Your grandmother’s skin care staple has gotten the TikTok seal of approval: It’s called “slugging,” and it involves slathering a layer of petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or other petrolatum-based product — over your other skin care products before you snuggle in for the night. The goal behind making your face look like slug slime? To amp up your skin’s moisture levels.
“Petrolatum is the gold standard in occlusives,” says licensed esthetician and Dieux Skin founder Charlotte Palermino, a self-professed fan of the beauty practice. Occlusives are ingredients that create a barrier on top of the skin to lock in moisture and prevent transepidermal water loss, aka when the water in your skin passively evaporates into the external environment — hence why you’ll find that many face creams contain occlusives (other examples include jojoba oil, squalane, and beeswax).
According to Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., a board-certified Pittsburgh-based dermatologist, applying an occlusive like Vaseline as the final step of your nighttime skin care routine works well to keep your complexion moisturized and hydrated all night long. “It also helps the skin barrier to repair [itself] by acting as a protectant,” she tells Bustle. When you wake up, your skin will appear more plump and dewy thanks to all that hydration, she says.
Sound like something your skin needs? Read on for your comprehensive guide on how to slug your face, according to beauty experts.
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How To Slug Your Skin
First, experts say it’s important to thoroughly cleanse your skin. Petrolatum is a sealant, so you want to be sure you’re not trapping any leftover makeup, dirt, or other impurities — otherwise, you’ll run the risk of breaking out.
Apply your favorite nighttime oil or serum. When slugging, Zubritsky recommends that you avoid serums with active, potentially harsh ingredients like retinols, retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids, or beta-hydroxy acids. “Slugging can cause more irritation and sensitivity by locking these ingredients on your skin,” she explains. Try something hydrating or gentle, like products that contain hyaluronic acid or niacinamide.
Follow up with a thin layer of your regular moisturizer (petrolatum — or your occlusive of choice — doesn’t replace this step). Try what Palermino calls a “hydration sandwich” to really boost your skin’s moisture levels. “I go in with my hydrating products, which normally just evaporate from my skin — like my moisturizer, which is full of humectants — and then lock in all the good stuff,” she tells Bustle. Humectants, by the way, are ingredients that pull moisture from the air or from deeper within your skin (like hyaluronic acid).
Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly, a petrolatum-based product, or occlusive ointment for that slimy slug effect. Something to keep in mind before you hit the hay: If you’ve splurged on really nice pillowcases and tend to sleep on your side, know that slugging can be messy business. In that case, you could slug for a few hours during the day instead of overnight.
When you wake up, wash your face thoroughly and proceed with your normal a.m. beauty regimen. “Just make sure to give your face a good wash in the morning to remove any product that is still there to let your skin breathe during the day,” says board-certified and Birmingham, Alabama-based dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman. M.D. If you’re into the results, Zubritsky says you can slug nightly, though she recommends starting with a few times a week to test how your skin reacts.
Which Skin Types Are Best For Slugging?
Because the point of slugging is to increase hydration, if you’ve got perpetually dry skin — or are feeling the effects of harsh wintertime air — this just might be your new favorite beauty practice. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mamina Turegano, M.D. says sensitive skin types may also benefit from petrolatum-based ointments and sealants since their milder ingredients are less likely to cause irritation. That said, she notes that contact dermatitis is possible if you’re using something that contains lanolin, a wool-derived ingredient found in ointments like Aquaphor.
Should oily or acne-prone skin types skip slugging? Bustle’s experts say no, petrolatum won’t clog your pores — the molecules are too large to penetrate, so it literally just sits on top of your skin. Still, petrolatum can trap dead skin cells, oil, and pollutants on your skin’s surface, which can create a ripe environment for bacteria growth and interfere with the skin’s exfoliation processes. And exfoliation, as you know, is essential for acne-prone skin types, says Hartman.
If you’re concerned about breakouts, you can spot-slug by slathering an occlusive on certain areas that are in need of hydrating TLC — think rough patches on your knees, elbows, or ankles. Zubritsky says slugging is great for helping to heal chafed or chapped skin, so it can come in handy if you’re looking to speed up wound healing or winter-ravaged areas.
With all this in mind, keep scrolling for a handful of expert-backed products perfect for slugging.
Shop Slugging Essentials
The Pure Petroleum
This baby is the OG. It’s 100% pure petroleum jelly (petrolatum) and comes recommended by every expert Bustle spoke with.
The Breathable Barrier
You’ll also see folks on TikTok slugging with this healing ointment, which contains 41% petrolatum while still creating a breathable barrier.
The Hyaluronic Acid-Spiked Ointment
Experts also recommend this healing ointment, which contains petrolatum, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides to nourish and hydrate your skin.
The Soothing Buy
Knijp, J. (2019). Diagnosing lanolin contact allergy with lanolin alcohol and Amerchol L101. Contact Dermatitis. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6593808/
Rawlings, A.V. (2012). A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-2494.2012.00752.x
Dr. Mamina Turegano, M.D., Louisiana-based board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, M.D., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Corey L. Hartman, M.D., Birmingham, Alabama-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology