January 31st 2022
Slugging is the latest Tiktok skincare trend, but is it actually good for you?
January 26th 2022 / 0 comment
The viral moisturising hack claims to help you wake up looking ‘reborn’. The experts think there’s a better way to get dewy, healthy skin though…
From using lipstick as a blusher to zapping zits with salt water spray, we have Tiktok to thank (or blame) for an array of weird and wonderful beauty hacks. The latest skincare sensation involves people holding up pots of Vaseline and Cerave’s petroleum-rich healing ointment claiming that nightly use is like a ‘big hug for your skin’ (as declared by Tik Toker _rakhstarbeauty) and ‘the best-kept anti-ageing secret’. If you’re prone to falling down skincare and beauty holes on the app then you’ve probably come across the K-beauty technique of ‘slugging’ your skincare as part of a skincare routine for dewy skin.
Essentially, ‘slugging’ – yes we know, it sounds like it should belong in the boxing ring, not your beauty routine – involves smothering your face in a layer of petroleum jelly (yup, your grandma's pot of Vaseline is making a comeback) to lock in moisture at night. This reportedly leaves you with baby soft skin.
Fans of the Korean skincare technique of using Vaseline or a petroleum-based skincare product as a final skincare step can be found all over Reddit and Tiktok sharing their experience of the ‘slug life’. There are claims that a couple of nights slathered in the slimy stuff can leave skin feeling ‘amazing’ and ‘saves dehydrated skin’. Slugging is particularly popular in winter months when the cold weather strips the skin of moisture, users are calling it a fast track skincare routine for dewy skin.
The idea that a £1.50 tub of Vaseline is the answer to insanely dewy skin seems too good to be true. But what do the experts think? What is it? Should you try slugging if you have oily skin? We spoke to some dermatologists and skincare experts to get their take on the skincare phenomenon.
What is slugging and how do you do it?
“It’s a skincare trend that has its roots in K-beauty and involves covering your skin with a layer of occlusive moisturiser, typically Vaseline, which is 100 per cent petroleum jelly,” explains Dr Sam Bunting, skincare expert and founder of Dr Sam’s Skincare.
“The idea is that it acts like a plaster for your skin, preventing trans-epidermal water loss,” adds Dr Marie Drago, Founder of Gallinee and a skin microbiome expert. In short, the idea is to ‘lock in’ moisture and your other skincare products so that skin is kept looking plumper, for longer. It’s also up there with being one of the most simple skincare hacks around. “You apply the Vaseline on clean, possibly damp skin, and you leave it on like a mask,” explains Dr Drago. Slugging is the final step in a skincare routine so you apply the jelly after your other skincare products. Because, it’s a pretty sticky business, this is a nighttime activity unless walking around with a shiny, slimy face is your thing.
One slugging tester, Alice Fulwood says that she noticed an immediate difference after applying a pea-sized amount of Vaseline to her face post her usual skincare routine. "It was like my face had retained all the moisture I had added in my evening skincare regime and I woke up all hydrated and dewy looking."
Alice's top tips for joining the #sluglife include warming the Vaseline in your hands before patting it in a thin layer all over your face and neck. And she noted that it "works best after a cleanser, an exfoliator, a hydrating serum and a moisturiser," skinminamilism this is not! Alice also experimented with other thick creams as the slug, but said that thick balms like Vaseline were much more effective.
The major watch-out, according to both derms and Tik Tok users, is that it’s messy. “It will trap bits of your hair, wreck your blow-dry and make a mess of your bedsheets,” says Dr Bunting. "Some of the balm can end up in your baby hairs and hairline," noted Alice, "it is also more useful if you do not sleep on your face. The sluglife also makes it necessary to wash your pillowcase often!" Dr Bunting also warns that if you use a product like Vaseline all over your face “it can feel quite hot and unpleasant.”
What does slugging do for the skin?
“It’s effectively a raincoat for your face,” says Dr Drago, who likens the process to traditional eczema treatments, which involve finishing your skincare routine with something occlusive – think thick, gloopy moisturisers that create a physical barrier over the skin to lock in hydration. Adds Dr Sam: ‘This kind of inert (non-irritating) moisturiser is used in dermatology practice to tackle severe dry skin conditions, like eczema, all the time.”
