Why Does My Sunscreen Pill?

Why is sunscreen constantly pilling on my face? It looks like a rice bowl!

We’ve all been there. You’ve just applied your sunscreen, and you’re ready to enjoy a day in the sun. But then, you notice that your sunscreen is pilling up on your skin.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Many people have experienced this phenomenon, and it can be quite frustrating.

So, Why Does Sunscreen Pill?

There are a few different reasons why this might happen.

  • You’re Using Too Much Sunscreen. One possibility is that you’re using too much sunscreen. If you apply a thick layer of sunscreen, it can be difficult for your skin to absorb it all. This can cause the excess sunscreen to pill up on your skin.
  • You’re Using the Wrong Type of Sunscreen (For Your Skin Type). Another possibility is that you’re using the wrong type of sunscreen. If you have oily skin, for example, you should use an oil-free sunscreen that’s best for oily skin. Otherwise, the sunscreen may not absorb into your skin and could pill up instead.
  • You’re Layering Too Many Products. If you’re layering multiple products on your skin (e.g., sunscreen, moisturizer, foundation, etc.), this can also lead to pilling. When you layer multiple products on your skin, it can be difficult for each product to absorb properly, resulting in pilling.
  • Your Skin is Clogged. If your skin is clogged, this can also cause sunscreen to pill up. Dead skin cells, oil, and dirt can end up forming a barrier on your skin that prevents the sunscreen from being absorbed properly, which can cause it to pill up on the surface of your skin.

How to Prevent Sunscreen From Pilling

If you’re experiencing sunscreen pilling, don’t despair. There are a few things you can do to fix the problem.

1. Use Less Sunscreen

Using too much sunscreen can cause pilling, so try a thinner layer if you’re struggling with pilling. Apply a thin layer of sunscreen and allow it to absorb into your skin before applying more.

Of course you don’t want to skimp out on sunscreen – you always want to apply the correct amount of sunscreen as is needed to cover the application area. But, too much all at once can definitely cause issues.

2. Let Products Fully Absorb Before Adding More

If you’re layering multiple products on your skin, make sure to let each one fully absorb before applying the next. We’d recommend giving each product a handful of minutes to try before applying another.

3. Try Applying Products In A Different Order

Sometimes all you need to do to stop sunscreen from pilling is to experiment with applying your products in a different order.

It’s generally recommended that you apply products from lightest to heaviest.

If you typically apply sunscreen before your moisturizer, try applying your moisturizer first. This may help to prevent your sunscreen from pilling.

4. Clean and Exfoliate Your Face

If your skin is clogged, exfoliating can help to fix the problem. Exfoliating will remove dead skin cells, oil, and dirt from your skin, making it easier for sunscreen to be absorbed.

You can use a facial scrub or exfoliating brush to exfoliate your skin. You can also try using a chemical exfoliator, such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid.


Make sure that you’re also cleaning your face thoroughly before applying sunscreen. If you’re not confident in your cleanser, experiment with different cleansers to ensure you’re really getting everything off your face!

5. Choose a Different Sunscreen

Some sunscreens won’t play nicely with your moisturizer or makeup. If you’re having pilling problems, try out a sunscreen that doesn’t have silicones. Tacl, iron oxide, and and mica also have the potential to result in pilling, but silicones tend to be the biggest culprit.

Just keep in mind that silicones have some advantages too – when used in makeup, they can have a great smoothing effect that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. However, since silicones are made to sit on top of the skin, rather than absorb into it, it’s common for them to cause pilling.

If your current sunscreen is oily, try opting for a water-based, oil-free sunscreen instead.

You may have to experiment with different sunscreens to find one that works well with the rest of your skin care regiment. Pilling if often the result of your products being simply incompatible. Remember when your science teacher showed you how oil separates from water in school? That same separation can occur right on your skin!

6. Cut Down on Products

If you’re using a lot of products, try cutting down and simplifying your routine. The more products you use, the greater the chance that there will be some chemical incompatibility between some of the products.

skincare products

You could also consider letting your products take turns, such as applying water-based products in the AM, and oil-based ones at night.

Try using fewer products overall, or only using products that are absolutely necessary.

7. Apply Sunscreen Evenly

Make sure to apply sunscreen evenly all over your skin. If you notice any clumps of sunscreen, smooth them out with your hands.

8. Try a Different Sunscreen Application Method

If you’re still having trouble, try using a different sunscreen application method. Some people find that facial spray sunscreens or sunscreen powders are easier to apply evenly and aren’t as likely to pill. Experiment until you find a method that works best for you!

9. Skip the Makeup Primer

If you typically use a makeup primer, try cutting it your of your routine and see if that helps. Primer tends to have a lot of silicones, making it more likely to cause sunscreen pilling.

FAQs About Sunscreen Pilling

Why does my sunscreen always pill on my face?

Sunscreen can pill up on your face due to a number of factors, most often due to clogged pored, product incompatibility, using too much sunscreen, or not letting product layers fully dry between applications.

How do I stop my sunscreen from pilling?

To stop sunscreen from pilling, you can try switching to a different sunscreen that’s more compatible with your other products, or simply try cutting down on the number of products you use to reduce the risk of two ingredients not working well together.
You can also experiment with letting product layers dry for several minutes before applying additional layers, as well as try exfoliating to eliminate and dead skin cells or dirt.

Why is my sunscreen separating?

Oil and water naturally separate, so if you’re mixing oil and water based products, you’ll likely witness your sunscreen separating.

There are a number of reasons why your sunscreen might be pilling, but most often it’s due to product incompatibility, using too much sunscreen, or not letting product layers fully dry between applications. If you’re having pilling probs, try our suggestions above and you’ll likely put a stop to that pilling!

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