How to Prevent Your Sunscreen from Pilling

22 June 2022


Sunscreen pilling can happen for a number of reasons


What is sunscreen pilling?


Have you ever used sunscreen and noticed that instead of sinking into your skin; it balls up or forms flakes instead? This is called pilling; and it can happen with any skincare or makeup product that you have layered. In essence, with pilling, the product will not be absorbed or taken up your skin.


The side effect of unprotected UV exposure to the skin include skin cancer, burns and accelerated signs of ageing.


What is the implication of sunscreen pilling?


When a product balls up or flakes- its absorption and efficacy is reduced. In other words, if your sunscreen pills, you’re not getting the full amount of sun protection that your sunscreen states. So besides having your skin looking bumpy or flaky; your risk of sun burns, skin cancer and premature ageing (e.g. hyperpigmentation, sagging and early wrinkles) are increased.


Related blogposts:

How to Lighten Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots with Skincare

Hyperpigmentation Disorders: Causes, Types & Treatments

How to Treat Sagging Skin Without Surgery

Preventative and Baby Botox in Your 20’s Is Real


Some sunscreens have a higher tendency to cause pilling if they contain silicones, talc and mica.


Why does sunscreen pill?

So why do sunscreen or makeup pill? The answer: the product is not getting absorbed by the epidermis and ends up sticking together. This can happen for reasons related to your skincare, skin and sunscreen. Here’s the low down.


Skincare causing pilling

If your skincare is not getting absorbed, you are probably layering too many products; or in the wrong sequence. Healthy skin does not require an excessive or expensive regimen.


Your skin causing pilling

Skin that congested, rough and clogged up has a harder time letting skincare ingredients penetrate. Excess oil, dead skin and dirt form a physical barrier to reduce uptake of skincare.


Your sunscreen ingredients

Here’s where looking at the ingredient list can help. Products that are rich in silicones, talc, mica and iron oxide have a tendency to pill more than others that do not. These ingredients can also be found in cosmetics; which is why any beauty product can potentially pill.


Having healthy and clean skin helps to prevent sunscreen pilling.



How can sunscreen pilling be avoided?

Some tips and tricks that can help prevent sunscreen piling:

• Reduce your skincare steps and layering. Keep it directed to avoid problems of product interaction or incorrect layering. 3 Essential Skincare Steps for Healthy Skin will offer a guide to an effective and minimal regimen

• Wait for a few minutes between each skincare layer. Allow the one product to dry before layering the next.

• Exfoliate to remove dead skin, dirt and excess oil that interfere with the uptake of your skincare. Chemical peels are a very effective and efficient way to achieve that and boost collagen levels in your skin. Alternatively, manual exfoliation with sonic cleansers can be helpful. The Truth About Chemical Peels and A Complete Guide to Chemical Exfoliation and Acids in Skincare will explain how chemical exfoliation works.

• Skip the usual suspects like silicones, talc, mica and iron oxide. It may be a trial and error to get a sunscreen that is appropriate for your skin. You can read my sunscreen recommendations in Sunscreen Review 2021 and Sunscreen Reviews 2019.


If you found this blogpost useful, you may enjoy the following sunscreen related blogposts:

Can Asian Sunscreens be Trusted? The Purito Controversy Explained

Sun Protective (UPF) Clothing Explained

Do Children Need Sunscreen?

Sunscreen Safety and What You Should Avoid

Sunscreen Controversies, Trends & FAQs



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