Dear, Klairs


How to prevent products from pilling like your favorite sweater

We’ve all probably experienced this soul-crushing situation before: we lovingly apply our prized skincare products to our face and finish off with our foundation only to find that our hard work starts to ball up and pill off of our skin.

This strange skincare phenomenon is referred to as pilling – just as a sweater might start to pill with wear – and while the term may be new to some, this phenomena is far more common than it might seem.


So what exactly is pilling ,why does it happen, and what can we do to stop it? Read more to find out.

1. What is product pilling?

Aside from the very fact that product pilling is a nuisance, what is it exactly?

In an interview for a Bustle Media article, Dr. Norman Rowe, MD explains that pilling refers to “the description of when a topical cream applied to the skin starts ‘balling-up’ after it’s applied.”

Pilling can occur at any step of your routine. You might experience pilling with the first product you apply, feel the first few layers of products start to come off as you’re applying the next, or even see or feel it throughout the day as you casually touch your face.

While pilling can be stressful – and time consuming to fix – understanding the reason behind this phenomenon can be helpful in fighting it in the future.

2. Why does product pilling occur?

Once products pill and get all bumpy, you might as well not be wearing anything at all.

Product pilling has to do with the ability of products to absorb into the skin. For example, if you feel that a cream is too thick and is creating a layer on your skin, it’s likely that it will end up rubbing off at one point in the day.

However, pilling is more complicated that it might seem.

Pilling might occur because of a misstep in order of application. Piling your products for less product pilling is an art form. As a general rule of thumb, go from thinnest to thickest products, and basics to actives.

Exfoliating the skin prior to going in with the rest of your skincare might also be a crucial step you’re missing to allow products to absorb faster and more effectively into the skin.

If your skin is especially sensitive, or you just don’t have the time for this extra step, try incorporating embossed cotton pads into your daily routine to gently remove buildup while applying your toner or product of choice.

3. How come only some products pill?

“But, I already follow all of these steps!” you say?

Checking the ingredient list of your products might be your solution.

Products that contain silicone (or any of its derivatives – think ingredients ending with cone), talc, iron oxide, and mica can also cause piling due to these ingredients inability to absorb. Generally, these products should be avoided altogether as they create a layer of product that continues to block the pores, making wearing them throughout the day a source of irritation to the skin.

Many sunscreens tend to contain ingredients like talc and mica as a source of physical protection again UV rays, while many foundations and primers contain silicone to even out the appearance of skin texture.

Unless you’re physically incapable of moving away from these kinds of products, we suggest the Klairs Midday Blue Sun Lotion, which features an innovative hybrid formula between chemical and physical, allowing it to effectively block UV rays without the use of irritating mineral powders like talc and mica.

The Supple Illuminating Blemish Cream is also a great alternative to thick foundations as it adapts to the color of your skin, while improving the appearance of pores through its breathable balm-type consistency, rather than a physical substance like silicone.

4. How can we avoid product pilling?

Think these three tips:

1. Take breaks. 

In an interview for an Allure magazine article, Fredric Brandt, a dermatologist in New York City and Miami suggests integrating your skincare routine into your daily routine. For instance, try applying one product and dry your hair, put on the next layer and brush your teeth.

These mini breaks will save you so much more time than trying to go back in with the same products again.

2. Pay attention to how you’re applying. 

While the products you use are definitely important, paying attention to the method you use to apply them can make a world’s difference. Vigorously rubbing a product into the skin will not only increase irritation the to the skin, but also cause product to be unable to absorb into the skin due to excess friction and heat.

3. Stick to simple skincare.

Skincare doesn’t have been excessive or follow the cult “10-step” routine to be effective. On the flip side, they might actually be more beneficial to the skin.

Using a basic ABC approach (try basic products like the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner, Rich Moist Soothing Serum, Rich Moist Soothing Cream) to make sure that the skin isn’t being exposed to too much product is one way of going about it.

Going a step further, find multi-functional products – brownie points if they’re gentle and easily absorbed.

Products like the Supple Preparation Facial Toner are light on the skin but definitely not light on their take on moisturizing. Its lightweight texture allows it to be effective when layered on, making two, three, even seven layers possible (see article: How seven layers of toner might be your salvation for dry skin.