Is TikTok’s ‘Slugging’ Skincare Trend Really Worth a Try?

Is TikTok’s ‘Slugging’ Skincare Trend Really Worth a Try?
charlotte palermino
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Welcome to the “slug life”, the latest K-beauty skincare trend that is going viral on Reddit and Tiktok. Contrary to its name, no slugs were involved in the creation of this skincare.

What exactly is slugging?

Slugging is a skincare trend that includes the use of petrolatum or Vaseline in the final step of your routine to help seal in your skincare products overnight and then waking up reborn the next day. 

According to Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, “I think slugging is a great skincare technique in the wintertime for those with dry or sensitive skin. Petroleum jelly is an occlusive that is not only amazing at soothing irritated skin and promoting wound healing, but it can act as a protective barrier for the skin, too.”

What are the benefits of slugging?

Slugging prevents transepidermal water loss and creates a seal to lock in the moisture in your skin while it protects and repairs your skin’s natural lipid barrier. This is the best skincare for dry skin types.  

Vaseline’s main ingredient, petrolatum, is so safe to use on skin that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends it for use on babies with eczema. As to whether you should put it on your face, Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston and former president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology, explains that “some people may find it too occlusive for their tastes but it’s not a question of safety, it’s a matter of whether you’re into looking like you’ve dunked your face into a vat of Crisco.”

The balance of skin cells and lipids is crucial for your skin barrier. Lipids help keep your outermost layer of skin intact. When your skin’s lipid is depleted, your skin will be prone to damages and susceptible to transepidermal water loss.

This is when slugging does the work instead by artificially strengthening the way that your skin already wants to protect itself, reinforcing the lipid barrier. Especially if you are dealing with dryness or skin damage right now, slugging is a great reparative approach to help rebalance your skin by boosting your moisture level.

How is skin slugging different from regular moisturizing?

Petroleum-based products are occlusives and have a thicker consistency, which means it is not breathable and it only helps to lock the moisture in your skin. However, petroleum jelly does not moisturize your skin as it does not offer any moisturizing benefits of its own, but it can be effective in enhancing the benefits of your already-effective moisturizer.

What are the downsides of skin slugging?

The use of occlusive products in skin slugging may clog pores if you have oily or acne-prone skin. Even though the products may be non-comedogenic, they will end up sealing in any acne triggered by other products in your routine since whatever product you put on before it will be locked in.

Therefore, you have to be careful when combining an occlusive layer on top of a particularly active ingredient, like retinoids because they tend to irritate your skin. Keep in mind that slugging has to be the final step of your routine. 

Slugging is not a permanent solution, but it works better for those with short-term skin dryness. If you need a long-term remedy, you will probably need something that is more specifically targeted for your skin conditions instead.

How should you practice slugging? 

After your regular skincare routine every night, take a pea-sized amount of petroleum and gently spread it onto your fingertips. Firmly dab the petroleum jelly into your face, all over, on each cheek, forehead, nose, and chin, and then gently rub or pat in. To prevent your face from getting super greasy, apply only a very thin layer of ointment. You may use the petroleum jelly to your lips and eyelids only if you don’t want to apply the ointment to your entire face. The last thing to note is to sleep on your back and change your pillowcase more frequently when slugging.

These are the three commonly recommended products by most dermatologists:

  1. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($4; amazon.com)
  2. Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($14; amazon.com)
  3. Cerave Healing Ointment ($11; ulta.com)