makeup pilling

Top Reasons Your Makeup Is Pilling—And What You Can Do About It


Makeup piling happens to everyone. You apply your makeup and you look fantastic as you head out the door to start your day. However, as the day progresses, your makeup starts to clump across your skin’s surface. You’re probably wondering the reasons why your makeup is pilling. 

Without a doubt, makeup pilling is incredibly frustrating. You spend time carefully applying your makeup, only to see little balls of product forming on your skin. 

Makeup pilling ruins your look and wastes your effort. But don’t worry! There are ways to prevent makeup pilling and fix it if it happens.

Top Reasons Your Makeup is Pilling

What is causing makeup pilling?  Honestly, there are a variety of reasons why it can occur. Below we will explore the top reasons your makeup is pilling. 

Layering Incompatible Products

Different skincare and makeup products don’t always work well together. When you layer products with conflicting ingredients, they can react poorly and cause pilling. Even the best makeup brands don’t always play well with each other. 


Stick to products from the same brand or line, as they are designed to work together. If you mix brands, test compatibility by applying a small amount to your hand first. For example, CeraVe Moisturizing Cream works well with CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
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CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
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Using Too Much Product

Yes, there is too much of a good thing when it comes to using facial products. Applying too much product at once can lead to pilling. Your skin can only absorb so much, and the excess sits on top of your skin causing unsightly buildup.


Use only a tiny amount of each product. Start with a pea-sized amount and add more if necessary. Let each layer fully absorb before applying the next one. Products like The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% are potent, so use them sparingly.

Not Allowing Products to Absorb

If you rush through your skincare routine, products don’t have enough time to absorb into your skin. You’ll want to take things slow and easy. Give your skin a chance to absorb the solutions. 

Also, applying makeup too soon after skincare can lead to pilling.


Give each product time to absorb before moving to the next step and application. Wait at least a minute between applying skincare products and makeup.

Skipping Moisturizing

Dry skin doesn’t hold onto products well. It can’t seem to absorb the products and instead, they sit on the skin’s surface. Without proper hydration, makeup can sit on the surface and pill.


Hydrate your skin well.

Use a moisturizer suited for your skin type and ensure it’s fully absorbed before applying makeup. Try using La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer.

Incompatible Skincare Ingredients

Some skincare ingredients don’t mix well together. For example, water-based and oil-based products can repel each other, leading to pilling. You’ll want to pay close attention to the ingredients in the skincare products you are using to ensure that they work well together and prevent makeup pilling. 


Pay attention to the base of your products. Stick to either water-based or oil-based products to avoid incompatibility issues.

Using Products with Silicones

Silicones create a barrier on the skin, which can cause other products to sit on top and pill. When products sit on top of your skin they can move and start to accumulate in creases and other areas. 


If you notice makeup pilling, check the ingredient list for silicones like dimethicone. Consider switching to silicone-free products.

Applying Products in the Wrong Order

The order in which you apply products matters. Applying heavier products first can prevent lighter products from absorbing properly. You’ll want to work out the proper order when applying products to prevent makeup pilling. 


Follow the correct order of application: start with light, water-based products and finish with heavier, oil-based ones.

How to Fix Makeup Pilling

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, makeup pilling happens. Here’s what you can do to fix it.

Dab, Don’t Rub

Yes, you read that correctly, do not rub!  Instead, dab. If you notice pilling, resist the urge to rub it off. Rubbing can worsen the pilling and spread it around.


Use a damp beauty sponge or your fingers to gently dab and blend the area. This can help blend the product back into your skin.

Use a Hydrating Mist

A hydrating mist can help reset your makeup and reduce pilling. They are great when traveling such as on an airplane which can quickly sap your skin of moisture. Using a hydrating mist adds moisture, which can help products blend better.


Spray a hydrating mist over your face and gently pat with a sponge or your hands to smooth out the pilled areas. The Caudalie Grape Water Moisturizing Face Mist is a great option.

Caudalie Grape Water Moisturizing Face Mist
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Remove and Reapply

If the pilling is severe, it might be best to remove the affected area that has started pilling and reapply.


Use a makeup remover wipe to gently remove the pilled makeup. Reapply a light layer of moisturizer, let it absorb, and then redo your makeup. Try using Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes for this purpose.

