What is Sunscreen Pilling?

Protecting your skin from the damaging effects of the sun is one of your best defenses against aging. Today, it is well-known that sunscreen should be a part of your daily skincare regimen, and you’ll find that there are many different types available that allow you to select the right formula for your needs.

While you might know that applying sunscreen helps to prevent wrinkles and skin cancer, it is also common for some people to skip it when they encounter the problem of pilling. Finding a sunscreen that doesn’t pill helps you to stay on track with sun damage prevention while putting your best face forward.

Find out what causes sunscreen pill, how to prevent it from happening, and how to choose a sunscreen that won’t pill when you wear it. We’ve got you covered when it comes to feeling confident in the sunscreen you’re wearing.

What Does Sunscreen Pilling Mean?

Sunscreen pilling is the term that describes the tiny flakes you might see on your skin when you’re wearing it. Pilling occurs when the sunscreen balls up or flakes on your skin, which can be visible to other people. Discovering that you have tiny beads of sunscreen sitting on the surface of your skin makes it virtually impossible to apply your next layer of makeup or skin care products. Plus, you don’t need white flakes making it look like you haven’t washed or exfoliated your face.

Sunscreen pilling means that your product isn't working effectively. But it can also be embarrassing. No one wants to have white beads and flakes on their skin, and the pilling means that it isn't getting absorbed. This problem can also mean that you are using a product that was made with low-quality ingredients, and you might need to make a change to see better results.

What Causes Sunscreen Pilling?

In an ideal scenario, you’ll simply smooth on the sunscreen and allow it to be fully absorbed into your skin. However, sunscreen pilling is a common problem.

Some factors that may contribute to sunscreen pilling include:

  • Having dry skin
  • Putting sunscreen on top of oily skin or makeup
  • Using a low-quality product
  • Over-applying sunscreen

Images depicting dry and oily skin with text underneath that reads, “Skin that is too oily or too dry can contribute to pilling.”

Does Sunscreen Pilling Impact Effectiveness?

When you find yourself wondering, “why does my sunscreen pill?” you should also ask yourself if the product that you are using is effective at this point. When sunscreen pills, the little balls that you see are areas where the formula has gathered up. This means that it is no longer spread out on the surface of your skin.

Looking for non-pilling sunscreen is important for making sure that none of your skin is left exposed to the sun’s rays. If you see the sunscreen pilling, then you have no other choice but to wash your face and start all over again. Otherwise, you risk getting sunburn or skin damage.

While you might have to make do with what you have on hand at the moment, you’ll also want to start looking for the best sunscreen that doesn’t pill so that you can add it to your skincare routine.

How to Prevent Sunscreen Pilling

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome the common problems with traditional sunscreen, and you can further reduce the chances of pilling by taking a few addiction precautions during your skincare routine. Eliminating these common causes of pilling makes protecting your skin so much easier.

Check out these pointers that will have your favorite sunscreen go on smoothly for optimal sun protection.

Graphic with icons that show someone applying product to their face, a container of moisturizer, a towel, a feather, and a hand doing a “stop” motion.

Cleanse Before

You should always start with clean and dry skin before you apply products that you want to be absorbed. Your skin is constantly producing natural oils that keep it supple and free from damage. While you don’t want to strip those natural oils completely off of your skin, you will need to remove some of them along with the dirt and grime that accumulates during the day or while you sleep.

Start by using your favorite cleanser to create a clean surface for your sunscreen to be placed upon. Remember to avoid scrubbing your face. Instead, use gentle motions to wash and dry your skin while making sure that any leftover makeup or residue is fully removed.

Moisturize Skin

There is an age-old debate on whether you should apply sunscreen or moisturizer first. While everyone seems to have an opinion, it works best to add moisture to your skin before you apply non-pilling sunscreen. Starting out with moisturized skin stops you from having skin flakes that can contribute to the sunscreen balling up.

Make Sure Skin Is Dry

Now is a good time to remember to give your moisturizer time to soak into your skin. Usually, you only need to wait for about 30 to 60 seconds for your skin to lose the dewiness of the initial application.

If it takes longer than that, then you might need to use a soft cloth to remove any leftover excess moisturizer. You might also want to assess how much you use. If the moisturizer doesn’t soak into your skin rather quickly, then it could be too heavy for your skin type. Or, you might be using too much.

