What Is Slugging? A Look At The Pros And Cons Of This Skincare Technique

Living the “slug life” is the latest K-beauty skincare trend to blow up the internet. People love slugging, from Tiktok to Reddit. But what exactly is “slugging?”

If you immediately had visions of slimy slugs slowly crawling across your face, you’re not alone. Don’t worry though, no slugs are involved in this skincare technique. You probably already have all the tools you need to practice slugging right at home.

Slugging is easy and inexpensive, and it can also be a great help for people with dry skin. Now is the best time to get this skincare tip, especially since winter is here.

What is Slugging?

Slugging is a popular new trend that’s recently become the final step of many beauty routines. You want glowing, soft skin so apply petroleum jelly before you go to bed. It will lock in your skincare products over night.

Interview with Real Simple, Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist, said slugging is “a great skincare technique in the wintertime.” And this is especially true for those of us with dry or sensitive skin.

“Petroleum jelly is an occlusive that is not only amazing at soothing irritated skin and promoting wound healing, but it can act as a protective barrier for the skin, too,” Dr. Marchbein continued.

How to Slug

After you have finished your regular cleansing and moisturizing routine, apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to your fingertips. Press your fingertips to your skin, then apply the vaseline to your face and neck.

Dr. Marchbein recommends that you use a little bit of ointment on each cheek. After that, rub it in gently. Then, rub or pat it in. Next morning, you can wash it all off using a cleanser. Dr Marchbein recommended that you sleep on your back and change your pillowcase more often when slugging.

Slugging has many benefits

Talking to Real Simple, licensed esthetician Ali TobiaLiving a slug lifestyle can result in soft, hydrated skin. Because slugging creates a protective layer over the skin that prevents transepidermal moisture loss. Slugging also protects and repairs the skin’s natural lipid barrier, which binds skin cells together.

“A commonly used analogy for the interaction between your skin cells and their lipid barrier is the similarity that it shares with a brick wall—the skin cells are very much like the bricks, comprising the bulk of the physical structure; the lipids are essentially the mortar for the wall, holding the bricks together and supporting the overall integrity of the wall itself,” Tobia explained to Real Simple.

She went on to say that when the skin’s lipid barrier is not performing as well as possible, it’s much more prone to damage. Like a brick wall whose mortar cracks cause it to begin to decay.

The Best Benefit

Tobia claims that slugging’s biggest benefit is that it reinforces the lipid barrier. Vaseline applied to your skin will artificially reinforce and strengthen the way your skin naturally protects itself. The esthetician explained that if the lipid barrier is weak, slugging will take over.

“Just like that brick wall, if you were to repair the mortar and get cracks and decay in the same spots again, eventually, you’ll want to find out what’s causing that and address it,” Tobia said. “But if you’re dealing with dryness or skin damage right now and want to give your moisture level a boost to try to rebalance your skin, slugging is a great reparative approach.”

Are there any negatives to slugging?

A hand reaching into an open container of vaseline on a blurry background
(Towfiqu ahamed barbhuiya/Shutterstock.com)

Slugging may seem like the perfect solution for dry skin. Slugging is not the best solution for dry skin. Dr. Michelle HenryA board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Judith explains that there are some drawbacks to this process.

Petroleum jelly is occlusive and can clog your pores if it is oily or acne-prone.

“While the products themselves are noncomedogenic, if any other products in your routine trigger acne, it will lock it in,” Dr. Henry told Real Simple.

Because slugging will lock in whatever product is put on before it, be cautious about adding an occlusive (petroleum gel) layer to a product that contains an active ingredient. Tobia gave the example retinoids, active ingredients that can cause irritation.

Tobia also said that slugging should be the last thing you do after finishing your routine. So, if you forget a step, you’ll have to skip it entirely or cleanse off the entire occlusive layer and start over.

It’s not a long-term solution

Vaseline is a great product to help with short-term dryness. Tobia cautions that slugging does not provide a permanent solution to chronic dry skin.

“If you need a remedy beyond a few weeks of slugging a few nights per week, you probably need something that is more specifically targeted for whatever is causing your condition,” Tobia said.

Is Slugging different from regular moisturizing?

The difference between petroleum jelly and regular moisturizers is that the petroleum-based product is occlusive, which means it’s thicker, and not breathable. That’s what locks the moisture into your skin, reduces transepidermal water loss, and helps skin retain moisture better. However, occlusives don’t actually moisturize your skin.

“They’re not interchangeable processes, and it’s important to remember that slugging doesn’t offer any moisturizing benefits of its own, but it can be effective in enhancing the benefits of your already-effective moisturizer,” Tobia says.