Hair Slugging Is TikTok's Favorite Moisturizing Treatment

Give your strands some TLC.

Originally Published: 
What to know about hair slugging, TikTok's favorite way to moisturize dry strands.
Getty Images/Elke Meitzel
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If you follow skin care TikTok, you’ve almost certainly scrolled past a video of someone “slugging”— otherwise known as applying petroleum jelly to their face as the final step of their nighttime routine in order to boost moisture. And now, as is often the case with skin care trends, beauty buffs have taken the concept and applied it to their hair, prompting interest in “hair slugging”: According to trend-aggregation platform LOOKFANTASTIC, Google searches for hair slugging have increased by 270% in just the past month, while the viral hydration hack has already amassed 1.1 million views on the video-sharing app.

Despite its name, however, hair slugging isn’t like the kind you do to your skin: There is no petroleum jelly involved, and the hydration “hack” isn’t actually breaking new ground. It’s merely a buzzy nickname for coating one’s hair with hydrating products overnight whilst wrapping it to seal in moisture, which people have been doing for centuries — especially in the Black community. "In African American culture, slugging is nothing new,” celebrity hairstylist Slayed By Matthew tells Bustle. “After going to the salon and getting one’s hair washed and pressed, it’s always been necessary to wrap your hair and tie it down to keep the moisture on the hair follicle, and to keep your hair intact,” he says. Kerry Yates, trichologist at Colour Collective, concurs: “Slugging is just a trendy word for sleeping with your hair treatment mask overnight.”

With that in mind, read on for everything to know about the hydrating technique taking social media by storm.

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What Is Hair Slugging?

While hair slugging is simply a new nickname for treating your hair with a moisturizing treatment overnight, TikTok’s take on the practice specifically consists of slathering your strands in either a hair mask or nourishing product and then wrapping it before going to bed — some users are even wrapping the ends of their hair in socks.

The wrapping part of the equation is key. “Wrapping makes a difference because it locks in the moisture — basically, it’s keeping it all in one place,” celebrity hairstylist and Matrix ambassador Takisha Sturdivant-Drew tells Bustle. If this sounds familiar, that’s because it is: Celebrity hairstylist Marc Mena points to the common ritual of wrapping one’s feet in socks after applying moisturizer. “There's this old trick where you can put like Vaseline on your feet and put socks on to help it absorb,” he tells Bustle. “It’s kind of the same idea, but for your hair.”

Wrapping also has a practical benefit behind it: “In the case of staying wet, the product will transfer to your clothes, pillows, and sheets, so it is best to use a cap of some sort to protect your environment,” Yates says. “And, as an added benefit, the natural heat from your scalp can help ‘activate’ your treatment formula assisting with product penetration,” she says.

Who Can Benefit From Hair Slugging?

According to the experts, slugging can be great for all hair types and textures, but it’s particularly beneficial to those with damaged and/or dry hair. Yates also recommends slugging to anyone with long hair that’s been exposed to high heat styling tools or chemical treatments.

That said, if your hair is fine or prone to oiliness, Mena warns against using too much oil in your “slugging” product of choice as it can lead your scalp to produce even more oil. Instead, he suggests these hair types use a light serum or conditioning product. Yates agrees, advising those with oily or fine hair avoid silicones and paraffin in particular. “These ingredients can weigh fine hair down and be challenging to rinse when used overnight,” she says.

As for how often to slug? It depends on your hair type, but the general gist is to treat it like you would a face mask. “Slug as often as you would do a hydrating mask on your face,” Mena suggests. Generally speaking, however, most experts advise doing it about once a week. “I don’t recommend slugging every day, because you don’t want to strip your hair of any natural oils from washing it every day,” Matthew says.

How To Slug Your Hair

1. Apply Your Treatment

First, apply your hydrating treatment of choice to your hair. Some opt to slug their whole head, but others prefer to apply product only to the middle and ends of strands — which, according to Yates, is still beneficial. “Treatment masks are really meant for the ‘old’ hair, so think mid-lengths and ends with particular attention placed on the ends of the hair,” she says. “If you think about it, the ends have experienced the most damage and will generally be susceptible to breakage due to the excessive dryness.” You might also want to reconsider “slugging” too close to roots if your scalp tends to get oily.

There are thousands of moisturizing hair products to choose from, but Matthew also loves a DIY mask for the job — all you need is egg, mayo, and conditioner. For this, however, don’t leave the ingredients in overnight (you don’t want to experience that smell). “Leave it in for 30 minutes to an hour and it’ll have your hair so soft and scalp clean,” he says — so consider this your “hair slugging” daytime alternative.

2. Wrap Your Hair

The next step is wrapping your hair. If you have type 3 or 4 hair, Matthew recommends using silk wraps, though Sturdivant-Drew also encourages using silk no matter your hair type. “I prefer a silk hair wrap because it’s lighter and the hair can breathe,” she says. Whatever you use, Mena says to avoid terry cloth. “It can cause friction, roughage, and might even cause your hair to come out frizzy,” he explains.

3. Rinse

When you wake up in the morning, unwrap your hair and rinse the treatment out. You don’t necessarily have to shampoo it, but both Mena and Sturdivant-Drew suggest at least a “very light” wash. “Otherwise your hair will be weighed down the whole day with no movement in it,” Sturdivant-Drew says.

If your hair is extremely brittle and dry, you can get away with just washing the scalp and rinsing your strands, says Mena. Just be sure to really rinse it all out: “You don’t want to walk around all day with a heavy mask in your hair.”

Once your strands are dry, you’ll feel that hydrated softness everyone on TikTok has been raving about.

Studies referenced:

Farah, H.A. (2020). Enhanced Follicular Delivery of Finasteride to Human Scalp Skin Using Heat and Chemical Penetration Enhancers. Pharm Res.

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