Although fans of slugging claim that they wake up with soft, glowing skin, Dr Drago warns that this is only a temporary fix. “It only works while it’s on your skin,” she says, so while it can make your skin feel good from time to time, much like a mask, it doesn’t actually work to repair the skin barrier, rather it just seals it temporarily.
Signs of a damaged skin barrier include dryness, dullness, redness, sensitivity and breakouts and Dr Drago suggests that instead of turning to slugging to hydrate skin, use “products that help the skin rebuild the skin barrier and soften it by helping with the cause, rather than the symptoms.” Ingredients such as squalane and ceramides are “close to the real skin barrier” says Dr Drago.
She recommends choosing moisturisers that contain these, rather than using something occlusive, which Vaseline is. The Dr Sam Flawless Moisturiser £25 contains moisturising shea butter and active ingredient niacinamide which help to support barrier function.
Dr Bunting isn’t a fan of slugging; however, she does mention that using slugging alongside actives is one of the main benefits, says Dr Bunting. Using something non-irritating such as Vaseline alongside actives can, she says, “combat their side effects, minimise their potential to irritate and increase tolerability.”
Is slugging bad for skin?
In a word, no. “Cosmetic-grade petroleum jelly is extremely safe as it’s non-irritating and it won’t clog pores,” says Dr Bunting. However, due to the fact that for slugging purposes it’s being used as a sealant, “it might increase the pore-clogging potential of products used underneath,” notes Dr Bunting.
Facialist Katharine Mackenzie Paterson would only ever recommend someone coat their face in Vaseline “if their skin barrier was severely disrupted or they had raw or open skin, like a burn.” Before using slugging as a way of improving your skin barrier, she suggests using a “cocktail of skincare heavy on humectants, occlusives and emollients to repair it.”
Avene Cicalfate £8, a protective cream containing glycerin and beeswax, is often recommended by dermatologists to boost a delicate skin barrier. The new Gallinée Prebiotic Facial Oil £35 is targeted at rebuilding the skin barrier. It uses ingredients such as oat oil which is rich in skin-like prebiotic lipids. “These help the skin naturally produce proteins, lipids and ceramides, vital to skin health,” says Dr Drago.
Should you try slugging?
The potential for harm is minimal, so if you want to see for yourself what all the Tik Tokers are raving about then go for it.
If you do want to join the ‘slug life’ then Dr Bunting recommends using Vaseline in ‘zones’ rather than all over. If you have any areas that are getting particularly dry or are prone to irritation, usually places like nostrils and the corners of lips and eyes, then she suggests using a little vaseline here to “create a little barrier and protect from further irritation.”
If you don’t have a pot of Vaseline to hand then the Cerave Healing Ointment £28 contains the slugging star ingredient petroleum but also includes skin barrier boosting ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. If the thought of using a product so closely linked to the oil industry doesn’t sit well with you then Beauty Kitchen has created Naturline £2.99, a natural alternative to Vaseline, made with castor oil and beeswax.
In the name of slugging investigation Jemma, Get the Gloss social media manager, applied a thin layer of Vaseline to half her face and a layer of Malin+Goetz Meadowfoam Oil Balm £13 to the other. "Both felt a bit sticky but I definitely preferred the Malin+Gotez because I felt like my skin could breathe more," Jemma reported. With fairly oily, blemish-prone skin Jemma was rightly a little worried about slathering her face in thick balms in case of breakouts. The reality? "I woke up with the softest, plumpest skin I’ve had in yonks," said Jemma. "To be honest I couldn’t tell the difference between the Vaseline and Malin+Gotez sides in the morning," Jemma told me. The pros may not be convinced that slugging has any lasting skin benefits but Jemma is officially a slugging convert, "this is 100 per cent a new step I’ll be adding to my skincare routine from now on."
Otherwise, the derms are in agreement that a well-formulated moisturiser (look out for shea butter and squalane) is your best bet for keeping your skin barrier healthy and your skin looking plump and dewy. Plus, your bedding will thank you!
GET MORE GLOSS: Would you try these tik tok skincare hacks?