Why Your Serum Is Pilling — And How to Fix It
If you’ve ever gone through your skin-care routine only to feel little flakes or gunk on top of your skin at the end, then it’s likely your products are pilling. It can happen to the best of us, and while it’s annoying, it can be fixed with a little reorganization or a few product swaps. “Pilling happens when you’re rubbing a skin-care product on the skin and it never quite soaks in,” says dermatologist and Visha Skincare founder Purvisha Patel, MD. The result is product collecting on the surface of your skin, which is the exact opposite of what you want — your goal should be getting your products to sink into your skin. Pilling happens when the product is too thick, is placed on top of an occlusive barrier which seals skin and prevents product from getting into the skin, or too many products are being used at the same time or in the wrong order. Certain ingredients, like silicones, can also lead to pilling.
If you do happen to apply your skin care in the wrong order or accidentally layer in an occlusive product, Dr. Patel recommends washing it all off and starting from the beginning. Products can’t penetrate dirty skin (think dirt, sweat, oil and makeup), so it’s important to start with a cleansed canvas before applying any other layers.
You can avoid this altogether by using less products in your routine, or choosing products with more actives to get maximum results without layering. Her favorites include Visha Skincare Advanced Correcting Serum with Illuminotex, designed to address hyperpigmentation while also minimizing the appearance of large pores. Looking for something budget friendly? Try Vichy Aqualia Thermal Power Face Serum, a lightweight but deeply hydrating option that helps skin appear more luminous over time. If you can’t let go of your 10-step-routine, Dr. Patel recommends applying products from thinnest consistency to thickest, starting with water-based serums and working your way up to thicker creams and oils. This will ensure your serum is as close to your bare skin as possible and ensuring maximum impact and efficacy.