Experts explain what slugging is, the benefits it can have, and whether you should try this buzzy skin-care trend.

By Melanie Rud
October 16, 2020
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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 trend 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, this buzzed-about trend is essentially a very simple moisturizing technique — which Reddit devotees claim is the secret to the soft, dewy skin and glass-like glow that complexion dreams are made of. Ahead, top dermatologists weigh in on the trend, and whether or not it's actually worth trying.

What Is Slugging?

It's nothing fancy or complicated — slugging is simply coating your face in Vaseline (Buy It, $13 $15 for 3-pack, amazon.com), aka petroleum jelly, (or another similar ointment) overnight. "Vaseline contains triple-purified petrolatum, an occlusive ingredient that forms 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.

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. So what gives? (Related: The Absolute Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists)

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What Are the Skin Benefits of Slugging?

You can think of slugging as a turbo-charged, hydrating sheet mask, and a great option for those with dry skin, says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. It can also be a good move for those plagued with the age-related skin issues; Dr. Gohara, who says she slugs nightly, says this is why she does it. "With aging comes decreased barrier repair, decreased hydration, saggy skin, and more obvious wrinkles. Slugging essentially acts as a buoy to the barrier, keeping water locked in and the skin plumped," she notes.

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. (Related: Products and Tips to Deal With Dry, Itchy Skin on Your Face.)

But Should I Try It?

In short, if you want to, go for it — unless you have oily or acne-prone skin, in which case this is one trend to steer clear of, a sentiment echoed by all of the derms here. Why? While cosmetic grade petroleum jelly — aka 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 maskne. (Related: The Best Skin-Care Routine for Acne-Prone Skin.)

It's also worth noting that Vaseline 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. In other words, if your skin is already crazy dry, there won't be any moisture for the Vaseline to seal in. In that case, she suggests trying Aquaphor Healing Ointment (Buy It, $11, $17, amazon.com). 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. This makes it a better pick for super dry skin, says Dr. Chang, though she does mention that it contains lanolin, an animal-based ingredient that some people are allergic to.

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Another option for those with very dry skin: 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. (Related: The Best Moisturizers for Every Skin Type)

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So How Do You Slug, Exactly?

First, make sure your skin is completely clean. Per the previous point about this potentially locking in dirt and oil, it's important to make sure you cleanse your face well prior to slugging, advises Dr. Chang. And yes, you want to coat your face, but that doesn't mean you need to slather on coat after coat of whichever product you're using. Dr. Gohara shares that she applies Vaseline on her pointer, middle, and ring fingers — "about the size of a piece of edamame" — and evenly distributes it all over her face come bedtime.

Worth noting: Make sure to use a pillowcase you don't care about destroying, she adds, since some will inevitably get on your pillow. If you usually wash your face come morning, go ahead and do so, but there's no need to. Just be sure to admire your gorgeously glowy new skin.

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