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Skin slugging involves applying a rich ointment, like petroleum jelly, at the end of your nightly skin care routine. This final layer acts as an occlusive, meaning it helps your skin hold in moisture.
While you might have first come across the term “slugging” on Reddit or TikTok, skin slugging isn’t just the trend du jour. This practice has been featured in K-beauty routines for quite some time.
For the slugging curious who aren’t yet fully in the know about this moisturizing trick, slugging doesn’t actually involve slugs. But it does involve making like a slug, in a way — you slime your face with an occlusive, like petroleum jelly, before bed in order to wake up with glowing skin. Occlusives are things that act as barriers on your skin to hold in moisture.
Does it work? We reached out to Jessie Cheung, MD, board certified dermatologist and founder of Cheung Aesthetics & Wellness, to find out.
“Skin slugging is simply the application of an occlusive to act as a barrier to seal moisture into the skin. Dermatologists have been recommending for years as the last step in your skin care routine to treat dry skin, as we know that skin slugging helps prevent water loss,” says Cheung.
Want to give slugging a go? Read on to find out what to use and how to do it, along with other slugging tips and tricks.
The main goal of slugging? Helping keep your skin hydrated.
In short, you may just wake from a night of slippery, slug-like slumber, with glowing, plump, and dewy skin.
Surface benefits aside, here are the skin-deep benefits that help make slugging a beauty hack worth trying.
It prevents moisture loss
Occlusives sit on the surface of your skin. This thick surface layer helps prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL), or the process of water evaporating out of your skin. TEWL is an expected bodily function, one that increases with age. As you get older, your skin may naturally become drier, and your skin barrier function may function less effectively.
A night of slugging can help prevent some of that TEWL so your skin stays hydrated — and shows the difference.
It protects your skin from damaging elements
Like to crank the heat when you sleep? That hot, dry air can suck excess moisture from your skin and lead to dryness. Chemicals in skin care products and other environmental elements can also dry out skin.
Adding the protective layer of an occlusive of your choice can help protect your skin from these elements so they don’t mooch that much-needed moisture.
It restores lipids
Skin lipids, your skin’s natural fats, play an important part in skin structure and function. They help your skin retain moisture, keep out bacteria and other harmful invaders, and maintain skin elasticity.
The same things that draw moisture out of the skin can also affect the lipids on and in your skin.
Slugging may not be a good option for everyone. Whether this beauty trick will work for you can depend on your skin type.
Cheung recommends avoiding skin slugging if you’re prone to clogged pores or acne.
“Be mindful if you’re applying potentially irritating actives underneath your occlusive, as you will enhance their penetration. Be careful with retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs),” Cheung says.
FYI: AHAs and BHAs are hydroxy acids that exfoliate the skin at varying degrees, depending on their concentration. Retinoids are compounds derived from vitamin A that can help treat acne and other skin concerns.
The key to slugging is to use an occlusive so that it creates that barrier over the skin to lock moisture in. Petrolatum-based products and products containing ceramides work best.
A few picks worth considering:
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Ceramides are lipids found in the skin.
Hyaluronic acid, another popular skin care ingredient, can also help keep your skin hydrated.
You can try slugging in two different ways.
You can go all in and slug overnight, or you can try short-contact slugging, which involves slugging for just a few hours. The latter offers a good way to try slugging if you just can’t stomach the feeling of sleeping sticky.
Here’s how to slug, both ways.
How to slug overnight
Grease marks on your pillowcase will happen when you sleep the slug life, so you might want to start by swapping out your good linens for some backups if you’re worried about the mess.
- Follow your typical skin care routine — minus face oils, spot treatments, or actives like retinoids, AHAs, and BHAs.
- While your skin is still damp from other products, apply a small dollop (approximately pea-sized) of your slugging product of choice.
- Spread the product across your skin, covering it with a thin layer.
- When you wake up, cleanse your skin to remove any excess product and gently pat dry.
How to short-contact slug
Short-contact slugging can work well when you have a few hours to spare, like between getting home from school or work and going to bed.
- Remove your makeup and wash your face.
- While your skin is still damp, apply a thin layer of your slugging product to your face.
- Go about your usual activities for a few hours.
- Wash off the product and gently pat dry.
Ready to try slugging?
A few final tips:
- Aim to apply the occlusive to damp skin, whether it’s damp from cleansing or other skin products.
- If you use OTC or prescription medications for acne or other skin concerns, don’t apply those before slugging. You could enhance their effects and irritate your skin. But don’t skip them, either — check with your dermatologist before you try slugging.
- If you have a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema, it’s best to check with a dermatologist before slugging.
- If slugging leads to increased breakouts, rashes, skin discoloration, or any irritation, you’ll want to stop doing it. If any skin symptoms don’t improve within a day or two, connecting with a healthcare professional is a good next step.
Slugging can leave your skin with a glowing, soft appearance right away. But if you want to soothe dry skin, you may need to slug it for several days before you notice results.
In short, everyone has different skin, and individual skin care needs to match. So, there’s no set timeline for how quickly slugging will work.
Slugging may have gone viral thanks to skin care and beauty influencers on TikTok and other social media platforms. But applying Vaseline and other occlusives to seal in skin’s moisture is nothing new.
If you’d like to address skin dryness or just up your glow, slugging offers a safe beauty trick to try at home.
Hoping to treat persistent skin concerns or get some general guidance on creating a custom skin care routine? A board certified dermatologist can offer more information on treatment options and help you get started with a skin care regimen.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.