Woman layering skincare

Skin pilling: How to layer skincare

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If you've ever noticed flaky granules appearing on your skin when applying products, there's a name for it - skin pilling. Pilling on skin is quite common, and can be caused by your skincare routine.

To help avoid skin pilling it's important to use the correct order of skincare products, but with an abundance of products available it can be hard to understand when to use them.

In this article we explain how to layer skincare to maximise results, while outlining the differences between a morning and an evening skincare routine.

What is skin pilling?

Woman cleansing skin
Pilling can occur when skin hasn’t been properly cleansed or exfoliated.

Skincare pilling occurs when your products begin to form into tiny balls that roll back off your skin, especially after layering them on top of each other.

Pilling is a relatively new skin concern, but is often caused by applying products in the wrong order. Here are some of the other causes of skin pilling:

  • Certain ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, biopolymers and sensory additives with mattifying properties, can cause pilling for some individuals.
  • Incompatible formulas in the products you're using.
  • Skin is not sufficiently cleansed or exfoliated.

How to stop skincare pilling

To reduce the chances of experiencing pilling on skin, try to use products with similar formulas when layering. For example, much like how water and oil repel each other, using an oil-based moisturiser and a water-based foundation can result in skin pilling.

If you notice skin pilling occurring when layering products, they might not be compatible.

Another way to prevent pilling is to be patient when going through your skincare routine. Try not to apply too much product, and leave enough time (at least a minute) for it to absorb before the next step.

Leave a minimum of 60 seconds between layers.

Your individual skin type is also a factor, so always ensure the products you are using are right for your skin’s needs.

Why is a skincare routine important?

Woman cleansing as part of skincare routine
A daily routine tailored to your skin type is crucial for healthy skin.

Maintaining a consistent skincare routine - using quality products matched to your skin type - will help your skin stay in good condition. It also protects your face from damaging external influences like the weather and air pollution.

This should take place twice a day – in the morning and in the evening before you go to sleep. Skincare should involve four basic steps: cleanse, tone, care and protect. Learn more in Daily skincare routine for the face.

Whether you want to prevent acne, increase hydration or reduce wrinkles, keeping a skincare routine is important because it will help regenerate new skin cells, providing long-term benefits.

Regarding the order of skincare products, as a general rule you should apply your skincare products in order from the thinnest texture to the thickest, as lighter products can’t penetrate heavier ones.

Skincare routines can be customised to your chosen skin concern. Our skin is unique, so while one person's skin may benefit from using hyaluronic acid every day, someone else may need more of a different ingredient, like Thiamidol.

Skincare morning routine

Your morning skincare routine should focus on protecting your skin from environmental factors like harsh UV light, cold weather and pollution. Avoid using treatments like retinol and peeling products until the evening.

1. Cleanser

In the morning, wash your face with a gentle cleanser suitable for your skin type, or warm water. For a daily use cleanser try the DermatoCLEAN Hyaluron Cleansing Milk, which supports skin hydration and is suitable for sensitive skin. Hyaluronic acid helps skin maintain its natural moisture balance without drying it out.

2. Toner

This step removes any last traces of cleanser and refreshes the skin. Use a toner which is intended for your specific skin concern, applying it with a cotton pad. Toners can be a confusing skincare product, but they are essential in tackling skin problems such as blemishes.

3. Serum

Care products like serums help replenish skin and target specific skin concerns. As serums are super-concentrated and include the most active ingredients, they should be applied onto freshly-cleansed skin. If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, the Anti-Pigment Dual Serum effectively reduces the appearance of dark spots and helps prevent their re-appearance.

4. Day Cream (optional)

A moisturising day cream may be used here, but is optional if you're experiencing skin pilling. Suitable for all skin types, the Day SPF 30 with 3x Effect addresses the first signs of ageing in dry skin. It noticeably plumps up fine lines and even deep wrinkles for rejuvenated, younger-looking skin.

5. SPF

Your morning skincare routine should always end with sunscreen, every day. SPF should be applied after the rest of your skincare products, because it's the first layer hit by UV rays. With Advanced Spectral Technology and very high UV protection, our Pigment Control Sun Cream-Gel helps reduce dark spots with our life-changing ingredient Thiamidol.

View the full range of Eucerin products.

Not everyone will need a skincare routine with several steps. Using fewer products will often reduce the chances of irritation, breakouts or reactions. If you're just starting a new skincare routine, try using just a cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen.

Night-time skincare routine

Broadly, the order of skincare products in your evening routine will be the same as the morning, with the exception of sunscreen. Your night-time skincare routine should focus on repairing and rejuvenating the skin.

  1. Cleanser: Remove the build-up of dirt, sweat, and make-up from the day.
  2. Toner: This helps restore skin's natural pH value.
  3. Serum: Applying serums before a night cream ensures they are absorbed with maximum efficiency and penetration into the skin.
  4. Eye Cream (optional): Using an eye cream each night will help maintain eyelid elasticity, improve fine lines and prevent collagen loss. However, this step is optional to avoid skin pilling.
  5. Night Cream: Helping to seal the serum, this should replenish facial skin and include active ingredients to address your particular skin concern.

View the full range of Eucerin products.

Night-time skincare tips

As well as following a consistent night-time skincare routine, here are some other tips to follow for healthy skin:

  • Complete your skincare routine at least 1 hour before getting into bed, to prevent products transferring onto the pillow.
  • Get as much sleep as possible, as this can help to prevent the appearance of wrinkles, puffiness, and imperfections.
  • Clean your pillowcase regularly to prevent oil and bacteria from touching your newly-cleansed face.
  • Try one of our bestselling night-time products, the Hyaluron-Filler Night Peeling Serum, which refines skin texture, promotes skin renewal and plumps up the appearance of wrinkles.

For more advice on routines read Daily routine for face, and for general skincare information visit our advice section.

Our brand values

Pioneers in skincare

We deliver a holistic dermo-cosmetic approach to protect your skin, keep it healthy and radiant.

Recommended by dermatologists

We work together with leading dermatologist and pharmacist partners around the world to create innovative and effective skincare products they can trust and recommend.

Committed to innovation

For over 100 years, we have dedicated ourselves to researching and innovating in the field of skin science. We believe in creating active ingredients and soothing formulas with high tolerability that work to help you live your life better each day.

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