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Slugging: Does This Skin Care Trend Work?

Go ahead and get goopy to help boost hydration and repair damaged skin

Fingers with globs of petroleum jelly above container

At this point, we all know that we can’t believe everything we see on social media — and TikTok in particular can be full of bad health advice.

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But if you’ve been wondering about trying the skin care routine known as slugging, we’ve got good news for you: This one could actually revolutionize your skin.

The skin care technique is great for dry, parched skin by helping lock in hydration. It also protects and repairs damage to your skin barrier.

Dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD, explains the benefits of slugging, who should avoid it and what other pro tips you need for a successful slugging session.

What is slugging?

You know the slimy mucus trail that snails and slugs leave behind as they move? Yeah, it’s kind of like that — and it’s actually what gives slugging its name.

So, what’s the definition of slugging? Slugging is basically the process of slathering your face (or, in some cases, your nails) with petroleum jelly overnight. Social media skin care gurus claim it has given them a gorgeous glow. So, how does it work?

“Petroleum jelly is a simple and very occlusive ointment,” Dr. Kassouf says.

That means that it forms a protective layer on the surface of your skin — and that protective layer, in turn, helps seal in hydration and keep your skin from drying out.

What does it do for your skin?

The protective layer that petroleum jelly creates on your skin acts as a barrier that keeps water from evaporating from the surface of your face. The benefits of slugging include:

  • Moisturizes. “The retained hydration can fill the epidermis like a sponge, thickening it and making it more pliable and elastic,” says Dr. Kassouf.
  • Protects. That barrier keeps water in — and keeps bad stuff out. “It can help prevent outside molecules from entering the skin and causing irritation or an immune reaction,” Dr. Kassouf adds.
  • Repairs damage. If your skin is dehydrated, a coating of petroleum jelly at night can help prevent further water loss from your skin and allow it to repair itself.

Do dermatologists recommend this skin care trend?

This is one skin care trend that dermatologists can get on board with.

“This is a process that is more likely to be helpful in the dry winter months and less necessary in the warmer, more humid months,” notes Dr. Kassouf.

Who shouldn’t try slugging?

But slugging isn’t right for everyone. Dr. Kassouf says you should avoid slugging if you have the following skin types and conditions:

  • Oily skin. “Skin that is oily already has an adequate or even too-robust lipid layer and doesn’t need the extra addition of lipid to the surface,” she says.
  • Acne-prone skin. In this case, what’s true for oily skin is true for acne-prone skin. Slugging could actually make your acne worse, not better.
  • Infected skin. If you have any sort of infection or open wound, skip slugging. “It may not allow the infection to clear,” Dr. Kassouf warns.

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Slugging step-by-step guide

Slugging is pretty straightforward. Here are the steps to follow to incorporate it into your nighttime skin care routine.

1. Prep your skin

“Slugging should only be done on clean skin, so start your evening routine with cleansing, exfoliating and moisturizing,” Dr. Kassouf advises.

Avoid skin care products with ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids and retinoids, which can irritate your skin once they get trapped beneath the petroleum jelly barrier.

Should you slug with Vaseline® or Aquaphor®? And do you need to use specific slugging skin care?

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Dr. Kassouf says that if you’re going to try slugging, make sure you’re using pure petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or petroleum jelly with only minimal additional ingredients, like Aquaphor and CeraVe®. They both include ceramides and hyaluronic acid. No special products needed.

2. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly

When it comes to slugging, Vaseline and other petroleum jellies are your best friend. Petroleum jelly is thick and goopy, so you only need a tiny bit — and you don’t necessarily need to put it on your entire face. You can apply it only to the thinnest and driest parts of the face, like your eyelids and your lips.

3. Wait 30 minutes before bed

Give yourself about half an hour before hopping into the sack, which will give your products time to settle and start to sink in. During this time, you may want to put a towel over your pillowcase to protect it and slip into a nightcap (the hair kind, not the cocktail kind) to keep your hair from sticking to your skin overnight.

4. Sleep on it

This step is pretty self-explanatory. Get a good night’s sleep, which is also beneficial for your skin (not to mention your overall health).

5. In the morning, wash your face

You should always wash your face when you wake up, and in this case, it will help get rid of anything that’s stuck to the goopy petroleum jelly overnight, too. “Cleansing is important because the skin is a living organ that has dead skin cells, oils and bacteria that need to be able to slough off,” Dr. Kassouf explains.

Choose your cleanser to match your skin’s needs. “Soap is an excellent emulsifier, but it can also be drying,” she continues. “Some of the gentler but foaming cleansers are probably best if you have the type of sensitive skin that is benefitting from slugging.”

How often should you do slugging?

Is it OK to do slugging every night? Dr. Kassouf says there’s no hard and fast rule to how often you should slug. It’s all based on your individual skin care needs — if your skin is feeling dry and dehydrated, it may benefit from slugging.

“You may need to do this a couple nights in a row to catch up but rarely should this be an every night routine,” she says. “If your skin gets red or irritated after slugging, it’s wise to see your dermatologist.”

To slug or not to slug

It’s easy to become influenced by social media, especially when it comes to the latest skin care trends. But it’s important to consider your skin type and conditions — those with oily, acne-prone or infected skin should skip this — before slathering your skin with petroleum jelly.

If your skin has been feeling dehydrated or thirsty lately, Dr. Kassouf says that slugging can help retain your skin’s moisture, while repairing and protecting your skin barrier.

And if you have any concerns or questions, you shouldn’t hesitate to talk to a dermatologist before trying slugging — or any other skin care trend.

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