"Slugging" Is TikTok's Favorite Cheap Skincare Hack for Ridiculously Soft Skin
While snail mucus is a popular ingredient in Korean skincare, "slugging" has nothing to do with actual slugs (or batting stats if you're a baseball fan).
The K-beauty trend — now a viral TikTok hack — for hydrated, dewy skin actually involves nothing more than slathering your face with a heavy occlusive moisturizer like petroleum jelly at night before bed.
The method of hydration first gained popularity in Reddit's Skincare Addiction forum, where Redditors credit going to sleep with their faces greased up "slug style" for their soft, glowy skin.
Before grabbing a tub of Vaseline (Skincare Addiction's moisturizer of choice for slugging), we turned to two top dermatologists to break down the benefits of this K-beauty moisturizing technique, along with whether or not the "slug life" is right for your skin type.
Does Slugging Actually Moisturize Your Skin?
The short answer? Yes — especially if you have dry skin or compromised skin from treatments or inflammatory conditions like eczema.
"It's helpful to lock hydration into the skin, especially during the winter when moisture sucking heaters are ever present," says Elyse Love, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "It is also helpful to protect the skin from outside irritants, which makes it a soothing barrier for sensitive skin, eczema-prone skin, and skin healing from cosmetic or surgical procedures."
How Do You Incorporate Slugging into Your Skincare Routine?
Like eating chocolate and scrolling through Instagram, slugging is best done in moderation, specifically on nights where are you aren't using actives in your skincare routine like retinoids or chemical exfoliants like AHA acids.
"Vaseline, when used for slugging, isn’t just a typical moisturizer, it is truly an occlusive meant to lock everything in," Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist in West Islip, NY.
Dr. Mariwalla says coating your skin with Vaseline after applying retinoids or AHA acids would increase penetration of these ingredients, potentially leading to irritation.
Instead, live the "slug life" on nights where your routine is focused on moisturization. Dr. Love recommends using hydrating products like essences, skin-protecting serums, and/or lightweight moisturizers underneath petroleum jelly to lock in moisture and aid in skin barrier repair.
To keep your routine balanced, alternative between using actives a few days a week with slugging once or twice a week.
What Skin Types Should Try Slugging?
Slugging can benefit dry or sensitized skin, but those who are prone to breakouts should proceed with caution.
"Although petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic (will not cause breakouts), it does lock in whatever is underneath the skin — including natural oils made by naturally oily skin," Dr. Love explains. "I recommend a test spot before slugging the entire face for acne prone skin. For the same reason, oil-based products should not be applied underneath petroleum jelly."
In addition to exacerbating acne, slugging can lead to miliaria (heat rash) in those who tend to sweat while sleeping.
Another reason to stick to slugging just a few nights a week? Vaseline isn't moisturizing, but it holds moisture in the skin, preventing transepidermal water loss, which occurs naturally. The extra moisture retention an actually disrupt your skin barrier's natural functions.
"This decrease in transepidermal water loss keeps water in your skin cells which makes them hydrated. In certain skin conditions this water loss increases which creates this cycle of impaired skin barrier function which worsens skin," says Dr. Mariwalla. "The problem is if you put Vaseline on every night, you actually can disrupt normal skin function so your normal transepidermal water loss is slowed and then there is too much water retained in the skin and the barrier becomes dysfunctional in that extreme case also."
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Is Petroleum Jelly Safe for the Skin?
Maybe scrolling through skincare Instagram or Reddit you've seen conflicting information over whether or not petroleum jelly is toxic for the skin. To set the record straight: it's a perfectly safe ingredient.
"The controversy stems from the fact that unrefined petroleum is banned in skincare in Europe," Dr. Love explains. "However, this ban is only related to unrefined petroleum, which is not used in skincare products such as Vaseline, Aquaphor, and Cerave ointment. All of these products are created from refined petrolatum, are available in Europe, and are understood to be safe and beneficial for the skin."
And if you need more reassurance:
"The beauty of petrolatum is that for it to be cleared to use on your skin it is super refined and really free from harmful ingredients," Dr. Mariwalla adds. "The molecular size is too big to penetrate into your skin (hence the reason slugging works). We use it on wounds all the time because it speeds up healing time and is better/cheaper/less side effects than things like Neosporin and Bacitracin."
The same goes for Aquaphor, if you prefer it to Vaseline.
"Some people advocate Vaseline for slugging compared to Aquaphor because Aquaphor contains lanolin," says Dr. Mariwalla. "The reason is because there has been some concern about lanolin causing contact dermatitis but a recent paper debunked that."
While Dr. Mariwalla doesn't think people should be afraid of petroleum, if you want an alternative product to slug with, she recommends Dr. Rodgers Restore Healing Balm.