The Truth About Slugging – What Dermatologists Make Of The Trend

The aim is to prevent water loss from the skin and lock in hydration. But is it a good idea?

Slugging might sound like it involves slimy garden molluscs, but it’s actually a beauty trend people swear by to achieve dewy, delicious skin.

Korean beauty (or K-beauty) has been popular for a number of years now, with skincare regimes that prioritise generating luminous skin. Rather than using foundation, which can often give the skin a rather dull effect, the focus is on clarifying, toning and hydrating, to achieve skin that resembles glass.

And apparently slugging – which involves slathering your face in petroleum jelly before bed – is one of the ways to do that. The idea is that you apply petroleum jelly to your face as the last step in your nighttime skincare routine to ‘seal’ in all the products you’ve used and give your skin a hydration boost overnight.

While the trend has been quietly brewing in popularity for a few years now, it’s recently taken off on TikTok with beauty bloggers and dermatologists posting videos on it.

kobrin_photo via Getty Images

Beauty product obsessive Erin Dugan Jurchak gave the trend a go on TikTok and said initially, it wasn’t that comfortable because her hair stuck to her face. She found a workaround by only applying Vaseline jelly (her product of choice) to specific areas of her face where she wanted to retain moisture, such as around the eyes, across the forehead, and around her mouth.

I tried Jurchak’s method before writing this article and found my skin was softer than usual the morning after – but it was pretty uncomfortable to deal with overnight. I ended up pinning my hair off my face as it was clinging to my cheeks.

My skin tends to veer on the dry side, so I feel like this would be a bit much for those with oily skin. It seems like something you’d do once in a while, rather than every single night – even my dry skin would struggle to cope with being bombarded by so much product each night.

Is it actually good for your skin, though? Dr Emma Wedgeworth, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, says dermatologists frequently use these products (petroleum jelly) when skin is inflamed and the skin barrier is damaged, such as in eczema flare-ups.

“Petroleum jelly is a form of mineral oil which is a highly effective occlusive,” she tells HuffPost UK. “This means that it prevents water loss from the skin, locking in hydration.”

But generally, she wouldn’t recommend ‘slugging’ for most people. “The reality is, if your skin barrier is healthy and functioning well, you don’t need a layer of petroleum jelly over the face every night,” she says.

“The skin on the face is relatively thin, unlike other areas such as hands and feet, so it’s actually very efficient at absorbing ingredients.”

Using petroleum jelly short-term on the face can be useful to help with dry, cracked and inflamed skin, though, she adds.

“However, it’s messy and stains clothes and sheets,” continues Dr Wedgeworth. “In addition, while cosmetic grade mineral oils are not pore blocking (comedogenic), I would be concerned that the occlusive effect of petroleum jelly could exacerbate the comedogenicity of other products layered underneath.”

Put simply, this could mean more congestion and break-outs – not ideal.

Dermatologist Dr Anton Alexandroff agrees that while the trend of slugging can benefit people suffering from very dry skin conditions, it may also cause spots and worsen acne and rosacea. “It is also important to remember heavy sticky emollients such as petroleum jelly are highly flammable and one has to be cautious when using them – regular washing of pyjamas and bedsheets is essential,” he adds.

Dr Wedgeworth says she personally wouldn’t recommend this practice. “Firstly, I seldom need to enhance absorption of active ingredients on facial skin,” she says, “and secondly, because I think there are plenty of well-formulated moisturisers with a combination of occlusives, emollients and humectants which are more practical and elegant than petroleum jelly.”