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Dry Skin? TikTok's Skin Hack 'Slugging' Might Be the Solution You Need

Stay moisturized this winter with this affordable dermatologist-approved skin care technique.

gettyimages-a finger scoops a blob of vaseline out of a jar
Towfiqu Barbhuiya/EyeEm/Getty Images

Earlier this year, an old skin care trend called "slugging" exploded in popularity on TikTok, creating a frenzy among beauty advocates. It went viral on the social network due to claims that it makes skin smooth and soft -- while looking (and sounding) super gross. 

Don't worry, this process doesn't use any real slugs. Slugging involves an inexpensive household product that your grandma always has in her bathroom: petroleum jelly.

Here's everything you need to know about this gooey skin care trend. 

What is slugging? 

Slugging is a Korean beauty skin care practice that means slathering petroleum jelly on your face. You can use any product from Aquaphor to CeraVe to Vaseline in order to moisturize and protect your face overnight. Videos of this beauty technique -- which tend to really overdo the amount they put on -- have gone viral on TikTok, with over 500 million views to date under the hashtag #slugging. Many TikTok users who have tried it out for themselves report results such as plump, glowing and moisturized skin.

@edwardzo TikTok made me try it: Slugging (w/ @cetaphilusa’s new healing ointment) 🐌 #skincare101#skintok#slugging#skinbarrier#cetaphil#cetaphilpartner♬ original sound - EdwardZO

The slugging process

Step 1: Cleanse your face.

Step 2: Pile on hydrating products, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerin.

Step 3: Add a nightly moisturizer, like a lotion, oil or cream.

Step 4: Load on your occlusive, or the petroleum jelly: Vaseline, CeraVe, Aquaphor or another brand. (While you'll see TikTokers using a full handful for dramatic effect, you can use as little as a pea-size amount to see benefits.)

Step 5: Wait a few minutes before getting into bed.

a woman in a robe looking in a mirror applies skin cream to her face
Sergey Mironov/Moment/Getty Images

Supposed benefits of slugging 

Petroleum jelly consists of oils and waxes that act as a barrier on the skin, trapping moisture underneath. Studies have shown that Vaseline -- one of the most popular brands of petroleum jelly -- has properties that may help repair your skin's outermost layer. In addition to keeping the skin moisturized, petroleum jelly can increase the potency of other products applied underneath. 

Slugging is most effective when combined with humectants (a dermatology term for ingredients that retain moisture), such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin or urea.

Reported slugging benefits include:

  • Moisturized, glowing skin
  • Healthier, younger-looking skin
  • Repaired skin barrier
  • Locking in other products
  • Decreased appearance of wrinkles

What do the experts say?

Dermatologists are not surprised by this trend, given that Vaseline has been a popular beauty product for decades. They already know how occlusives (such as petroleum jelly) effectively lock in moisture to keep skin hydrated and plump.

Board-certified New York dermatologist Dr. Hadley King agrees with the effectiveness of slugging as long as you "do it the right way." 

"First apply a product or products that contain humectants and emollients (moisturizing ingredients), then add other occlusives. You can start with a serum containing humectants and add a face oil with emollients," she said. "The last step would be slugging petrolatum as the occlusive. Alternatively, you could apply a moisturizer that contains humectants, emollients and occlusives, and then for extra occlusive properties, apply the slugging petrolatum."

According to King, the slugging skin care trend is most helpful for those with dry skin or those who are often exposed to dry conditions given that "a dry environment will exacerbate transepidermal water loss and dryness of the skin." 

Still, King recommends being cautious when applying occlusives on top of topical medications because it could increase the potency, creating adverse effects.

Slugging isn't for everyone, according to Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified New York dermatologist and author of the book Skin Rules. "Slugging before you go to sleep is fine if you have very dry skin, but not a good idea for acne-prone skin," Jaliman said. "Slugging can potentially trap oils and clog the skin's pores and especially irritate acne-prone skin, contributing to breakouts."

She went on to say: "If you are not acne-prone, some good products you can use for slugging are CeraVe healing ointment and Aquaphor." Echoing King's advice, Jaliman also recommends using a product that hydrates, moisturizes and protects all in one: "Personally, I would recommend using a thick cream such as CeraVe moisturizing cream that has ceramides and hyaluronic acid."

Drops and smears of various cosmetic products on pink background
Anna Efetova/Moment/Getty Images

Slugging tips

Apply only at night

Unless you're in an extremely cold and dry environment, it is best to apply only at night. That way, you can lock in moisture and other skin care products while you sleep. (Otherwise, you'll be walking around all day with slimy skin.) 

Combine with your nightly moisturizer

Vaseline works by preventing moisture from getting in or out. If there is no moisture on the skin to begin with, applying petroleum jelly won't provide much benefit. For the best results, it's important to load up your skin with hydrating and moisturizing products first, then slather your slugging product on top to keep moisture from evaporating off your skin.

Drugstore or high-end products will work

Vaseline is a cheap product that can be found at any drugstore, but if you're looking for luxury products with extra moisturizing properties, King recommends Ghost Democracy Ceramide Cream. "It contains ceramides, lipids, squalane and murumuru seed butter to support the skin barrier and lock in moisture. You could add heavier occlusives on top if desired," she said.

King also recommends Innbeauty Project Daily Moisturizer. "With ceramides, triglycerides, shea butter, squalane, dimethicone and fatty acids and fatty alcohols, this supports the skin barrier and locks in moisture."

Use consistently to see results

Darnisha Monson, a licensed esthetician, recommends making slugging a part of your nighttime skincare routine. In order to notice results, you need to slug consistently for four to six weeks. Slugging cannot repair your skin or your skin's appearance overnight.

Best if used in the winter

The colder months are the times when our skin loses the most moisture. Slugging will be more effective in winter and in environments that are harsh on the skin. Occlusives can even protect against windburn during your winter ski trips.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.