Why Your Skincare Pills, AKA Forms Gross Balls Like an Old Sweater

Not good on a knit, even worse on your face.

Purple, Violet, Close-up,
(Image credit: Alamy)

Probably until the end of time—the *real* real end of time, not now—man will be fascinated by the changing of the seasons, even though it literally happens every year. But you want to know an *actual* minor phenomenon, also tied to the weather? When your skincare pills like so many cashmere sweaters do under the arms.

Is it dead skin? Is it little half-dried bullets of moisturizer and SPF tinted gray from your filthy fingertips (oops)? Ew! Cool.

For some answers, we turned to Dr. Rachel Nazarian at Schweiger Dermatology Group (opens in new tab), who was tactful enough not to admonish us for our dubious hand-washing. (Note to self: Singing "Happy Birthday" twice doesn't count if the tempo marking is presto.)

"The most common reason is that you're applying too much product," she said. "There's a limit to how much your skin will absorb at the same time, so apply less if you're noticing it pilling rather than absorbing." Another possibility: "The ingredients being mixed are too dissimilar, i.e., water-, silicone-, and wax-based." That's why order matters (opens in new tab), Dr. Nazarian said, following the acronym SMES (for serum, moisturizer, eye cream, SPF), or the other mnemonic device "Swordfish make eggs sloppily." (Neither of those is real—just remember lightest to heaviest.)

Lip, Red, Line, Carmine, Colorfulness, Diagram, Circle, Coquelicot, Drawing, Graphics,

(Image credit: Design by Katja Cho)

But the cheat's way of ensuring her complexion doesn't resemble an ancient wool blanket?

There you have it—smooth as those Tumblr teens, which is to say very smooth indeed.

Text, Parallel, Document, Number, Screenshot, Symbol,

(Image credit: Tumblr)

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Chelsea Peng
Chelsea Peng

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at MarieClaire.com. She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.