Have you ever found yourself applying your makeup, only to have it start rolling off or pilling like the fibers of an old sweater on your face?
It’s annoying. And we’ve been there.
According to makeup artist Alexandre Deslauriers, layering makeup without getting any pilling is kind of “like a science.” You need to be aware of what you’re putting on your face, how much of it you’re using and whether it’s compatible with your primers, moisturizers, sunscreens and serums. Then there’s the actual application technique, which can make or break your smooth makeup applications.
Admittedly, that seems like quite a lot to consider for something many people do on a daily basis. So to help you break down all the factors that might make your makeup pill, we spoke to Deslauriers and fellow makeup artist Mai Quynh.
For starters, not all products are compatible with each other
As Deslauriers explained, there are four main bases in makeup products: silicone, water, oil and wax. Not all of them work well together, which definitely leads to some less than stellar makeup applications.
Oil + water = incompatible. If you’re using an oil-based primer and a water-based foundation, the latter might just roll off. (The exception to this mixing rule is using water-based foundation on oily skin, as it can help keep shine at bay.) The same could go for mixing silicone primers and water-based foundations, Deslauriers said, comparing the combination to oil and vinegar in vinaigrette; when you shake it or blend it, the two liquids mix, but over time, they separate.
Silicone + silicone = a good match. As makeup artist and influencer Christina Marrale once wrote on her website, it’s a good rule of thumb to keep your makeup bases the same. If you like silicone primers, stick with a silicone-based foundation for the best results. If you use water-based-primers, stick with a water-based foundation.
Of course, there’s some trial and error involved, as not every product, whether a foundation, primer or otherwise, will look the same on every person who uses it. Deslauriers encouraged individuals to do some research by trying different products and reading product labels.
One of the biggest causes of pilling is dead, dry skin
Before applying makeup, “always remember to exfoliate,” Quynh told HuffPost. “You want a smooth surface to apply makeup ― no dry, dead skin patches!”
If you do have dry patches or an excess of dead skin cells, they could be responsible for your less than flawless makeup application.
According to Deslauriers, dead skin sitting on top of the skin “almost works like a powder” and when you try to apply a foundation on top, it may instead stick to the dead skin instead of the fresher skin underneath. As a result, “foundation would roll over [the dead skin] and create an issue,” Deslauriers said.
Silicone is also a major culprit
“Some products contain too much silicone, which lays on top of the skin and doesn’t absorb,” Quynh said.
If you try to layer certain products on top of a silicone-based product ― a primer, for example ― you might end up with pilling. It all goes back to the compatibility of your products. And if you’re unsure whether your products are silicone-based, check out the label as silicones should be listed among the ingredients; some common silicones in beauty products include amodimethicone, cyclomethicone, dimethicone and methicone, according to The Skincare Edit. For additional reference, a few popular silicone-based primers include Benefit Cosmetics’ POREfessional primer and Smashbox’s Photo Finish primer.
Additionally, Deslauriers said that if you use too much of a silicone-based product, it’s “like putting too much wax on the floor.” In other words, it will be a slippery surface for your makeup.
Some patience is required
You might not think about being patient when you’re trying to get your makeup done in the morning or before you head out for the night, but you really do need to give products (especially moisturizers, creams and sunscreens) ample time to absorb into your skin before applying primers and makeup.
According to Deslauriers, if your skin has too much moisturizer sitting on top of it, adding products ― particularly those of the silicone-based variety ― on top is just a recipe for pilling.
“The silicone is going to slide off the moisturizer,” he said. “It’s not going to grab on the skin and then it’s going to roll.”
Application is important too
When it comes to applying your skin care and makeup products, Quynh told HuffPost, “it’s about patting in your skin care and not rubbing it, which may cause it to ball up.”
She said she prefers “to stipple foundation into the skin with a brush or sponge, [which] decreases any chance of pilling.”
But again, everyone’s skin and product preference is different, and as Quynh said, “Finding the right combination that works for you is all about trial and error.”