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Sunscreen Pilling

Sunscreen Pilling: Causes & Prevention Tips

Wearing sunscreen daily is crucial to maintaining healthy skin and preventing sun damage. However, one common issue many people face when using sunscreen is the occurrence of pilling. Sunscreen pilling is the term used to describe when sunscreen starts to ball up and flake off the skin, leaving an unsightly and uncomfortable mess. This can happen with face sunscreen and body sunscreen in some cases. In this article, we will discuss the causes of sunscreen pilling and provide tips on how to prevent it.

What is sunscreen pilling?

Sunscreen pilling is the result of a product failing to absorb properly into the skin. When this happens, the product can clump together and create visible pills on the surface of the skin.  This can be a frustrating issue for those who want to keep their skin protected without worrying about their sunscreen interfering with their daily skincare routine or changing the look of their skin texture.

What causes sunscreen pilling?

Sunscreen pilling can be caused by a variety of factors, including the ingredients in the sunscreen and how it interacts with other skincare products. Some ingredients, such as certain types of silicones or mineral filters, can contribute to pilling if not formulated properly. A study investigated sunscreen pilling and found that pilling was more common when sunscreen was used in combination with other skincare products, particularly those containing oils.1 Additionally, if the sunscreen is applied over a product that contains oil, it can cause the sunscreen to slide off the skin and pill. Preventing pilling is a matter of finding an SPF that works best for your skin with your other products. If using body sunscreen on your face, consider incorporating a face sunscreen into your daily routine.


Does pilling affect sunscreen effectiveness?

One of the concerns with sunscreen pilling is whether or not it affects the effectiveness of the sunscreen. The good news is that pilling does not necessarily mean that the sunscreen is not doing its job. However, if large amounts of product are pilling off, it can mean that the skin is not getting the full amount of protection it needs. It is always best to ensure that the sunscreen is applied evenly and properly to ensure maximum protection.

How can sunscreen pilling be prevented?

There are a couple of key steps to take to reduce the amount of sunscreen pilling:

  1. Apply sunscreen on clean, dry skin: Be sure to apply your sunscreen after cleansing and allow your skin to fully dry before applying. This helps the sunscreen absorb properly and reduces the chances of it pilling. Apply your sunscreen to dry, bare skin, followed by serum treatments and moisturizer. If you aren’t sure if you should apply sunscreen before or after moisturizer, it depends on the types of other products and ingredients you are using.
  2. Allow products to fully absorb: It is important to allow skincare products to fully absorb into the skin before applying sunscreen. This reduces the chance of the sunscreen clumping up and pilling. The thickness of sunscreen applied onto other products can also impact pilling.2
  3. Avoid layering with oily products: If using oil based products, it is best to apply it after the sunscreen. This will reduce the chance of the sunscreen sliding off the skin and pilling. Sunscreen pilling is more likely to occur when multiple layers of skin care products are applied. Learning SPF layering can be helpful to prevent pilling.
  4. Choose the right sunscreen: Some sunscreens, whether a mineral sunscreen or a chemical sunscreen, are less likely to pill than others. Look for a lightweight, fast-absorbing formula that is specifically designed to be layered under makeup. Finding a daily SPF that works best for your skin type is achievable. Some people wonder “does sunscreen help acne?” and the answer is that it can help prevent acne by protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays. According to research in the “Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology,” one of the main reasons for sunscreen pilling is the poor compatibility between the sunscreen formulation and the user’s skin.4 It’s a matter of finding a sunscreen product that works best for your skin type.
  5. Reapply sunscreen properly: It is important to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if sweating or swimming. When reapplying, make sure to remove any excess product before applying a new layer.

How to find the best sunscreen for your skin

When choosing a sunscreen, there are a couple of key factors to consider, like your skin type and any specific concerns you might have. Look for a formula that is lightweight, fast-absorbing, and specifically formulated for your skin type. COOLA offers a wide range of organic face sunscreens that are designed to be compatible with other skincare products and makeup, making it easy to protect your skin without sacrificing your beauty routine.

In conclusion, sunscreen pilling can be a frustrating issue, but with the right prevention tips and skincare products, it can be avoided. Remember to apply sunscreen on clean, dry skin, allow other products to fully absorb, avoid layering with oily products, choose the right sunscreen, and reapply properly. Part of maintaining healthy skin is protecting it against the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Our wide range of high quality, organic sunscreens can help you do just that and help your skin look its best.




  1. Montenegro L, Carbone C, Paolino D, Drago R, Stancampiano AH, Puglisi G. In vitro skin permeation of sunscreen agents from O/W emulsions. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 2008;30(1):57-65. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2494.2008.00417.x‌ 
  2. Jiang R, Hayden CG, Prankerd RJ, Roberts MS, Benson HA. High-performance liquid chromatographic assay for common sunscreening agents in cosmetic products, bovine serum albumin solution and human plasma. J Chromatogr B Biomed Appl. 1996 Jun 28;682(1):137-45. doi: 10.1016/0378-4347(96)00063-1. PMID: 8832434. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8832434/ 
  3. Min Ah Kim, Yu Chul Jung, Bae J, Ha J, Kim E. Layering sunscreen with facial makeup enhances its sun protection factor under real‐use conditions. Skin Research and Technology. 2021;27(5):751-757. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/srt.13010 
  4. Barel, A.O., Paye, M., & Maibach, H.I. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology (4th ed.). CRC Press. https://doi.org/10.1201/b16716