Slugging Skincare: What is slugging?

December 7, 2020
Rosie Pearson

You may have heard about a skincare trend called slugging. This latest skincare craze is gaining popularity thanks to the social video-sharing app TikTok.

So what is the meaning of ‘slugging’ and is there any scientific benefit to this popular skincare technique?

What is slugging?

Slugging is not exactly new, it’s something women have been doing for decades - or ever since vaseline was invented. Your grandma may have used it, or is still using it as an anti-aging cream.

Slugging means to slather your entire face with a thick occlusive, such as Vaseline. It’s called ‘slugging’ because it makes your skin look and feel slimy - like a slug

What's the best way to slug your skin?

  1. Make sure your skin is thoroughly cleansed.
  2. Apply your usual skincare routine, but skip the active ingredients like retinol.
  3. Slather your face in a heavy occlusive moisturiser like Vaseline, Aquaphor, or CeraVe as the final step in your bed-time skincare routine.
  4. Sleep in a bun or ponytail so you don't get slime in your hair while you sleep.
  5. Wake up to soft, bouncy, plump skin.

How does slugging work, and what’s the science behind it?

Slugging works by locking in hydration and protects your skin by forming an occlusive seal, reducing moisture loss.

Occlusives create a seal on our face, preventing trans-epidermal water loss. The word occlude means to prevent passage, so that’s exactly what’s happening when we are slugging - we are blocking the evaporation of water. 

Occlusives create a hydrophobic barrier over the skin, so this means they are the most effective when applied to slightly dampened skin.

The most popular product used for slugging is Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline) which is the most effective occlusive available. It can reduce trans-epidermal water loss by over 98%.

What are the benefits of slugging?

  • If you have dry skin - Slugging can be very beneficial as it’s going to trap in any hydration and help moisturise your skin. 
  • If you have dehydrated skin, or you’ve been overusing retinols - You may have a damaged skin barrier, so slugging is a great way to heal and protect your skin.
  • If you’re a tretinoin user - Slugging with an occlusive after applying tretinoin is a great way to stop your skin from drying out - but don't try this if you're a beginner.
  • If you have a cut or rash - Slathering your skin with Vaseline or Aquaphor will help with the natural healing process.
  • If you live in a very cold climate - Slugging can help protect your skin from the harsh winter weather.

Should you be slugging?

Slugging can be beneficial if you have any existing skin barrier damage, flakiness, scaliness, patchiness, or aggravated skin to facilitate the natural healing process.

However, slugging is not something everyone needs to be doing, and not something you need to do every single night. Every two nights would be more than enough.

Is slugging good for your skin?

You will definitely notice some really nice skin benefits if you introduce slugging into your skincare routine, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone, or that it’s entirely beneficial. 

There are definitely some cons that some people might experience, such as a reaction, or a flare-up of the skin. So it’s important that you patch test your skin before applying it all over your face.

Slugging and acne

Skincare grade petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic, so it won't clog or blog your pores. However, keep in mind that it’s extremely occlusive - which means it traps everything underneath it, including dead skin cells and bacteria, so if you have acne-prone or oily skin, we recommend avoiding slugging as it might make your acne worse.

Slugging with Vaseline, Aquaphor, or CeraVe?

Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, is great for protecting your skin. It is the most effective occlusive available. However, you can also ‘slug’ with other occlusive products such as Aquaphor, or CeraVe Healing Ointment

CeraVe Healing Ointment contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid, so you’re getting the extra hydration, plus added benefits.

It’s up to you which product you prefer to slug with, or you can simply use whichever occlusive you have lying around in your medicine cabinet.

Slugging tips

  • Make sure you properly cleanse your skin, as any dirt or bacteria will get trapped underneath the occlusive layer.

  • Don’t apply anything comedogenic underneath your layer of occlusive as it will clog your pores.

  • If you’re a beginner to actives such as BHA’s or retinols, it’s not a good idea to begin with slugging as it can make the actives stronger and end up irritating your skin.

  • Use hydrating products underneath your occlusive, such as a hyaluronic acid serum, as it will lock in moisture under the occlusive layer.

The bottom line

Remember that skincare is personal. What works for one person might not work for another.

You might not enjoy the feeling of something so thick and greasy on your face as you’re sleeping, but if you decide you do want to try slugging - make sure you do a spot test on your skin before applying it to your entire face to ensure that you don’t experience any reaction. 

Happy slugging!

Slugging is great for dry skin - it locks in water and makes the skin plump.

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