Experts explain what slugging is, its potential benefits, and whether you should try this super-hydrating beauty practice.
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Advertisement
~Slugging~ Is Reddit's Latest Hack for Super Soft, Hydrated Skin - Beautiful young woman with moisturizing gel on her face
Credit: Getty Images

Let's get one thing out of the way first: Slugging skin care does not, in fact, involve actual slugs. That being said, the K-beauty practice did get its name from the idea of going to bed mucus-covered, slug style.

Don't worry, there's no mucus involved, either. Instead, slugging is essentially a very simple moisturizing technique, which Reddit devotees and TikTokers alike claim is the secret to the soft, dewy skin and glass-like glow.

Ahead, top dermatologists weigh in on the benefits of slugging, whether it's worth trying, and exactly how to try slugging yourself.

What Is Slugging?

It's nothing too fancy or complicated. "The term 'slugging' originated in South Korea and it involves coating your skin in a thick ointment-based moisturizer or petroleum as the last step in your skincare routine before bed," says Neda Mehr, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in Newport Beach, California and medical director at Pure Dermatology Cosmetic & Hair Center.

Why, though? "Slugging can assist in achieving a dewy, almost 'glass-like' look," says Dr. Mehr. "The ultimate benefit of slugging is hydration, which can lead to many more benefits like more glowy, bouncy, plump skin."

Often, people use Vaseline (Buy It, $12 $13 for 3-pack, amazon.com), aka petroleum jelly, for slugging.

Seems like a pretty darn easy (and, for that matter, inexpensive) way to get the cherub-esque skin the internet's "sluggers" claim it delivers. But is covering your face in thick ointment really a good idea? (Related: The Absolute Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists)

The Skin Benefits of Slugging

You can think of slugging like a turbo-charged, hydrating mask, says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, who slugs nightly.

The magic happening here is that ointments such as Vaseline contain occlusive ingredients that form "a seal over the skin, preventing water loss and helping a damaged skin barrier repair itself," explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

ICYDK, your skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin, and when it's healthy and intact, it keeps water and other beneficial substances in and irritants (such as bacteria and chemicals) out. Damage to the skin barrier can occur as a result of, for example, extreme temps, scrubs, harsh soap, sun exposure, and genetics, creating tiny cracks or tears in the skin where irritants can get in and cause inflammation that exacerbates free radical damage, aging, and conditions (e.g. eczemarosacea, and acne), Dr. Zeichner previously told Shape.

TL;DR: Slugging can help you repair a damaged skin barrier as well as deeply hydrate the skin, says Dr. Mehr. (Related: Products and Tips to Deal With Dry, Itchy Skin on Your Face)

Who Should Try Slugging?

"If your skin is dry to normal (not oily/combination), you can slug as frequently as every night," says Dr. Mehr.

Slugging is also a great option for those dealing with age-related skin issues, says Dr. Gohara (who says that's why she does it, personally). "With aging comes decreased barrier repair, decreased hydration, saggy skin, and more obvious wrinkles," she explains. "Slugging essentially acts as a buoy to the barrier, keeping water locked in and the skin plumped."

Its benefits for the skin barrier make it something that those dealing with irritation and issues such as eczema might want to consider as well, adds Dr. Zeichner. The fact that Vaseline has no additives or fragrances makes it — and slugging — safe even for those with very sensitive skin or eczema, points out Y. Claire Chang, M.D., a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.

What about oily or acne-prone skin? Sadly, you may want to steer clear of slugging, according to the derms interviewed. While cosmetic-grade petroleum jelly, e.g. Vaseline, in and of itself is non-comedogenic (translation: won't clog pores), because it is such a thick occlusive, it can trap dead skin cells and bacteria and ultimately lead to breakouts, explains Dr. Chang. So, unfortunately, no, slugging isn't a good way to deal with acne.

And heads up if you have a pretty involved skin-care routine. "I would avoid slugging in combination with any active ingredients like retinols, retinoids, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), as it can cause irritation by locking these strong ingredients on your skin," explains Dr. Mehr.

The Best Products for Slugging

Vaseline (Buy It, $12 $13 for 3-pack, amazon.com) is a great choice for slugging, but it isn't your only option. "Petroleum jelly can seal moisture into the skin, but it doesn't actually add it back in," says Dr. Chang. Other similar ointments, however, add moisture while also locking it in.

In that case, try Aquaphor Healing Ointment (Buy It, $14, $19, amazon.com), says Dr. Chang. It contains petrolatum along with mineral oil, another occlusive ingredient, so that you get the same effects. Where Aquaphor differs from Vaseline is in its inclusion of humectants such as glycerin and panthenol, ingredients that attract moisture to the skin, making it a better pick for super dry skin, she says. (A heads up: Aquaphor contains lanolin, a waxy substance that comes from sheep's wool, and some people are allergic to it, she notes.)

Another option: CeraVe Healing Ointment (Buy It, $12, amazon.com), a healing balm that includes both petroleum jelly and other barrier-repair ingredients such as ceramides, and is free of fragrance, preservatives, and lanolin, she explains.

How to Slug Your Face

If you want to try slugging, follow these derm-approved steps.

  1. Wash your face. And make sure your skin is completely clean. As noted above, slugging can potentially lock in dirt and oil, so it's important to cleanse your face well prior, advises Dr. Chang.
  2. Continue (selectively) with your skin-care routine. Do any post-cleanse steps that usually belong in your skin-care routine (think: moisturizer), but skip more powerful ingredients (such as retinols, retinoids, AHAs, and BHAs), according to Dr. Mehr.
  3. Apply your slugging layer. You want to totally coat your face, but no need to apply coat after coat. Try scooping up some Vaseline on your pointer, middle, and ring fingers — "about the size of a piece of edamame" — and evenly distribute all over your face right before bedtime, says Dr. Gohara.
  4. Head to bed. Worth noting: Use a pillowcase you don't care about destroying, since some product (which tends to be greasy) will inevitably get on your pillow, says Dr. Gohara. Alternately, place a towel over your pillow to protect it and your sheets.
  5. (Maybe) wash in the a.m. Dr. Mehr recommends washing your face in the morning with a light cleanser and water, but Dr. Gohara takes a different approach. If you usually wash your face come morning, go ahead and do so, but it's not necessary to wash off your slugging product from the night before, she says. Either way, be sure to admire your gorgeously glowy new skin.