Of the many social media skin care trends out there, slugging has really withstood the test of time. Just in time for the season’s harshest temperature drops, it’s time to investigate what to use for slugging and how to slug your face the right way.
In case you missed the memo, slugging refers to the method of applying a layer of a petrolatum-based ointment (such as Vaseline) during your nightly skin care routine to create an occlusive barrier so you can lock in moisture and prevent further moisture loss. “Applying an occlusive ointment to the skin can be helpful as it sits on top of the skin to provide a barrier and lock in moisture to help heal and improve dry skin,” says Dr. Marisa Garshick, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology.
Slugging is not new. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King explains that occlusives are oils and waxes that form a layer on the skin to physically block water loss and have been around for a long time. But thanks to the “striking glistening visual effect” posted all over everyone’s socials and the term “slugging” being introduced as a K-beauty trend and going viral on Reddit, the method is back on the rise.
“Dermatologists have always understood the benefits of a thicker ointment helping to lock moisture in,” says Garshick. “The concept has been utilized particularly for certain skin conditions such as for those with hand dermatitis or other types of eczema, as well as in post-procedural states such as after laser resurfacing.”
She goes on to explain that these thicker ointments are a great option to help those with dry, sensitive, and eczema-prone skin, and can be especially useful in the cold winter months as they help to trap moisture. Certain petrolatum products such as Vaseline, she says, may be considered non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, making it an option for a variety of skin types.
Slugging also doesn’t have to involve packing the Vaseline on your entire face; it works in patches just as well. “It can often be helpful to use the ointment around your eyes, lips, or any focal dry patches on your skin as this can help to both protect and heal the skin in specific areas. So even though the concept of slugging refers to a face full of Vaseline or other ointments, if you are hesitant you can always apply it to a more localized area, such as the hands, the feet, the nails, and more to get the benefits where you need it,” she says.
How Do You Slug?
King says you’ll first want to cleanse your face to get rid of any buildup, dirt, makeup, or debris. Next, apply humectants and emollients, which will help boost hydration. The last step will be a layer of thick ointment to seal in the moisture. While slugging is often associated with laying on the ointment to get a striking visual effect, she says that you only need a thin layer of the thick ointment for it to be effective.
What Are The Benefits Of Slugging?
The biggest benefit to slugging is increased hydration for your skin. Garshick says this method is especially helpful for those with dry, sensitive skin and those with a disrupted skin barrier. Those who are experiencing dryness because of a change of weather or introducing new products and ingredients will also benefit as the moisture will combat irritation and negative side effects.
Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, agrees and lists reducing the appearance of scars and fine lines, supporting the skin barrier in general, and helping post-breakout spots heal faster as some of the other benefits of slugging.
Are There Any Downsides?
Graf adds that this can be messy since the product can spread into your hair and sheets while you sleep. She also says that it can increase oil production in certain areas and can actually increase irritation if mixed with the wrong products. Garshick agrees and emphasizes that slugging can enhance the potency and penetration of the products applied before it. For that reason, she says it’s best to avoid retinoids or exfoliants before slugging.
Is Slugging Good For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin?
While Garshick says that many ointments used for slugging are non-comedogenic, she cautions against slugging if you have acne-prone skin or tend to sweat a lot. She explains that the nightly application of a thicker ointment can be too occlusive and cause breakouts when excess sweat or oils get trapped. It’s also important to pay attention to how slugging feels against your skin. If you don’t like the feel or consistency of a thicker ointment, she says it may not be the best option.
What Are The Best Products To Use For Slugging?
All the experts recommend classic Vaseline Healing Jelly as the quintessential slugging product. “It is often the most commonly referenced product when it comes to slugging as it is tried-and-true,” says Garshick. “Additionally, it has been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance as suitable for sensitive skin and dryness associated with eczema.”
Other options include the CeraVe Healing Ointment, which she says is designed to protect and soothe the skin (“It contains petrolatum and hyaluronic acid as well as ceramides,” she says. “Together, [they] not [only protect] the skin barrier, but also boost moisture and strengthen the barrier as well.”), and the Aquaphor Healing Ointment, which she says is soothing and hydrating while also being a good skin protectant.
As for the other products in your slugging routine, she says to consider hydrating serums to boost overall hydration. She recommends looking for ones with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, or polyglutamic acid and likes something like the Charlotte Tilbury Magic Serum Crystal Elixir or the Vichy Mineral 89 Serum.
That’s all there is to slugging. If this sounds enticing and you think your complexion can handle it (always consult with your dermatologist if you have any questions), it’s pretty simple to try.
Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
Dr. Hadley King, M.D., board-certified dermatologist.