What Is Slugging and Should You Try It?

Getting gunky overnight can actually be good for your skin
finger in a jar of petroleum jelly

At this point, we all know we can’t believe everything we see on social media — and TikTok in particular is full of bad health advice. But if you’ve been wondering about trying the skin care routine known as slugging, which recently caught traction on the platform, we’ve got good news for you: This one could actually revolutionize your skin.

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Dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD, explains the benefits of this viral trend, which is actually a much older trend that’s just now making its social media debut.

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.

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.

Benefits of slugging

The protective barrier that petroleum jelly creates on your skin acts as a barrier that keeps water from evaporating from the surface of your face. Dr. Kassouf explains why this can be so good for your skin.

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  • Moisturizes: “The retained hydration can fill the epidermis like a sponge, thickening it and making it more pliable and elastic,” she says. 
  • 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 says.
  • Repairs damage: If your skin is dehydrated, a coating of petroleum jelly at night can help prevent further water loss from the skin and allow it to repair itself.

How to do it

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.

2. Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly

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).

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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 says.

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

What product should you use for slugging?

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.

Who shouldn’t try slugging

Slugging isn’t right for everyone. Dr. Kassouf explains what skin types and conditions should avoid it.

  • Oily skin: “Skin that is oily already has an adequate or even too-robust lipid layer and does not need the extra addition of lipid to the surface,” she says.
  • Acne-prone: 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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