Pilling ruining your beauty routine? Here's exactly how to stop your makeup from balling.


This wonderful nugget of beauty wisdom comes courtesy of Mamamia’s beauty podcast, You BeautyTo ensure you never miss an episode, listen to You Beauty here for free. It’s a blast.

Today, we need to have a conversation about pilling.

In other words, that annoying thing that happens sometimes when you put your foundation on and it crumples up into little balls of gross skin/product.

Pilling is one of those weird beauty things that’s infinitely infuriating, but simple enough to fix when you know why it’s happening. It looks like your skin is actually rubbing off (don’t worry, it’s not) and it’s not fun.

Thankfully, Mamamia’s executive editor and beauty journalist of 15 years Leigh Campbell shares your pain. She also knows how to get rid of pilling, and shared everything you need to know in order to stop it from ruining your skincare and makeup on the You Beauty podcast (get it in your ears below, post continues after audio).

What is pilling?

If you’ve ever spent five minutes applying your mists and serums and moisturisers and primers, only for it to form little balls of fluff or dry bits when you put on your foundation – that’s pilling.

Much the same as when a cheap(ish) woollen jumper gets ball-y if you get caught in the rain, your skincare and makeup products can pill, and look and feel gritty when a compound/ingredient in one product doesn’t interact well with your other products.


“This happens quite a a lot, especially when you layer lots of products. It’s really hard to pinpoint why it happens, but it’s happening because of an ingredient in one of your products,” Leigh said.

“One of your products [in your routine] either contains silicone, or perhaps an oil. The product underneath creates a barrier, and you go to put the [silicone/oil] product on top and it goes into little bally things. It’s very annoying because you have to start again, it’s a waste of time and product.”

How to stop pilling from happening.

Think of this process like an elimination diet – to find the culprit, you need to try and isolate which product isn’t getting along with your other ones.

Leigh added, “Look at your primer first, that’s quite often a culprit because they often have silicon in them. One of your other products might also have an oil in it.”

Once you find the product that’s causing the pilling, remove it and it should stop happening. If your primer was responsible, look for one that doesn’t contain silicon (check the back of the bottle or ask staff for a hand). If a skincare product is the problem, think about which product you’d hate to lose more. This might mean trialling some other foundations until you find one that matches with your skincare.

Side note – want glowing skin? Here are Leigh’s top three tips for glowy, dewy skin. Post continues after video.

Video by MMC

What to if your makeup goes bally.

You’re not going to like it, but Leigh says there’s really no way to fix pilling once it’s started.

“Once your makeup has started pilling, there’s really no coming back, you have to remove the product and start again. Grab some micellar water or a face wipe and take the whole thing off.”

Whatever you do, don’t try and fix it with powder – this will only result in the pilling being even more obvious.

Sorry, friends.

You Beauty Cheat Sheet

Other questions Leigh and Kelly answered, as well as their ‘spendys’ and ‘saveys’ (and where you can buy them).

‘What type of cleanser should I use? There are so many!’

  • There are so many types of cleansing products – cleansing oils, cleansing foams, milks, cream cleansers, cleansing wipes, micellar water, double cleanse, triple cleansingit’s a lot.
  • Leigh doesn’t recommend using foam or gel cleansers:
    • Foam cleansers pump out like a foam, and a gel usually foams up – both contain surfactants (foaming agents).
    • A foam or a gel will most often, but not always, take the oil off the skin and your face will want to make more oil, even for oily/acne skin types.
    • Stripping won’t make your acne better, you need an acne treatment on top.
  • Leigh recommends trying cream cleansers, milk cleansers, oil cleansers or a micellar water because you really don’t want to be getting any stripping or exfoliation from your cleansing, that’s what your exfoliating products are for.
  • Steer clear of foam and gel, go for cream or milk. They’re gentler and will still take off all your makeup and get rid of the debris, leaving you skin feeling soft.
  • You could try double cleansing – an oil cleanser first because oil helps to pick up oil, then go over the top with your cream/milk cleanser.

Kelly’s Spendy: Ipsum Best Skin Enriching Face Oil, $56.

Image: Ipsum.

Why she loves it:

  • Beautiful, luxury organic oils that are sustainably sourced.
  • The face oil is glorious, Kelly is using it at night.
  • From an Aussie Lady Startup.
  • The full range contains two face oils and two body oils.

Leigh's Spendy: Ella Bache Hydra Jelly Moisture Shot, $89, and Ella Bache Hydra Cationic Skin Elixir, $69.

Image: Ella Bache.

Why she loves them:

  • Two products that go together.
  • The Hydra Jelly is a serum - it's quite watery, but super hydrating and really thin, because of the consistency, it sinks into the skin really quickly.
  • Feels cool and light.
  • The Skin Elixir would replace a moisturiser, it's kind of like a moisturiser and primer in one.
  • It has a blurring/filing effect, when putting my base on top, it made everything really smooth.

Kelly's Savey: Cedel Retro Dry Shampoo, $10.

Image: Cedel.

Why she loves it:

  • Such a good dry shampoo and so well priced for how much you get.
  • The average bottle of dry shampoo is 200ml, this on is 375ml.
  • There's one for blondes and one for dark hair, and it smells lovely.

Leigh's Savey: Revlon Photoready Candid Antioxidant Concealer, $19.95.

Image: Chemist Warehouse.

Why she loves it:

  • It comes in a little tube like a lip gloss with a doe foot applicator, so you can swipe it under your eyes.
  • Medium to full coverage, glowy under the eye, but not too sheer.
  • Doesn't settle into the lines.
  • Really easy, you can chuck it in your bag, great for on-the-go, and you can't get it wrong.

Until next time, stay lovely.

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