Preventing Makeup Pilling in the Future

To avoid makeup pilling in the future, follow these easy tips.

Choose Compatible Products

Stick to products designed to work together. This can minimize the risk of pilling due to incompatible ingredients.

Apply Thin Layers

Use thin layers of each product and let them fully absorb before applying the next one. This prevents buildup on the surface of your skin.

Prep Your Skin Properly

Ensure your skin is well-prepped before applying makeup. This includes cleansing, moisturizing, and priming.

Use a Primer

A good primer can create a smooth base for your makeup. It helps products adhere better and reduces the likelihood of pilling. The Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer is a popular choice.

Best Practices for Preventing Makeup Pilling

To get the most out of your makeup application, follow these best tips to prevent makeup pilling. 

Avoid Over-Using Products

Using too much product can lead to pilling. Apply just enough to cover your skin and blend well. If after blending, you feel that you need more product then slowly apply it and evenly distribute it across the skin’s surface. Go light on areas where you have repetitive facial movements and wrinkles. 

Let Each Layer Absorb

Patience is key. Allow each layer of product to fully absorb before applying the next one. This prevents products from sitting on top of each other and pilling.

Use the Right Tools

Using the right tools can enhance your makeup application. Consider using a damp beauty sponge for foundation and concealer. Brushes can be used for powders and blushes.

Pay Attention to Your Skin

Everyone’s skin is different. Pay attention to how your skin reacts to different products and routines. Adjust your application techniques as needed.

Choosing the Best Makeup Products

With so many options available, choosing the best makeup products can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect products for your skin and stop pilling. 

Consider Your Skin Type

Different products are formulated for different skin types. If you have sensitive skin, look for products with gentle, soothing ingredients. For oily skin, choose products with mattifying ingredients.

Check the Ingredients

Look for products with skin-friendly ingredients. Avoid products with harsh chemicals, artificial fragrances, and silicones. Opt for products with natural ingredients and beneficial additives.

Read Reviews

Before purchasing a product, read reviews from other users. Look for feedback on the product’s effectiveness, texture, and how it feels on the skin. Perusing reviews can help you make an informed decision.

Simple Skincare Routine to Prevent Makeup Pilling

Okay, let’s take a look at how you can carry out your morning skincare routine effectively while preventing makeup pilling. 

If you’re pressed for time, you may be better off skipping non-essential products like eye cream or a brightening face mask. Non-essential products increase your odds of suffering from makeup pilling as the day progresses. 

Stick to the basics when applying skincare and makeup products. Your best bet to help prevent pilling? Keep your skincare routine simple—see our suggested AM and PM routines below.

If you have additional products in your routine, remember that the general rule of thumb is to go from thin to thick.

Morning Skincare Routine to Prevent Makeup Pilling 

Cleanse: Start your morning with a gentle cleanser like CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. This will remove any overnight buildup and prep your skin for the day.

Moisturize: Apply a hydrating moisturizer before your sunscreen. Look for products labeled non-clogging, non-acnegenic, or non-comedogenic. The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is a great option.

Apply SPF: Sunscreen is a must! Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. The EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is a popular choice. Be sure to let it absorb fully before applying makeup.

Nighttime Routine

Remove Makeup: If you’re wearing makeup, start your nighttime routine by thoroughly removing it. Try the Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water or an oil-based remover like Banila Co Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm.

Cleanse: Follow up with a cleanser to remove dirt, sweat, and oil. The La Roche-Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser is effective and soothing.

Treat: If you use a treatment product, like The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, apply it now and give it time to soak into your skin.

Moisturize: Your skin rejuvenates at night, so give it a good moisturizer. The Cerave PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion is an excellent choice. Press it in gently to help your skin absorb all the hydration it can.

By keeping your skincare routine simple and sticking to the essentials, you can prevent makeup pilling and keep your skin looking its best.


Makeup pilling can be a hassle and it looks bad, but it’s manageable with the right techniques and products. By understanding the reasons behind it and taking makeup pilling preventative measures, you can enjoy a flawless makeup application every time. 

Remember, the key is to be patient and give each product time to work its magic. Also, a little bit is a lot so go easy on the products. With these tips and tricks, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a smooth, beautiful makeup look and say goodbye to unsightly makeup pilling for good. 

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