What You Need to Know About the Skincare “Slugging” Trend
Log onto TikTok and you’re bound to stumble across a strange beauty hack or two. And while most are yet to be expert-approved, the skincare “slugging” trend does have a seal of approval from many dermatologists. The trend, which is believed to have originated in Korea but has also long been part of the Black community, boasts hundreds of millions of views on TikTok alone and is (wait for it) fairly simple and easy to achieve at home.
No hundred-dollar creams or trendy new ingredients here—skincare slugging is all about the age-old occlusive petrolatum. Layering this thick ointment on the skin gives off a slimy, slug-like appearance (hence the name). But it's not just about appearance. Underneath the shiny skin, these occlusive products work to repair the skin barrier and seal in moisture.
So, is this trend worth trying? Ahead, we’re sharing everything you need to know about the skincare slugging trend, including how to do it correctly.
First, What is Slugging?
Slugging is a skincare trend that includes using an occlusive – typically petroleum-based – product as the last step in your evening skincare routine to lock in moisture. Occlusives differ from the emollients found in moisturizers because they form a physical seal over the skin, trapping the moisture beneath it and preventing up to 99% of transepidermal water loss.
They’re essentially impenetrable. In other words, layering an occlusive ointment on top of all your other skincare (yep, even your facial oil) makes it harder for your skin to lose water as you sleep.
What Are the Benefits of Slugging?
For decades now, dermatologists have been recommending using occlusive, petrolatum-based ointments on delicate, irritated, or dry skin to form a protective barrier and promote healing. And the skincare benefits of applying a thin layer over your entire face are the same.
Research shows that occlusive products help maintain skin hydration, smooth texture, prevent dryness, and repair the skin barrier by restoring skin lipids. Think of lipids as the glue that hold skin cells together and maintain the integrity of the protective moisture barrier. Without those lipids, the barrier weakens, and dryness sets in. For those with super dry skin or an impaired moisture barrier, slugging can help repair the lipid barrier and get the skin back to normal.
Because slugging seals in all that moisture and helps your essences, serums, and moisturizers penetrate deeper into the skin, you’re left with a smooth, baby-soft, dewy complexion that’s noticeably more hydrated and youthful looking. Slugging is also relatively inexpensive. All you need is a petroleum-based skin protectant such as the CeraVe Healing Ointment or the SkinCeuticals Hydra Balm. Using plain ol’ Vaseline or Aquaphor also works.
Who Should Avoid Slugging?
Slugging is best for those with dry or mature skin who need extra help replenishing lost moisture. It can also be helpful for those with eczema or a compromised skin barrier.
However, experts agree those with combination, oily, or blemish-prone skin should skip the slugging trend. While the occlusive ointments themselves aren’t comedogenic, using any occlusive ingredient when you’re acne-prone is a big no-no since it can trigger breakouts. Instead, reach for other nourishing, non-occlusive ingredients suitable for acne-prone skin, such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin.
How to Slug Your Skin the Right Way:
Curious to see what all the hype is about? Follow these steps.
Start with clean skin. A clean base is essential for successful slugging because everything on the skin will be locked in once you apply your occlusive. So wash your hands before starting and ensure your face is thoroughly cleansed, ideally by doing a double cleanse. Opt for a gentle, nourishing facial wash that doesn’t contain many actives—something like the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser or Lipikar Moisturizing Wash.
Simple, hydrating steps. When slugging, you want to keep your skincare routine simple. Avoid using exfoliants, retinoids, or other strong actives, as layering them underneath an occlusive can lead to irritation. Instead, stick to gentle, less active formulas with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, green tea, or aloe vera. You can use a hydrating serum (like the Hydro-Dew Soothing and Smoothing Serum) or keep it straightforward and follow your cleansing routine with a moisturizer.
Lock it in. Use a thin layer of SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2. It contains Cholesterol, combined with the ceramides and fatty acids, creates a formula that's perfect for repairing your skin's natural lipid barrier.
The Final Verdict
The skincare slugging trend can be helpful for those with super dry or damaged skin, but it’s ultimately not suitable for everyone. While some dermatologists stand by this decades-old approach, others aren’t sure it’s necessary. With so many fantastic, expertly formulated moisturizers on the market, you don’t necessarily need to add an occlusive ointment into your routine to have soft, supple, hydrated skin.
If you want to give slugging a try, go for it! But if not, stick with locking your skincare routine in with a moisturizer that suits your skin type. If you like the idea of slugging but aren’t ready to commit or have oily/acne-prone skin, opt for a lightweight facial oil instead.