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Skin peeling & pilling: Meaning, Causes, Effects, Prevention

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You might have heard of peeling but then what is skin pilling? It’s quite similar to linting that you might observe on an old sweater or a knitted top. Peeling and pilling both hinder your expensive skincare to do better to your skin. So it is quite important to get all the deets on these two concerns because who wants to waste those bucks on expensive skincare and then not even let it work on your skin? All your questions from what is it to how to stop it are noted here so buckle up and do some reading for better skin!

What does peeling mean in skincare?

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Peeling is nothing but your uppermost skin layer falling apart. One fine day you woke up with your skin peeling off and you might think that you haven’t probably moisturised well. That could be the case or it could also be due to weather, your skincare routine, diet, certain medical conditions, medicines, etc. Peeling is a sign that your skin is losing its structural composition due to a compromised barrier and hence there’s some repairing you need to do. Your skin might seem whitish before starting to peel and that’s the first sign you want to catch before things get worse.

What does pilling mean in skincare?

Certain times while putting on skincare as per your regime, you might observe that it’s rolling up on your skin much like linting that you see on old, knitted sweaters generally. Many factors are contributing to this situation. It could either be because you’re rubbing your skincare, not letting them absorb before applying the next product, you’re applying the skincare in the wrong order or probably you’re layering too many skincare products. Pilling is a sign that your skincare application and routine needs to be altered. Pilling can affect your skin barrier and even clog your pores. Pilling can also occur with your makeup. You typically see the product is separated into small clusters while you’re applying your skincare and makeup products.

When does peeling and pilling occur?

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    Now that we know what peeling and pilling mean, let’s understand what are the causes so that we know where to draw a line with our skincare for healthy skin.

    Here’s what could be causing peeling

    1. Windburn

    Windburn is when the cold breeze is hitting your face and irritating it. This leads to redness, inflammation, even tearing of skin due to the harshness. Windburn will affect dry and sensitive skin without a good moisturiser to protect the skin. Of course, it will lead to peeling of the skin since there is no moisture to hold the structure of the skin cells.

      2. Sunburn

      You don’t use sunscreen correctly and you will see adverse effects of the sun. UV rays can easily shoot down your skin’s structure and moisture level without breaking a sweat. Once the UV rays hit your skin and burn your cells, you will see redness, and eventually, the skin will start peeling off. Nasty!

        3. Over-exfoliation

        We have all secretly over-exfoliated because we thought that can solve acne, make our skin brighter, exfoliated, and bring a new glow. But if you don’t use just the right concentration and right frequency of usage. If you’re staying at home then probably your skin doesn’t need to be exfoliated every day. You can probably just do it on alternate days. Over exfoliation again, burns your skin, and eventually, that burnt skin will peel off. In certain cases, it can even lead to acne since it breaks your skin and skin barrier, making it easy for the germs to settle in your pores.

          4. Your skincare routine

          Do you have too many actives in your routine? If you have Humectants in your routine then do you have Occlusives to seal the hydration? Certain ingredients when mixed can irritate and dry off your skin. For example, if you’re using a higher concentration of Vitamin C then you must add Ceramides, Peptides, Niacinamide, Vitamin E to make sure that your skin isn’t drying off. Certain ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, if used as a standalone ingredient then it can harm your skin since it is a Humectant that will draw moisture from the environment and if there is none in the air then it will draw moisture from the deepest layer of your skin which makes it extremely drying to the skin. So one must always pair humectants with emollient or Occlusive to avoid drying and peeling. To build a sound and mindful skincare routine, one must visit a dermatologist.

            5. Medical condition

            Certain medical conditions like eczema, psoriasis, Rosacea, etc, can lead to peeling of the skin. This skin is generally scaly and can be managed by a dermatologist. The causes of peeling due to medical conditions depend on the reason why you have that medical condition in the first place.

              Here’s what could be causing pilling:

              1. Using too many skincare products

              To all the skincare hoarders, here’s to note something that you want to avoid. When you layer too many products, some of their composition might just not sit well together. Certain skincare products sit on your skin without being absorbed. These are mostly products containing ingredients like silicones. You might find silicones in some moisturiser. Mostly all makeup products contain silicone too so that it sits well on your skin. If you use a silicone-containing moisturiser and layer it with a foundation then it will cause those round beads to gather which we now know is skin pilling.

                2. Not waiting enough while layering

                Every ingredient and formulation is absorbed at its own rate. So to derive maximum benefits out of a product, we need to wait and let it absorb. If you layer skincare without giving it enough time then it will end up small balls or gather up as you massage your skin.

                  3. Not layering it rightly

                  Certain skincare reacts when they’re mixed. So their formulations could be such that they won’t be absorbed well by our skin if they’re mixed with another ingredient. This will cause pilling. But this is not it. If you’re layering your skincare products in the wrong order then that can cause pilling too. For example, if you apply a lightweight serum after applying lotion then your expensive serum might end up rolled up in small balls on your skin. So start with products having watery consistency and then build into products with a heavier formulation.

                    Here’s how you can layer like a pro!

                    4. Rubbing skincare products

                    To let your products absorb, you need to give it time. If you rub it on your skin then it will hinder your product from settling and getting absorbed in your skin. The best way to apply skincare is by dabbing and letting it rest for a couple of minutes before going in with the next product.

