If winter air and indoor heating have left your skin feeling bone-dry, then this buzzy new skin care trend might be just the ticket: slugging. Simply put, the odd term refers to coating your face in a layer of petroleum jelly (the stuff Vaseline is made with) — and dermatologists are (mostly) on board. The method is rooted in a K-beauty method that totally took off on Reddit and TikTok. Ahead, top dermatologists sound off on who this method is best for, how to do it right, and who's better off avoiding it altogether.
As you can probably guess, slugging can be especially beneficial for those with dry skin. "Slugging is especially helpful for those with dry, sensitive skin and those with a disrupted skin barrier who are susceptible to moisture loss," explains board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Marisa Garshick. But that's not the only time having this technique in your skin care arsenal is useful. If you "are noticing dryness as a result of changes in weather or new products, such as a retinol, you may also benefit from this," Garshick adds.
Petroleum jelly is an occlusive ingredient — it locks in whatever is applied underneath it. "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. Occlusives are products that create a barrier on the skin and therefore prevent water loss," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein explains.
Vaseline might be the obvious option, but it's not the only product you can use to 'slug' (there are other worthy options listed below). That said, there's a reason this age-old staple has kept its cult status as a dermatologist favorite. In fact, according to Garshick, one study even showed that "applying petroleum jelly daily in the first six months of life reduced the risk of eczema." (New moms, take note.) It's also an extremely safe product, for most skin types. "Importantly, not all petroleum products are created equal, so it is best to use a product that is purified, such as Vaseline, which is made with 100% pure petrolatum [petroleum] with purity guaranteed through a triple-purified formula," Garshick says.
Of course, you might be thinking: Um, dermatologists want me to put Vaseline all over my face? And the answer, at least for those with dry skin or a compromised skin barrier is, in fact, yes. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch (in collaboration with Charlotte Palermino) went as far as to coin petroleum jelly as "the most misunderstood ingredient in skin care."
Interestingly (and somewhat surprisingly!) petroleum jelly is, in fact, non-comedogenic (aka: it won't clog your pores), that said dermatologists still advise against slugging for acne-prone patients, or even patients who are prone to a lot of sweating. If either of those descriptors apply to you, "you may want to avoid nightly application of a thicker ointment to the entire face as it can be too occlusive, and contribute to breakouts if excess oils or sweat become trapped," says Garshick.
If you think you might be a good candidate for slugging, it's important to know how to do it right. "Remember to cleanse your face prior to slugging to ensure you remove any makeup, dirt, buildup, or excess oils," Garshick says. Slugging should always be the very last step in your evening skin care routine. "Apply a thin layer," Hirsch advises — "thinner than you think," she says, explaining that the benefit comes from the occlusive preventing "trans-epidermal water loss and your skin gets super hydrated overnight." Talk about beauty sleep.
Shop the best products to 'slug' with below.
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