Waiting until your skin is dry helps the sunscreen to adhere better to the surface, and it will ensure that the product doesn’t get diluted.

Apply Gently

You might be in a hurry to get out there and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities on a sunny day, but going too fast could cause you to use harsh motions on your skin. Always apply sunscreen with a light touch. You can use your two middle fingers to make it less likely that you’ll tug on your delicate skin. Lightly rubbing the sunscreen in prevents accidentally lifting skin cells that can mix in with the solution and cause flaking.

Avoid Overapplying

People sometimes overdo sunscreen application in a misguided effort to protect their skin. The best sunscreen that doesn’t pill should be able to provide a high level of protection with just a thin layer.

Keep in mind that it is hard to say exactly how much to apply every time. The type of product that you use will impact the amount necessary for full protection. For instance, you can’t measure sunscreen in a stick form like you would a lotion. This is why it is best to aim to make sure that you focus on even coverage across all of your skin.

Similar to moisturizer, you know you’ve applied too much if the sunscreen sits on top of your skin rather than absorbing into it.

Graphic showing a cluster of six downward arrows with text underneath

Is Mineral Sunscreen Known to Pill?

Despite what you might have heard, not all mineral sunscreen causes pilling. The trick to making sure that this type of sunscreen doesn’t pill is to look for high-quality formulas.

Mineral sunscreen works by creating a physical barrier on top of your skin to block the sun’s rays from penetrating your skin. By using tiny particles of minerals, it is not possible for them to build up on your skin where they can ball up.

How to Find a Quality Sunscreen That Doesn’t Pill

Finding a sunscreen that doesn’t pill is easier when you start by looking at brands that are known for their quality in the first place. Colorescience sunscreens are made using micronized ingredients that include terra tannins and iron oxide that are lightweight and don’t ball up.

You can also look for sunscreens that have been recognized as award-winners by the leading magazines and professionals in the beauty industry. When others find a non-pilling sunscreen that is effective and lightweight, you can trust that you’ll also find it glides smoothly onto your skin.

During your search for the perfect sunscreen, you’ll also find that reputable brands are eager to tell you how they make their products. You should find an easily accessible ingredient list that mentions micronized UV-ray blockers for the best experience.

Young Black woman applying sunscreen to her shoulder with a scenic blurred background.

Use a Lighter Formula

If you’ve ever watched as a heavy sunscreen left white streaks on your skin that took forever to rub in, then you already know the frustration that can come from using a product that is too thick.

Colorescience sunscreens are made to be lightweight. You’ll find that they brush or rub onto your skin with minimal effort, yet they also provide substantial coverage. Once the lightweight formula goes on, you shouldn’t be able to tell that you are wearing sunscreen. Instead, it should blend naturally into your skin tone.

Look for Easy Application

Speaking of the frustration that comes from rubbing heavy products into your skin, you’ll also want to note that you don’t have to accept having sticky hands. Colorescience has designed several products that open up your application options.

Our Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Brush-On Shield offers you SPF 50 protection while also making it easy to simply whisk the sunscreen onto your face. The brush-on powder also helps to absorb oil so that it doesn’t ball up. Plus, you’ll find that stashing the easy applicator in your day bag is a breeze.

The Sunforgettable® Total Protection™ Sport Stick is another product that is perfect for when you are on the go. This stick sunscreen glides on smoothly, and you can use it on any exposed skin from your face to your arms and legs. You’ll notice that this sunscreen glides on white, but it quickly blends into your skin with a few gentle rubs.

Don’t Compromise on Protection

If you’ve been frustrated by pilling before, then you might be tempted to skip sunscreen application. The good news is that you don’t have to compromise by exposing your skin to damage. With Colorescience mineral sunscreens in your skincare regimen, you get a high level of protection that keeps your skin healthy.

On top of using micronized sun-blocking minerals, our products also contain ingredients that protect your skin from environmental pollutants, blue-ray light, and infrared radiation.

Wear Sunscreen That Looks & Feels Good

The sunscreen that you wear should be comfortable, protective, and look natural. Stop using poor-quality sunscreens that pill and lead to reduced effectiveness. Colorescience offers a better solution—mineral-based sunscreens that protect, don’t pill, and keep your skin looking and feeling its best. Whether you’re the type to brush on a powder or prefer a sports-friendly stick, you’ll be happy you made the switch.