Pilling, a common phenomena!


Although you don’t read it a lot on people’s accounts, it is a phenomena that occurs very regularly to everybody! Don’t ever think it overcomes only you, or that you have dirty skin. Lately I’m testing different skincareproducts and it’s overcoming me regularly. Therefor I did some research!

What is pilling?

Everyone has a sweater in house that started pilling. What happened with your sweater is what happens on your face! When a skin cream/serum/gel applied to the skin starts balling up after it is applied we call this pilling.

It can happen when applying make-up or skincare or just a few hours later than application. To me lately it happens often applying an oil to sink moisture and actives in.

First I thought it’s the oil! But then I tried using other oils and they also did exactly the same thing. You touch your face and you feel the product moving under your fingers into grimy grey balls.

It’s pretty gros and I thought that my skin was greasier or dirtier than someone else’s. But no, certainly not! There are other causes!


There are different causes actually. You should remember that only product which didn’t sink into your skin can pill!

  1. Incorrect use : Usage of too much product or incorrect order of application. Sometimes we use too much product because we think it will work better! The truth is a part of it won’t be absorbed and hence remains on the surface of your skin. So it’s better to just use the minimal amount of your product to avoid pilling. If we apply oils first and we apply on top of the oil a waterbased moisturizer, we will notice that the moisturizer stays on top of the skin and cannot penetrate the skin. Therefor you’ll find on every skincarebox first apply lightweight toner, serums and essences after which we apply heavier creams or oils. Also first waterbased liquids, afterwards oil-based. Oil and water don’s mix! So on top of waterbased lightweight essences or serums come waterbased gels or creams. The same for lightweight oily serums! Don’t rub your skincare in! Pat with your fingers! The warmth of your hand can cause heavier creams to pill.
  2. Skipping exfoliation : You should add a chemical exfoliator to your skincare schedule. If you never exfoliate, dead skin remains on the surface of your skin leaving it with a dull appearance. When you apply your products skin will mix with the product and cause pilling.
  3. Products prone to pilling : Some products are more prone to pilling than other ones. For instance silicone-based products are more prone to pilling. They don’t penetrate the skin and stay on the surface supplying us with a smooth canvas! Because of that they can start to gather together and cause pilling. You can recognize them ending on -cone. Also gums are prone to pilling. Examples of gum you can see on ingrediënt lists: xanthan, agar, cellulose, carrageenan,… Other ingrediënts prone to pilling are: talc, iron-oxide, mico and fluorphlogopite (in make-up with shimmer). Always check if they are last or not mentioned on the ingrediënt list of your skincare/make-up if you want to avoid pilling.

how to avoid pilling?

Well, we know what causes pilling. But what can we do to avoid it in the future?

  • leave enough time in between each product application
  • exfoliate regularly
  • pat don’t rub
  • use oilbased serums or creams under an oil, waterbased serums under a waterbased moisturizer
  • If you want to use an oil after a waterbased moisturizer mix the oil into the moisturizer
  • use face mist between the layers of skincare, mists dampen the skin and dampened skin helps products to penetrate the skin

Some sidethoughts though! If you know a certain product causes pilling in your routine, try the short contact therapy! For example, Niacinamide from The Ordinary often causes pilling when I apply my moisturizer. Short contact means that I would apply the Niacinamide, leave it settle for 30minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water!

Hope you enjoyed this first blog post!

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