“Slugging skin” is having a moment on TikTok. But spoiler: “slugging” in skin care is not exactly new. It’s been a staple in skincare routines for many people of color for decades. But it’s trending now because — surprise — the beauty industry historically centers white women.
So whether you’re new to the trend or have had a rotation of Vaseline jars in your medicine cabinet for years, we broke down what slugging does for your skin — with help from board-certified dermatologists Dr. Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, CEO of the dermatology practice Vibrant Dermatology, and Dr. Shadi Kourosh, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School.
What is “slugging” skin?
Slugging skin means covering your face in Vaseline (or other petroleum jelly products) after you’ve gone through your however-many-steps skin care routine, said Dr. Kourosh. It’s meant to act as a barrier over the skin, sealing in moisture and keeping your skin hydrated. And once applied, it looks like slug residue on your skin. (Oh, the things we'll do for glowing skin.)
The term slugging is thought to have originated in Korean beauty regimens. And it’s been a part of many Black women’s skin care routines for years. So the fact that it’s suddenly trending on social media has some TikTokers baffled. But TikTok will be TikTok. (See also: Hair slugging, which has been around for thousands of years.)
Is slugging good for your skin?
Slugging skin has a few different benefits.
It can lock in moisture. Petroleum jelly is an occlusive ingredient, meaning it creates a seal and helps prevent water loss from the skin.
It can protect your skin. Petroleum jelly creates a barrier on the skin that can withstand harsh environments, like cold and/or dry climates, said Dr. Kourosh.
It may help repair the skin barrier. By preventing transepidermal water loss, which aids in skin barrier function.
Is slugging better for some skin types than others?
“Slugging may be beneficial for those with excessively dry skin,” said Dr. Imahiyerobo-Ip. And may help with eczema or psoriasis by moisturizing and healing the barrier, said Dr. Kourosh.
The skin type slugging is not ideal for: oily or acne-prone skin. Because, even though petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic (meaning it doesn’t clog pores), it may seal in your skin oils, which can irritate your pore and trigger a breakout.
But it's worth checking with your dermatologist before trying slugging. Because they'll help you choose the right products and regimen based on your personal skincare needs and goals, said Dr. Kourosh.
How do you slug your skin?
After completing your skin care routine, smooth a thin layer of petroleum jelly over your face (it works best when your skin is still damp). A pea-sized amount of petroleum jelly is all you need. Then let it work its magic overnight. Cleanse your skin in the morning and resume your non-slug life.
Important note: Experts advise skipping treatments with active ingredients (think: retinol and certain acids) if you plan to combine with slugging. Because slugging might make those products more potent and cause irritation.
And, FYI, slugging doesn’t have to be limited to your face. Enter: Body slugging. But if getting into bed covered in Vaseline sounds about as appealing as an actual slug in your bed, don’t worry. You can try a spray-on ointment (which, like Vaseline, is made with petrolatum) for a thinner layer of product. Or, opt for moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, and/or glycerin, which can also help lock in moisture.
How often should you slug your skin?
The dryness of your skin will determine how often you should slug. So check with your dermatologist before diving in.
There’s a reason skin slugging has been around forever. It’s healing, moisture-locking, and great for dry skin if you’re prone to having it. But if it’s new to you, consult with your derm. Especially if you have any prior skin conditions. Happy slugging.
Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.