‘Slugging’ Is The Skin Trend That Can Help Cure Dry, Winter Skin

Living the “slug life” is the latest K-beauty skincare trend to blow up the internet. From Tiktok to Reddit, people are singing the praises of slugging. But what exactly is “slugging?”

If you immediately had visions of slimy slugs slowly crawling across your face, you’re not alone. Don’t worry though, no slugs are involved in this skincare technique. In fact, you probably already have everything you need to practice slugging at home right now!

Beyond being easy and affordable, slugging also has the benefit of being a major help for those that suffer from dry skin. Given that winter is upon us, now is the perfect time to read up on this latest skincare hack.

What Is Slugging?

Slugging is a popular new trend that’s recently become the final step of many beauty routines. The goal is to get glowing, supple skin by generously applying petroleum jelly before bed. The idea is that is will help lock in your skincare products overnight.

In an interview with Real Simple, Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist, said slugging is “a great skincare technique in the wintertime.” And this is especially true for those of us with dry or sensitive skin.

“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, too,” Dr. Marchbein continued.

How To Slug

After you complete your regular cleansing and moisturizing routine before bed, spread a pea-sized amount of petroleum jelly on your fingertips. Then, press your fingertips firmly to your skin and spread the vaseline on your face and neck.

To avoid making your face super greasy, Dr. Marchbein says to dab a tiny bit of ointment on each cheek, forehead, nose, and chin. Then, gently rub or pat in. The next morning, all you do is simply wash it all off with a cleanser. Dr Marchbein also advised sleeping on your back and changing your pillowcase more frequently when slugging.

Benefits Of Slugging

Speaking with Real Simple, licensed esthetician Ali Tobia claimed that living the slug life can result in baby soft, extremely hydrated skin. This is because slugging will create a seal over the skin, which prevents transepidermal water loss. Slugging also protects and repairs the skin’s natural lipid barrier, which binds skin cells together.

“A commonly used analogy for the interaction between your skin cells and their lipid barrier is the similarity that it shares with a brick wall—the skin cells are very much like the bricks, comprising the bulk of the physical structure; the lipids are essentially the mortar for the wall, holding the bricks together and supporting the overall integrity of the wall itself,” Tobia explained to Real Simple.

She went on to say that when the skin’s lipid barrier is not performing as well as possible, it’s much more prone to damage. Just like a brick wall that starts to decay when the mortar cracks.

The Biggest Benefit

Tobia claims that slugging’s biggest benefit is that it reinforces the lipid barrier. Applying Vaseline to your skin will artificially strengthen and reinforce the way that your skin naturally wants to protect itself. The esthetician explained that when the lipid barrier is weak, slugging will do the work instead.

“Just like that brick wall, if you were to repair the mortar and get cracks and decay in the same spots again, eventually, you’ll want to find out what’s causing that and address it,” Tobia said. “But if you’re dealing with dryness or skin damage right now and want to give your moisture level a boost to try to rebalance your skin, slugging is a great reparative approach.”

Are There Negatives To Slugging?

A hand reaching into an open container of vaseline on a blurry background
(Towfiqu ahamed barbhuiya/Shutterstock.com)

Slugging may sound like the perfect solution to dry skin. But Dr. Michelle Henry, a board-certified dermatologist, points out that there can be some downsides to the process.

Because petroleum jelly is occlusive, slugging can clog your pores if you have oily or acne-prone skin.

“While the products themselves are noncomedogenic, if any other products in your routine trigger acne, it will lock it in,” Dr. Henry told Real Simple.

Because slugging is going to lock in whatever product you put on before it, you should be careful about putting an occlusive layer (petroleum jelly) on top of a product with an active ingredient. Tobia gave the example of products with retinoids, which are active ingredients that can cause irritation.

Tobia also noted that slugging has to be the last thing you do at the end of your routine. So, if you forget a step, you’ll have to skip it entirely or cleanse off the entire occlusive layer and start over.

Not A Long Term Solution

Applying a Vaseline face mask regularly during the winter is a great solution for short-term dryness or damage. However, Tobia emphasizes that slugging is not a permanent solution for chronic dry skin.

“If you need a remedy beyond a few weeks of slugging a few nights per week, you probably need something that is more specifically targeted for whatever is causing your condition,” Tobia said.

Is Slugging Different From Regular Moisturizing?

The difference between petroleum jelly and regular moisturizers is that the petroleum-based product is occlusive, which means it’s thicker, and not breathable. That’s what locks the moisture into your skin, reduces transepidermal water loss, and helps skin retain moisture better. However, occlusives don’t actually moisturize your skin.

“They’re not interchangeable processes, and it’s important to remember that slugging doesn’t offer any moisturizing benefits of its own, but it can be effective in enhancing the benefits of your already-effective moisturizer,” Tobia says.

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