Having plump, glowing skin may seem like an impossible feat, particularly if you typically have dry skin. But if you suffer from dry winter skin or flakiness, you might be interested in the skincare trend that's taken over both Reddit and TikTok — it's called slugging, and it might be the secret weapon to that glazed donut skin you've been looking for.
Don't worry, it doesn't involve any actual slugs — but it does involve using an occlusive to lock in moisture. We talked to three board-certified dermatologists to answer all your questions about slugging, from whether it's actually good for your skin to how often you should slug.
So what is slugging?
"Slugging is a recent K-beauty trend where one applies a petrolatum-based ointment to the face overnight to repair the skin," says David Kim, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in California. Though it's a recent trend across social media, "it's been recommended by dermatologists for decades to help hydrate and protect dry or irritated skin," says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
What are the benefits of slugging?
Slugging acts as an occlusive, meaning that the thin layer of petrolatum forms a sort of protective barrier on the skin. "Slugging works by repairing the skin by keeping the skin barrier intact and minimizing the trans-epidermal water loss by trapping moisture," Dr. Kim says.
Is slugging actually good for your skin?
All three dermatologists agree that slugging does actually work. "Slugging is good for your skin, especially if you live in a dry climate where water loss and dryness are bound to happen," says says Shereene Idriss, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Idriss Dermatology in New York City. "If you are somebody who has a damaged skin barrier, I would recommend that you basically take everything else out of your routine and focus on slugging for a few days a week to see how your skin will bounce back," she adds.
What products should I use for slugging?
Petrolatum, commonly known as petroleum jelly, is easy to find — just reach for a tub of Vaseline, or the GH Seal Star Aquaphor Healing Ointment.All three dermatologists recommend using either of the two for slugging.
What skin types is slugging good for?
Dr. Kim recommends slugging only for people with dry skin or mature skin, since as we age, our skin starts to lose its ability to retain moisture. "This is certainly not for anyone with acne-prone, oily skin or combination skin," says Dr. Kim. "If you have oily or acne-prone skin, I wouldn’t recommend this at all unless you’re applying it just to the lips."
He says it could also be useful for people with eczema to help repair a compromised skin barrier. Regardless of how dry your skin is, Dr. Kim does not recommend slugging every single night. "I would only recommend it as pulse-therapy, meaning only for a few consecutive days intermittently," he says.
Does slugging cause acne?
"It is a myth that purified petrolatum used in cosmetic products will break out the skin," says Dr. Zeichner. "Vaseline itself is non-comedogenic, so I wouldn't be worried about getting acne, but if you are extremely oily or acne-prone, I would probably avoid slugging in general, as you're trying to rebalance your skin," says Dr. Idriss. So although slugging is unlikely to cause a new breakout, those with acne-prone skin should still take caution.
What is the best way to try slugging?
If you'd like to try slugging, be sure to add it into your skincare routine gradually, as Dr. Kim advises. Slugging should be the last step in your night-time skincare routine, so save it for after cleansing, using treatments like serums and applying your usual moisturizer.
Once you've applied the other products in your skincare routine, "apply a thin layer of petrolatum-based ointment like Vaseline or Aquaphor," Dr. Kim advises. "You should do this at least 30 minutes before going to bed so you don’t get the ointment all over your pillowcase." Be sure to only use a thin layer — you don't need too much ointment for it to work!
How often should you slug?
Dr. Kim says that this really depends on your individual skin type and personal preferences. "If you have very dry skin and need an extra boost during the winter time, you can slug as often as you’d like," he says. You can also factor in the season and what your skin needs. Dr. Idriss recommends slugging less often in the summer than in the winter.
"Listen to what your skin needs," says Dr. Zeichner. "However, I generally recommend the same way I would recommend any other mask, using once per week or so."
Are there any side effects to slugging?
"I do not recommend applying petroleum jelly over potentially irritating actives like retinol or an exfoliating acid," says Dr. Zeichner. "Applying petroleum jelly over the active will enhance penetration, potentially leading to skin irritation."