People have been turning to Vaseline for, well, over 150 years (that's when it first came out) for its moisturizing powers. Slugging, though — which involves applying a layer of the ointment over your face at night — is a more recent phenomenon that's emerged from the K-Beauty world, and you'll find millions of TikTok videos showing users trying it. As someone who's currently dealing with winter dryness, I tested it out to see whether the slugging benefits for skin live up to the hype.
The idea behind the trend is that Vaseline (or any petrolatum-based ointment) acts as an occlusive, which is a hydrating agent that secures moisture within your skin. "It's going to decrease transepidermal water loss, or loss of moisture to the skin barrier," says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, M.D. Essentially, because Vaseline forms an outer layer over your complexion, it locks in hydration so that your skin can repair itself.
Think of slugging as a concentrated dose of moisture and TLC, which can come in handy if your complexion is thirsting for hydration. King recommends adding slugging to your nighttime skin care routine if your skin feels extra dry (it me), while moderate skin types can simply turn to the practice during winter months or whenever their complexion needs the boost. Got skin on the oily or acneic side? Slugging isn't recommended, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Heidi Waldorf, M.D. That's because petrolatum is heavy, and the oil from the ingredient can lead to excess oil or even breakouts.
Since I have moderately oily skin, I was a bit skeptical to start. But, since I did have some pesky dry spots, I figured it could be the perfect solution to restore those itchy patches to their dewy, hydrated selves in no time.
On night one of my slugging trial run, I learned a key lesson: It's not that easy to lounge around with a full coat of Vaseline over your face. My pre-bedtime ritual of scrolling through TikTok proved messy to say the least. Then, when I opened my book in bed, the waxy jelly stuck to my pillow and felt all-around uncomfortable — I truly felt like a human slug. Pro tip: If you're a side sleeper or a nighttime social media scroller like I am, lying on your back is the best way to avoid getting the ointment all over your bed and pillows.
Despite going to bed with a gooey face, I woke up with fairly soft skin and a slight film from residual Vaseline. Did I go overboard with the jelly? According to King, there's no "right" way to apply Vaseline — she suggests starting out with a thin layer and add more if needed. That said, she recommends cleansing your face in the a.m. to remove any remaining product before doing your typical skin care regimen.
Throughout the day, my face actually felt a bit more moisturized than it usually does this time of year. Plus, it didn't feel excessively oily, which was reassuring. On night two, I went through my typical nighttime beauty routine — this time right before bed — and saved the Vaseline for last. After FaceTiming my boyfriend, I was told my skin was actually reflective due to the slugging. I suppose this could be considered either a good or a bad thing.
When I woke up on day three, my pores felt a little overly moisturized, so I began to worry the Vaseline was clogging my pores. Waldorf says petrolatum is non-comedogenic, which means that it shouldn't clog your pores or cause acne — but you can have too much of a good thing. To reduce the heavy feeling, I applied a thinner layer, per King's recommendation, on the fourth night.
The lighter slugging helped: On the sixth day of my Vaseline routine, I actually began to experience the skin-softening effects everyone seemed to rave about. I didn't end up getting zits, and the tail-end of my slugging week had my complexion feeling velvety-smooth despite being naturally oily. It's been a full seven days since my hands touched a dry patch on my face.
While I'm happy with my regular skin care routine of cleansing, toning, and moisturizing, I won't rule out slugging for those nights when my face craves extra TLC. My tub of Vaseline has earned a permanent spot in my beauty cabinet.
Czarnowicki, T. (2016). Petrolatum: Barrier repair and antimicrobial responses underlying this "inert" moisturizer. J Allergy Clin Immunol. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26431582/
Ghadially, R. (1992). Effects of petrolatum on stratum corneum structure and function. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/019096229270060S
Hamishehkar H. (2015), A comparative histological study on the skin occlusion performance of a cream made of solid lipid nanoparticles and Vaseline. Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4691958/.
Dr. Heidi Waldorf, M.D., board-certified dermatologist
Dr. Hadley King, M.D., board-certified dermatologist