                      5. You haven’t exfoliated the dead skin

                      To not experience pilling, you have to ensure that your products seep into your skin. But if you have dead skin then your products may roll up on your skin instead of being absorbed. Exfoliating once or twice a week is a healthy practice to maintain your skin health. Not exfoliating will just give you a buttload of dead skin and skin pilling.

                        What happens when you peel or pile excessively?

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                          When you peel excessively, your skin barrier will break down and excessive peeling will loosen up your skin structure. You will also observe dulling of the skin since peeling occurs due to excessive loss of moisture. Peeling also exposes a new layer of skin that will be more sensitive and if you don’t moisturise it well then you might end up with micro-tears and inflammation easily. To list down a few events that might occur due to excessive peeling are-

                          Skin pilling, on the other hand, does not particularly break down your skin barrier if you correct your actions at the beginning of skin pilling. However, if you’re unaware that those tiny balls are the result of skin pilling, then you might go ahead with your regular skincare routine. This will lead to irritating your skin and give you an additional headache. Here’s a list of events that might follow after excessive skin pilling-

                          What are the ways to avoid peeling and pilling?

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                            Peeling and pilling are definitely preventable. Since you know what peeling and pilling are, it is now time to know how to prevent it. Here are some simple ways to avoid peeling-

                            1. Avoid using a higher concentration of actives

                            Jumping to a higher concentration without building tolerance for that new ingredient is the simplest way one can mess up with your skin. Not every ingredient can suit your skin from day 1 and hence it is extremely important to ensure that you’re building tolerance for it before including it in your religious skincare regime. You must also patch test before applying any and every product on your face. 

                              Here’s how you can patch test any ingredient!

                              2. Add skin barrier strengthening ingredients

                              If your skincare routine has a lot of actives then you must know that they can hamper your skin barrier. And no actives can work well on a skin whose barrier is compromised. So include a few skin barrier strengthening elements that can maintain your skin barrier while the actives work up on your skin. A few ingredients that we’d go for are Cica, Aloe Vera, Snail Mucin, Ceramides, Panthenol, Peptides. To read more about skin barrier, click here.

                                Sublime recommends Rovectin Skin Essentials Cica Care Sleeping Pack. Enriched with Cica, Panthenol, and Protease enzymes, it’s a perfect match for peeling skin.

                                Rovectin Skin Essentials Cica Care Sleeping Pack on

                                3. Use Sunscreen

                                If you consistently use sunscreen for two months then you will understand why you obsess over sunscreen to achieve clear and shiny skin. Skin is our body’s largest organ and since Earth’s ozone layer is tearing apart, we might as well stay super close to sunscreen to maintain our skin health.

                                  Learn more about how to read sunscreen labels and pick a suitable sunscreen here!

                                  Sublime recommends FAI Sun Shield SPF 50+ PA+++. There is no way that UV rays can escape this SPF before trying to reach your skin!

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                                  4. Add a good face cream

                                  A cream that is rich in Ceramides, Peptides, and a mix of humectants, emollients, and occlusives can save your skin. Ceramides and Peptides work well to keep up your skin structure and hence avoid wrinkles. Humectants, emollients, and occlusives can work really well together to hydrate and seal the moisture. A good face moisturiser can instantly help you avoid peeling.

                                    Learn more on how to find the right moisturiser for your skin here!

                                    Sublime recommends Dear, Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream. This is a strong soldier for all skin types, made with Ceramides, Peptides, and Cica to leave you with moisturise and supple skin.

                                    Dear, Klairs Midnight Blue Calming Cream on

                                    Here’s how to avoid skin pilling like a pro-

                                    1. Make your routine simple

                                    Pilling is majorly because your skin hasn’t absorbed your skincare well. To make sure that it does, make your routine simple. Follow a four-step routine that starts with cleansing, then using an essence, follow it with a treatment-based serum, and lock it all with a strong SPF in the AM routine. Once in a while, you can use a chemical exfoliator to ensure that there is no accumulation of dead skin.

                                      Sublime recommends D'you Hustle. If you feel like using Niacinamide, Vitamin C, Ceramides, and everything together, it could be way too much layering on your skin. We’re so thankful that this one magic bottle has all of it and delivers a great result. We love how it replaces our serum, essence, toner to make our skincare routine so simple!

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                                      2. Dab and not rub

                                      Skincare is not going to work without being absorbed. And if you rub it while applying then there is no way for the product to seep in. Instead, dab. By dabbing, you’re trying to push in the product. We must also ensure to let the product be on our face for a couple of minutes before going in with the next product.

                                      3. Include a gentle exfoliator

                                      Exfoliation in the right frequency can be a game-changer for your skin. Use the right strength and let it sit for adequate time to exfoliate just your dead skin and gunk. Just like actives, chemical exfoliators should be used by building tolerance for it.

                                        Here’s how to pick an exfoliator according to your skin concern!

                                        Sublime recommends Dr. Sheth's Extra Gentle Daily Peel. It has 5% Lactic and Glycolic Acid. A great pick for beginners of all skin types to help you reduce the gunk building up on your skin and to reduce blemishes.

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                                        The bottom line

                                        While skincare saves a lot of us, it can also cause peeling and pilling if we use skincare products with minimal or no information. Peeling and pilling are common skin concerns that anyone can face if they don’t stick to the basics of skincare. Before picking out the next skincare product, we hope you’d remember the tips mentioned here that will help you create a better skincare routine. A routine that won’t lead to peeling or pilling!

                                        -Divya Salvi

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