredients ending in ‘cone’ on the label of most primers and foundations, and in many 'creamy' products such as cream blush. As silicone doesn’t absorb into the skin, if you apply a serum or moisturiser containing silicone and follow up with makeup, you’ve got a potential pilling issue on your hands as the silicone can make it hard for the makeup to absorb into and adhere to your skin

The solution: You can get around the problem relatively easily by testing which base your makeup prefers. For example we know that our BB Cream and Liquid Foundation are best applied over a few drops of a good quality skin oil as opposed to a water-based moisturiser.

The other solution is to wait it out, try to leave a good ten to fifteen minutes between applying your skincare and your makeup. That way your skincare should have absorbed into your skin.

You can also tone down the silicone based products in your routine if you’re experiencing a lot of pilling and check that other flake-prone ingredients are towards the bottom of the ingredients lists rather than at the top. Ensure that you’re not sandwiching in too many silicone heavy serums, primers and foundations too, which brings us to the next point on pilling...

You’re applying skincare in the wrong order

As a general rule of skincare layering, apply water-based products before oil based skincare, as the thinner-textured water-based products will have a chance to absorb, while any oil-based products applied on top are there to ‘seal the deal’ and keep actives and moisture in. Do it the other way round, whereby the precious rejuvenating ingredients in your serum, essence or lotion can’t penetrate into your skin, but any product applied on top of a heavier oil based layer is far more likely to ball up and run for the hills.

The solution: If you’re using a rich cream or facial oil, be sure to apply it as the final step in your skincare routine.

Your skincare or foundation is too heavy

You’ve nailed the skincare-layering thing but still the teeny weeny white balls keep rolling. This could be down to the fact that you’re using skincare or makeup that’s too occlusive for your skin, so it’s sitting around on the surface rather than melting in nicely. If your skin is also getting greasy pre-midday, your makeup won’t stay put and/or you’re noticing dullness or breakouts after using a particular lotion or potion, these could also be signs that your skincare is weighing you down.

The solution: Lighten up your skincare and makeup textures by swapping to a BB Cream to see if the pilling stops.

You’re rubbing in your skincare

Overzealous rubbing can cause skincare and makeup pilling, particularly if the products contain silicone, hyaluronic acid or mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide.

The solution: Pat and press, don’t rub. This will encourage products to absorb rather than travel around your face. Use the face Dot technique, whereby you dab products in dots evenly over your skin, which reduces the need to distribute it too aggressively with the hands. This minimises friction.  A tool could come in handy too- brush, Beauty Blender or a sponge to apply your makeup, so you press your product in rather than rub it around.

You need to exfoliate

If you’re applying skincare and makeup on top of layers of dead skin, the flakiness potential increases as product won’t sink in or stick as well as it would on freshly exfoliated, ‘newer’ skin cells.

The solution: Add exfoliating to your skincare routine to encourage regular skin cell turnover and rejuvenation and even out skin texture. This will in turn optimise and speed up the absorption of any skincare or makeup you apply afterwards and decrease chances of pilling. 

Well that's all the tips we have for now! I hope this helps! xx

Udele Silvester
Udele Silvester

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