Should You Try Slugging?
Maybe it's the cooler winter weather, or maybe it's just lockdown boredom, but slugging—the new, 21st-century name for "slathering your face in a thick layer of an occlusive substance like Vaseline"—has become a ubiquitous dry skincare trend on social media.
"Slugging has recently taken off on social media, with the idea being that you apply a petrolatum based skincare product to the face before bedtime," says Harvard-trainer dermatologist Dr Christina Weng, founder of Mymiel. "Dermatologists have actually recommended this for a long time in various forms, most commonly for eczema or over wounds to encourage healing."
While the practice has long been recommended by skincare experts such as dermatologists and aestheticians for protecting irritated skin and wounds, people have also been applying thick layers of cream or petrolatum to their faces for generations—Marilyn Monroe was famous for her generous daily use of Vaseline. But is it... good for you? Well, yes and maybe.
"It's reasonable to apply a thin layer of a petrolatum-based skincare product over your face at night, whether on its own or over other skincare products such as vitamin C or retinol, to help lock in those active ingredients," Weng says. "This can help protect the skin's moisture barrier and may be particularly good for people with dry or sensitive skin. In the winter as your skin gets particularly dry, it could be a great time to try this trend."
For people with extra-dry skin, slugging could be a game-changing step in their nighttime routines. Or, at least, it can make skin feel better.
"It's an amazing occlusive," says medical aesthetician Cassandra Bankson. "It reinforces the skin barrier by adding another layer on top of the skin's natural barrier. From this, it can help lock in moisture even more. Without an extra layer to protect the skin, it's easier for topical hydrators like serums and hyaluronic acid to be evaporated by the air before the skin can fully absorb it.
Slugging can also help repair damaged skin.
"Having a damaged skin barrier is like having a damaged fence where things can permeate," Bankson says. "When this happens, the person might have dryness and irritation that causes them to be more susceptible to even more skin problems. In this case, when your skin can’t repair itself quickly from irritation and dryness, you can give it something like petroleum because it protects the skin. It moisturizes and locks in any hydration that you have already applied. Hydration helps the healing process. Dryness only slows it down."
It's important to keep in mind, though, that there's no one-size-fits-all skincare routine for everybody, and if you have oily or combination skin, a face full of Vaseline might not be exactly what you need.
"One caveat to keep in mind however, is that these products tend to be more occlusive," Weng says. "Dermatologists primarily use it on the body or over wounds, and it may be a little heavy when used on the face and can potentially trigger breakouts or milia. This is not dangerous, but can be cosmetically bothersome."