Mar 21, 2022 · 9 min read
Ah, slugging. This hardcore hydration technique involves slathering your face in petroleum jelly to achieve smooth, radiant skin. Welcome to the internet beauty world!
Fun fact: slugging isn’t a new skincare trend at all—in fact, moisturizing with Vaseline is super old school. “Dermatologists love petrolatum,” says board-certified dermatologist Whitney Tolpinrud. “It helps to repair the skin barrier, assists with wound healing, and prevents water evaporation.”
As a self-appointed fact-checker of TikTok skincare hacks, I’m actually a big fan of moisturizing with petroleum jelly. That said, slugging isn’t for everyone. Before you buy into the hype, let's cover the basics.
In skincare, slugging is the practice of applying a layer of petroleum jelly as a moisturizer. Petroleum jelly is a thick occlusive, which helps lock hydration into the skin. It also means that it gives your skin that shiny sheen of a smooth, poreless gastropod 🐌
Your grandma’s probably never heard of “slugging,” but Vaseline has a long history as a beauty product. More recently, k-beauty has revived this deep-down moisturizing practice (though, in Korean, the practice is called “chok chok,” meaning “moist”).
If buttering your face like escargot sounds weird, hear me out: slugging has skin benefits. If you have dry skin—especially dryness from a damaged moisture barrier—it’s probably worth a shot.
Good news for people like me who have acne: though pure petroleum might feel too heavy on oily and acne-prone skin, it’s actually acne-safe!
Slugging’s skin benefits, at a glance:
Slugging helps prevent water loss. Occlusives trap water to your skin, sealing in moisture and maintaining hydration.
Slugging helps repair the skin barrier. If you have overly dry, scaly, flaky, or irritated skin, occlusive moisturizers can speed healing.
Slugging can help improve signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. That’s because moisturizing well helps skin look smoother and brighter.
Slugging is a good option if you have dry skin damage from seasonal causes, over-exfoliation, or irritating ingredients. “In its purest form (e.g., plain Vaseline), it doesn’t have any preservatives or allergens,” says Tolpinrud. “That means it can be very helpful for those with irritated or sensitive skin.”
Don’t dive head-first into a vat of petroleum jelly yet. Vaseline is thick, which presents a few potential problems, especially for certain skin types.
A little goes a long way. More Vaseline doesn’t necessarily mean better, but “an extra thick layer will leave you with a giant mess on your bedding,” according to Tolpinrud. Spare your pillowcases!
If you have oily skin, you might not choose the slug life. Heavy, occlusive moisturizers might make your skin seem oilier. Instead, try lightweight moisturizers with ingredients like glycerin.
If you’re acne-prone, good news: pure petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic. That means it doesn’t tend to cause breakouts. HOWEVER. Some people don’t like the weighty feeling of Vaseline over their active breakouts.
Slugging is easy to do—just cleanse and apply your petroleum jelly.
Step 1: Cleanse your skin with a gentle hydrating cleanser.
Step 2: While your skin is still damp, apply a thin layer of Vaseline all over your face and neck.
Step 3: Wait! Leave it on your skin overnight.
Final step: When slug-time is over, wash your face with plain water.
The easiest way to slug is to do it at night. Simply apply a thin layer and go to bed. Boom: you’re glistening in your sleep.
You don’t need to wait until the shroud of night to become a slug, though! You can slug during the day (it’s kinda like wearing a hydrating mask). Just don’t try to do a full face of makeup on top!
Mixing slugging with active ingredients can make things complicated. For example, tretinoin can’t penetrate a super strong moisturizing barrier. That means that applying tretinoin over a thick layer of Vaseline can make it ineffective.
Likewise, derms say you should avoid applying active ingredients under a thick layer of Vaseline. “The occlusive nature of petrolatum-based products can potentially increase the chances of irritation,” says Tolpinrud. Creating a protective barrier over your skin is no light matter!
TL;DR—if you want to slug, it might be easiest to skip your other actives. And stick with a thin layer! A little goes a long way. I recommend keeping your slugging routine extra simple. Here’s how.
Transform into a slug, no Animorphing required. These moisturizers feature petroleum jelly and are free of ingredients known to cause breakouts and irritation:
Oh, yeah, Vaseline…I think I may have mentioned it once or twice above. This one-ingredient wonder is all you need to get started on your quest for quenched skin. It’s generally safe to apply Vaseline to your face or anywhere on your body that needs the hydration. (Dry hands, anyone?)
Reach for the classic Vaseline product that contains just one ingredient: pure petroleum jelly. While the brand offers a ton of different moisturizers, some have ingredients that could potentially trigger acne (or make existing breakouts worse).
In my opinion, Aquaphor is the unsung hero of the drugstore skincare aisle. Their healing ointment is good for slugging if you have oily, combination, or acne-prone skin. Personally, I prefer their more lightweight formula (which is 41% pure petroleum jelly) over Vaseline’s. It packs in extra moisture with glycerin and panthenol, helping balance your skin’s water content.
Cerave Healing Ointment is designed for dry, cracked, or eczema-prone skin that needs extra hydration. It has hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which help restore the skin barrier and bring extra water to the skin. This product is good for slugging if your primary concern is skin aging. But if you’re concerned about acne, be careful.
Cerave’s products are often whispered about on skincare subreddits, but their website notes that on-the-shelf formulas may differ product by product. So I can’t guarantee this product’s formula is always acne-safe. And, like Vaseline, some of Cerave’s formulas are comedogenic.
If you’re not prone to acne, then it’s no big deal! Go ahead and glaze your face like a donut.
If you want to reap slugging’s hydration-balancing and anti-aging benefits without feeling weighed down, then Clinique’s classic facial moisturizer could be right for you. This moisturizer is loaded with hydrating ingredients (including petroleum) that promise “dramatically different” results. I’ll vouch as someone who has personally noticed smoother, clearer skin after using this product.
It’s free of ingredients known to cause breakouts and irritation. The downside? This isn’t a drugstore skincare product. If budget is a concern for you, this one may not be worth the splurge.
In skincare, slugging is the practice of applying a layer of petroleum jelly as a moisturizer. Petroleum jelly is a thick occlusive, which helps lock hydration into the skin. Your grandma’s probably never heard of “slugging,” but Vaseline has a long history as a beauty product. More recently, k-beauty has revived this deep-down moisturizing practice (though, in Korean, the practice is called “chok chok,” meaning “moist”).
The benefits of incorporating slugging into your skincare routine include: slugging helps prevent water loss, helps repair the skin barrier, and can help improve signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles. If you have dry skin—especially dryness from a damaged moisture barrier—it’s probably worth a shot. If you’re acne-prone, good news: pure petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic. That means it doesn’t tend to cause breakouts.
If you have oily skin, you might not choose the slug life. Heavy, occlusive moisturizers might make your skin seem oilier. Instead, try lightweight moisturizers with ingredients like glycerin. More Vaseline doesn’t necessarily mean better, but an extra thick layer might leave you with a giant mess on your bedding. Spare your pillowcases!
How often you slug depends on you! You can do it once a day if you wanted to. The easiest way to slug is to do it at night. Simply apply a thin layer and go to bed. To get started, you'll want to cleanse before you slug. Then, apply a thin layer of Vaseline while your face is still wet. Remove after a few hours (or when you wake up in the morning). Enjoy smoother, more radiant skin. You can slug during the day (it’s kinda like wearing a hydrating mask). Just don’t try to do a full face of makeup on top!
Everyone is unique. Whether you follow every beauty trend or stick with what you know works, it's tricky to figure out what products fit your specific skin's needs. Hopefully, after reading this article, you know whether to slug or not to slug.
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Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C