When it comes to makeup, hair and accessorising, we’ve all experienced the odd style faux pas. Especially if we lived through blue eyeshadow with matching mascara, wild eyebrows and fake beauty spots, otherwise known as the 1980s.
And let’s not even go there with the clothing. Neon leg warmers and non ironic mom jeans, anyone?
When we’re young, we go through a wonderful stage of experimentation. We practice with our makeup ‘look’ among lots of other things, trying to discover who we are. But we don’t always get things right or learn from our mistakes on the makeup front.
But now, in adulthood, we’re all supposed to be sorted aren’t we? Even if the trend of the day is heather shimmer lipstick (remember that?), we know how to apply our skin care and makeup right, right?
Not always. And if you’ve ever experienced your cream or your foundation clumping up and forming little embarrassing rolls all over your face, you’ll know what I mean.
In this Article
So why does this happen? Why is our moisturiser rolling off our skin even a thing? Are there certain products that are more prone to this so-called ‘pilling’ than others? Are we applying these products right? Are we preparing our skin correctly? Let’s find out…
What is Skincare Product Pilling?
Have you ever noticed that your face cream rolls off? Or your foundation, or a mix of both, creates little rolls of product on your face after you’ve carefully applied everything? Then you’ve experienced product pilling. You may not have heard of it, but most of us have experienced it at some point.
Pilling can occur straight away after applying face creams and makeup (or after just applying face cream, it doesn’t just happen with makeup, it can still happen if you don’t wear makeup, and what’s more if you use a cream foundation, the problem is probably worse than if you used a powder foundation). Or it can happen a few hours afterwards. If it does happen, it’ll feel like little oily balls of product resting on your face.
If your face cream rolls off, try as you might to brush away all those annoying little rolls, they won’t disappear. Short of taking all your makeup off, washing your face and starting all over again, there isn’t much else you can do in that immediate moment.
Just like the annoying bobbling on your favourite woolly jumper, if you try to brush those pesky bobbles off, you’ll just create more. The clothes care equivalent of washing it all off and starting again is one of those battery operating de-bobbling machines. Or a razor. (What do you mean, you've never shaved your clothes…?)
So how do we deal with product pilling? How do we stop our foundation and face cream rolling off our skin?
How to Prevent (and Fix) Pilling
There are a few reasons why pilling happens. Here’s a list of the most common reasons why your face cream is rolling off, and what you can do about them.
Less Haste, More Speed
Being in a hurry can be a surefire road to skin care pilling. If we rush to slap on our serum, moisturiser, concealer, foundation, blusher, bronzer and powder, our skin sometimes just holds up its hands and says “enough already”!
Taking a minute between each product is best to help each one have enough time to sink into the skin. Otherwise, a build up of products on the surface of the skin will cause them to clump, ball up and roll off - classic pilling.
If you’re pushed for time, try to build a routine where you add one product and then do something else important. Such as styling your hair, making a coffee or deciding what to wear, before applying the next.
Less Rubbing, More Patting
It matters too, how we apply our products. Softly patting each product on with clean fingers, a makeup brush or sponge will help to deliver them into the skin.
Where possible, try not to rub anything into your skin. Doing so will encourage pilling but can also irritate sensitive skin or even cause broken capillaries (small blood vessels) and minor bruising.
Instead, a gentle pat should do nicely. Also avoid using too much of each individual product at once, which can overload the skin and cause pilling.
Oil and Water Don’t (Always) Mix
If you think back to school chemistry lessons, somewhere among all the fun with a bunsen burner and some iron filings, you might remember that oil and water don’t mix. We only need to think about olive oil and balsamic vinegar as a bread dip to know that. No amount of stirring will make them mix.
Most skin care products, including ours, include water based ingredients and oil based ingredients. In order for them to mix and stay together without splitting, they need another ingredient called an emulsifier present.
But if you’re using lots of different products that don’t mix well together on the face, then you might experience pilling. For example, using a water based moisturiser followed by an oil based foundation, might cause the tell tale rolling and balling of products on your face.
Apply Water Based Skincare Products Before Oil Based
When it comes to skincare layering, there are a few general rules that will help to prevent your skincare rolling off your skin.
Apply water based skincare products before oil based, so any serums or toners that you use that are water based, apply these before an oil based moisturiser if you use one.
This gives the thinner, water based products time to sink into the skin before locking them, and moisture, in with heavier, oil based products. If you apply oil based products first, all the nutritious, skin supporting ingredients in your water based serum will simply sit on top of the oil based layer, and potentially roll off.
Pro Tip - Apply Makeup with a Damp Brush
If you use a sponge or a brush to apply your foundation (again, we can't express enough the importance of switching to a powder foundation if you use a liquid one, it’ll change your routine forever!) try adding a little water.
Using a damp makeup applicator can help to prevent your foundation rolling off your skin as it’ll help it absorb better into your skin.
Silicones May Not Be Your Best Friend
You may have heard of silicones in terms of DIY and bathrooms, but silicones are also used in some skincare preparations.
Developed to sit on top of the skin, they’re often found in primers that are designed to be used after skincare to seal in moisture, and before makeup.
Silicones are great at filling fine lines and wrinkles, minimising their appearance. They have quite a distinctive silky feel, as they even out the tone and texture of the skin and allow makeup to glide on top of them smoothly.
However, this benefit also has a downside - they can cause your makeup to roll off. Applying makeup over the top of an ultrasmooth layer designed to sit on the skin rather than be absorbed, means that it has nothing to ‘grip’ to and can therefore fall foul to pilling.
So look our for the addition of silicones to certain products - they can be found in serums, primers and foundations. Make sure you’re not doubling (or trebling) up on silicone products and perhaps save them for a big night out rather than daytime.
Exfoliation May Well Be Your Best Friend
Exfoliating, either using a mechanical exfoliant such as a facial brush, or a chemical exfoliant such as alpha hydroxy acids is very beneficial for the skin. The process of exfoliation sloughs away dead skin cells, excess oil, stubborn dirt and old makeup. All of which can clog the pores and lead to dull skin.
But not only that, if we haven’t exfoliated, clogged pores can only take so much. Adding layers of creams, serums and makeup over the top of blocked pores can quickly lead to pilling.
Aim to exfoliate once or twice a week. If you have stressed out, acne prone or very sensitive skin, aim for just once a week. Your skin care and makeup products will then stick to your fresh, smooth skin more easily and will be more inclined to sink in and refrain from pilling.
If you think you might have clogged pores, try our Clear Out Face Mask. Made from zeolite and bentonite clay, it helps to flush out the pores, leaving the skin feeling super clean and decongested. The perfect blank canvas for a smooth makeup look with zero pilling!
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.