In case you missed it, slugging has been a K-beauty trend for ages but became viral stateside on Reddit’s /skincareaddiction forum a few years ago. Now, there’s a new renaissance of the skincare trend on no other than TikTok. “Slugging is when you apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly overnight in order to seal moisture within your skin,” says Dr. Marie Hayag, board-certified dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics. It’s dubbed “slugging” because the thickness, glossiness, and gooeyness of the petroleum jelly resembles slug mucus, but rest assured, it has nothing to do with using actual slugs. The effect when you wake up? Supposedly, the softest, glowiest skin ever.
We’ve seen an uptick in slugging again probably because people are not only recovering from the cold weather, but we’re also already starting to crank up the air conditioner when we’re indoors all the time. “Skin is more dry during the cold winter season, especially when we’ve [been quarantined in] dry heated homes. The fast change of temperature can ruin the skin barrier, and this is the time where slugging can be the most effective,” says Hayag. But does the thought of slathering on a heavy occlusive product all over our face for at least eight hours a night seem like a recipe for clogged pores? We turned to Hayag to give us the lowdown on whether slugging is worth it.
Is slugging actually beneficial at hydrating your skin?
In a word: Yes. “The benefits are keeping moisture and preventing transepidermal water loss in the skin, which can be soothing and repairing for very dry skin,” says Hayag.
Does slugging work for all skin types?
Slugging certainly has benefits if you have dry or sensitive skin, but acneic skin should steer clear. “Petroleum-based products act as occlusive products and are definitely not meant for everyone. Acne-prone and oily skin will not benefit from petroleum products since occlusive products can [lead to] more breakouts,” says Hayag. Although petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic, it traps whatever is sitting in your pores (e.g. dead skin cells), which might cause acne to worsen. “It is also important to understand that petroleum jelly like Vaseline will not provide deep moisture,” says Hayag. Because of its large molecular size, it just sits on the top layer of your skin. Furthermore, petroleum jelly doesn’t contain any actives like acids or retinoids, so it’s not penetrating all the layers of your skin or providing exfoliation, which is the key to long-lasting smooth skin. So, while you might see some immediate results, it’s not a cure-all to achieving healthy skin.
Is it safe?
You might have been confused about whether or not petroleum jelly is safe for skin because unrefined petroleum in beauty products is banned in Europe. However, refined petroleum (like the kind you’d find in Vaseline or Aquaphor) is safe for skin.
How do I slug and how often should I do it?
If you have dry skin, slugging once or twice a week is a good rule of thumb. You can have too much of a good thing — even moisture. If you slug every night, it could lead to too much water retention that will disrupt your skin barrier.
1. Cleanse skin at night as you typically do with your regular cleanser.
2. If you want, you can apply your usual hydrator (say, a serum or a face oil). Keep in mind, however, that if you’re using actives somewhere in your regimen, it locks them in and makes them stronger, which might disturb the pH of your skin. You may want to avoid using actives on slugging days.
3. Use your petroleum jelly of choice (e.g. Vaseline) and evenly distribute it all over your face before you go to bed at night. A little goes a long way! You could also focus on just the driest areas of your skin, like your cheeks.
Swap out your pillowcases for ones you don’t care about getting dirty. If you do try slugging, as you can imagine, it creates a mess on your pillows and sheets. You’ll want to wash them more regularly or cover your pillow in a towel.
Should I try slugging?
While Vaseline traps and retains the moisture in your skin, it doesn’t add hydration back to your skin barrier. So, if your skin’s baseline is insanely dry and cracked, you likely won’t see much of a difference since there isn’t any moisture for the petroleum jelly to retain. “If the next day, your skin feels hydrated and balanced you know it is working. On the contrary, if you feel like you are getting congested skin, it’s better to choose lighter products with ceramides and hyaluronic acid,” she says. Therefore, while experts confirm that it’s possible for slugging to give you dewy, glowy skin, there are other ingredients and products out there that can better maintain a healthy skin barrier — for all skin types. Sunday Riley ICE Ceramide Moisturizing Cream replenishes and strengthens your skin’s natural moisture barrier for long-term skin health, all while feeling lightweight.
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