Should You Try Slugging With Oily Skin? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Dermatologists break it down.

Slugging for oily skin

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Slugging has quickly become the internet's go-to method for locking in moisture and tending to dry skin. But the use of heavy, thick ointments — like Vaseline and Aquaphor — has those of us with oily or acne-prone skin wondering if slugging is worth adding to our routines. And furthermore, should we even try?

This isn't an entirely new practice. For those unfamiliar with the K-beauty method, slugging is the practice of locking in your skincare routine with an occlusive. According to board-certified dermatologist Jenny Liu, MD, it is most common to use petroleum on the skin to create that physical barrier overnight. It's one of the best methods to prevent water loss and dehydration of the skin. Nicole Negbenebor, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic oncology fellow at the University of Iowa, adds that slugging is often used so you can get that "glow" the next morning.

Though there are plenty of benefits, it has its downsides too, especially for those with oily skin. But that doesn't mean you have to avoid it entirely if you really want to try it. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind. Below, Dr. Liu and Dr. Negbenebor break down everything you need to know about slugging for oily skin. Read on to learn more.

Can You Slug With Oily Skin?

Technically yes, you can slug with oily skin if you want to. You just have to be mindful of how you go about it. Because slugging involves using heavy occlusive ointments like Vaseline, Dr. Negbenebor says that this practice isn't always the best option for every skin type. These occlusives, she explains, can make acne worse and is more beneficial for those with very dry skin, particularly in the winter time, or for anyone dealing with a skin condition like eczema.

Though she wouldn't necessarily recommend slugging for oily skin, this method can come with some benefits if you want to try it out. It can help oily skin seal in moisture, delaying the skin from drying out and overproducing sebum oil, but not everyone with oily skin will have the same reaction.

"The essence of the slugging trend is really all about keeping skin moisturized and a healthy skin barrier, and that’s something anyone can benefit from regardless of their skin type," adds Dr. Liu. "Of course, how we achieve that moisturization and healthy skin barrier varies depending on your skin type. Believe it or not, you do need to be using a moisturizer, even if you have oily skin." She further emphasizes the importance of being extra cautious with the steps you take in your oily skin routine before the actual act of slugging.

How Do You Slug With Oily Skin?

Slugging normally involves a very simple routine that consists of a gentle cleanser, serum, your regular moisturizer, and then a thick application of an occlusive ointment. Dr. Negbenebor says that you'll want to avoid ingredients like retinoid, beta hydroxy-, and alpha hydroxy acids as occlusion can cause irritation when they're locked into the skin.

For oily skin particularly, Dr. Liu says first to ensure that you cleanse thoroughly to remove dirt, excess oils, or residual makeup so that nothing unwanted gets trapped as you slug. Next, she says that she would only slug on targeted areas — particularly parts of the face that feel irritated or dry — rather than slugging your entire face. "This is especially helpful for oily and acne-prone skin to avoid areas that are breaking out but still help to soothe and hydrate other parts that need additional [moisture]," she explains. In short, it's all about giving a little extra love to the parts of your face that really need it — rather than slathering your whole face in Vaseline.

What Ingredients Should You Look For? What Should You Avoid?

As mentioned previously, you'll want to avoid products that have active ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), or retinoids. Dr. Liu says to stick to less active serums and products instead. She also recommends staying away from oil-based serums as that may also cause breakouts under slugging. As always, with acne-prone skin, look for non-comedogenic products as well.

Because slugging is all about sealing in ingredients that will lock in moisture, Dr. Negbenebor suggests using formulas with ceramides, glycerin, honey, or aloe vera under your occlusive. For your top layer, she recommends classic slugging ointments such as the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly or the Aquaphor Healing Ointment.

Dr. Liu adds that if you're new to slugging or still worried that your oily skin can't take a thick occlusive, then just try a rich night cream with key ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin to seal in your skincare routine instead. She likes No7's Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Night Cream because it provides long-lasting hydration and supports the skin barrier while also sealing moisture to the skin, but your favorite thick, nourishing night cream will do just as well.

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