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6 Ways to Stop Pilling Makeup

Don’t let those pesky product skin balls ruin your makeup any longer.
November 03, 2023

Pilling makeup
is a drag to deal with, especially when it happens just minutes after you’ve applied your perfectly curated skin care routine. If your foundation has ever balled up into little flakes upon application, this is known as pilling. It can take a serious toll on your makeup look, and it often has people wondering where they went wrong. Did I use the wrong moisturizer? Has my foundation gone bad? Dealing with pilling makeup is not always an easy fix, but we’re here to help. Below, learn why your makeup may pill, and find tips to stop pilling makeup, including how to switch up your skin care routine and what ingredients to look for and avoid in your makeup. 


Why Is My Makeup Pilling?

Makeup pills because it’s not compatible with the other makeup or skin care you’re using. If a formula is too rich (read: heavy) or thick, it may not fully absorb into the skin or may take more time to absorb, and can lead to pilling when other products are layered on top. This applies to makeup (like foundation and concealer) and skin care (like SPF and primer). 

Another thing to keep in mind is whether you’re using water, silicone or oil based makeup. Using a water-based foundation with a silicone-based primer can sometimes lead to pilling or separation because the silicone formula repels water. Instead, they need to be paired with like formulas, so for instance, pair a water-based primer with a water-based foundation. 

What to Do If Your Makeup Is Pilling Regularly

If pilling is something you deal with on the regular, here are six tips to keep in mind to help avoid it.

Exfoliate Weekly

A buildup of dead skin cells and dry skin can lead to pilling because it affects the way your skin care and makeup absorbs. Luckily, this can easily be resolved with a bit of regular exfoliation. Everyone’s skin calls for a different amount of exfoliation based on what it can handle, but a good rule of thumb is to exfoliate a few times a week. Some people may need to exfoliate more, and for others, it may be less, so feel it out. 

As far as products to get the job done, use a facial serum, like the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives 10% Pure Glycolic Acid Serum. This chemical exfoliant contains glycolic acid to banish dead skin cells and unveil a smooth, even and glowing complexion. 

Give Time for Your Makeup to Absorb 

Rushing to apply products could be the reason your foundation is pilling. It’s important to give your products enough time to absorb before layering on the next formula, otherwise, you may end up with unflattering rolled-up foundation and concealer. Generally, you want to wait five to ten minutes between each layer of makeup to allow for absorption before moving onto the next. 

Be Mindful of Ingredients 

Some products simply don’t work well together because of their ingredients. One such ingredient that you likely use on the daily is silicone — it can be found in makeup primers, sunscreens, and moisturizers alike. If you follow a silicone-based product with a water-based one, pilling is likely. The same applies to pairing a silicone-based product with an oil-based product. The reason is because silicone creates a barrier over the skin to blur pores and reduces oils. Because of this, it will also repel water, which means your water-based foundation will not layer nicely. 

It’s best to use formulas that are more alike, i.e., pair a water-based primer with a water-based foundation. For instance, the L’Oréal Paris Prime Lab Up to 24H Pore Minimizer and the L’Oréal Paris Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation are both silicone-based so you shouldn’t have an issue with pilling when you pair the two because they have similar formulas. 

Use Less Product

When it comes to actually applying makeup, we’ll always stand by the phrase, “less is more.” Applying too much product can lead to pilling as you blend it on the face because it doesn’t all absorb into the skin. When applying makeup, particularly foundation, start with a small amount. You can always add more as needed, but once .

Try a Different Application Tool

Using a damp makeup sponge can not only help your makeup apply more smoothly, but it can also save your makeup from pilling. This is because a damp sponge absorbs some of the foundation as it blends it onto your skin. Just make sure you clean your makeup sponge frequently because if it’s saturated with foundation, that may contribute to pilling (not to mention breakouts from the bacteria!). 

Use a Thinner Base

Super thick face creams are amazing for dry skin, but they aren’t always the best for your makeup. If you apply a lot of moisturizer and SPF and then follow with foundation, pilling is definitely a possibility.

If you think this could be the case for your makeup woes, save heavier moisturizers for nighttime and try a light day cream when you’re applying makeup. We suggest the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Micro Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides Line-Plumping Water Cream, which includes a light, quick-to-absorb formula.

Next: 5 Best-Selling Hydrating Foundations to Add to Cart If You Have Dry Skin

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Digital Tech: Erik Dalzen, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Mirna Jose, Hair Assistant: Keila Rivera, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Wardrobe Assistant: Jazmine Alzado, Model: Zlata Semenko

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