This has to be one of the most annoying skincare pitfalls - it occurs when the application of one product over the top of another leads to the product literally balling up and failing to adhere properly to the skin. It’s a nightmare if this happens in the morning if you haven’t actually got to the make-up part of your routine – you generally have to start again. And who has time for that? 

In formulating the daytime products for Dr Sam’s Skincare (more coming soon!), I was very conscious of the need for the layers to work together so the morning routine runs smoothly – Flawless Moisturiser had to deliver in terms of efficacy and functionality.

So why does skincare and makeup sometimes 'pill'? And how can you prevent pilling?

The commonest practical mistake I see is when we rush things, not giving layers enough time to dry. In clinic I encourage my patients to plan ‘drying time’ between layers – for instance, apply serum, make tea; apply moisturiser, brush teeth, and so on. This dramatically reduces the incidence of pilling.

Are certain products more high-risk than other?

Some people are ‘pillers’, others just aren’t affected by it. But if you’re plagued by issues, it’s time to look at the INCI list. Silicones are great at creating a smooth, priming finish on the skin but in some individuals, they can pill, especially if used in more than one layer or in too-generous quantities.

Talc, iron oxide, and mica can also pill – and these are common ingredients in sunscreen and foundation.

In practice, its almost impossible to predict who will experience pilling and who won’t. I’ve used exactly the same routine in multiple patients: 9 out of 10 will layer like a dream, and 1 might experience problems. In practice, sunscreen is probably the number 1 culprit for pilling and it’s a real barrier to daily use for some individuals. I advise tenacious trial and error – there’s a sunscreen oiut there that will layer as beautifully as your favourite primer, you just have to find it.

How can you prevent pilling?

One tip I highly recommend is to reduce rubbing of the skin – by using my 13 Dot Technique, you dab products on evenly over the skin, which reduces the need to distribute it too aggressively with the hands. This minimises friction.

When applying foundation over sunscreen, I’ve also found a Beauty Blender to be a gamechanger for make-up application in reducing pilling – the action of pushing make-up into skin, rather than ruffling up the layers underneath with brushes or fingers, reduces the risk considerably.

Here's wishing you smooth sailing in your morning routine with these simple hacks – let me know if they make a difference for you!