The first time I ever tried slugging, it was 2001, accidental, and a bit more literal (like, involving an actual slug while I was climbing trees). So several years later, when my near-daily trawling on r/SkincareAddiction introduced me to the skin care term “slugging”, I was intrigued based on the name alone. Turns out, no actual slugs are involved. Slugging is the act of layering on an occlusive skin care product over your evening moisturizer to trap that hydration like a cocoon (a lotta bug analogies here, y’all) rather than dry air leeching it right back out. Like so many of the best skin care breakthroughs and trends, slugging originated in K-Beauty before catching fire on the internet (collective knowledge forums like Reddit and Twitter in particular). Now, slugging is full-on mainstream.
“Occlusives help to maintain moisture in the skin by creating a sealant or barrier over the skin,” Dr. Lian Mack, dermatologist, explains to TZR. “Heavy occlusive ingredients prevent transepidermal water loss, by literally locking water into your skin.”
According to Dr. Mack, slugging is best for those with dry skin types and is recommended for evening use only. She explains that while the occlusives lock moisture in, they don’t infuse or pull more water into the skin — they just prevent it from leaving. Dr. Mack says that by using products with hyaluronic acid beforehand (she’s a fan of the Catrice Hydro Plumping Serum, for example), water is actually pulled into the skin and the subsequent layer of occlusive helps intensify that effect.
As the long, cold winter sets in with the worst yet to come (read: February. Shudder), slugging is a low-maintenance (and low-cost) way to make sure the moisture already in your skin stays put, and the moisturizer you layer over top really does its job and sinks in. Slugging is my final step most evenings, especially if I’m using a hardcore active like my prescription tretinoin, and it means waking up to smooth, juicy, kitten-soft skin. In fact, the extra moisture even helps my makeup apply more smoothly the next day, which in turn lasts longer since there are zero dry patches.
Whether you’re a slugging novice looking to start right away or gooping up your face is second nature at this point, there are plenty of excellent occlusives and general moisture aids you’ll want tory out — yes, old-school Vaseline included. Below, my picks for the ultimate slugging arsenal (no trees or real slugs required).
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