The Truth About Slugging: Will Applying Petrolatum Jelly to Your Skin Really Make It Glow?
In short, yes—should you have a skin type that might benefit from an occlusive product.
In some ways, it's exactly as it sounds—slugging, a K-beauty invention further popularized on Reddit, does involves a bit of slime. The rising skin care trend involves "coating the face with an occlusive moisturizer, usually a petrolatum-based product," explains Robert Finney, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. "This prevents trans-epidermal water loss, which can help repair your skin's barrier and leave the skin with a moisturized glow." And while the thought of rubbing a pea-sized amount of petrolatum into your complexion might seem like a major offense—won't Vaseline ($1.79, target.com) clog pores?— there's a method (and science!) behind this madness. Ahead, Dr. Finney shares why slugging might be worth your while.
Those with dry, sensitive skin will likely benefit.
If you suffer from dry skin, eczema, or other sensitivities, slugging is something to put on your radar, notes Dr. Finney. "Especially patients with eczema—we frequently have them pat dry after a shower and then use a petrolatum-based product head to toe to trap in the moisture," he notes, adding that this is often the most effective way to hydrate your skin.
You need a petrolatum-based product.
Any product with a petrolatum jelly base is fair game—and should always be applied as the last step in a routine, to prevent the moisture (provided by previously-applied formulas) from escaping. For slugging, Dr. Finney prefers the EltaMD Moisturizer ($12.50, dermstore.com), "which is an elegant petrolatum-based product free of parabens and preservatives. It can help patients who have sensitive skin and are interested in slugging," he adds.
Slugging isn't a winter-only skin care step.
"It is less season dependent and more skin dependent," specifies Dr. Finney. "If your skin is feeling dry or irritated, then slug away. If you have breakouts afterwards then you'll know it's not for you."
If you're breakout prone, however, steer clear.
Speaking of breakouts, although petrolatum jelly is technically non-comedogenic, "if you are acne prone, this is not a great option. It can trigger breakouts," says Dr. Finney, adding that pimples are likely the only reaction that will occur, especially if you use a single-ingredient product like Vaseline ($1.79, target.com). As for how to remedy a round of zits if they do arise after you slug? "If you suffer from a breakout after, you could use an alpha or beta hydroxy acid in conjunction with an oil free, non-comedogenic moisturizer," he notes. "One of my favorite hydrating moisturizers is EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex Moisturizer ($52, amazon.com). It is a great moisturizer for all skin types, but has the added benefit of certain enzymes to help gently exfoliate and release congestion that may occur from slugging."
Slugging isn't the only way to restore moisture to your skin.
Dr. Finney actually prefers cream-based moisturizers that help repair the skin's barrier and prevent water loss. "During the colder months, EltaMD PM Therapy is a great option ($35, dermstore.com)," he shares, noting to opt for a thinner or moisturizing lotion, like the aforementioned EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex Moisturizer ($52, amazon.com), when warm weather arrives. "It provides hydration with gentle exfoliation."