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What Is Slugging

Woman slathering cream on her face

Though it can be noticeably worse in the winter, dry skin can be a challenge to manage all year round. That familiar sensation of tightness paired with flaking, itching, and more noticeable fine lines is not only uncomfortable, but frustrating — and, in some cases, can’t even be soothed with heavy-duty moisturizers. However, many are finally finding relief, thanks to a technique skincare aficionados have discovered on social media known as “slugging.”

Unlike many viral beauty and skincare trends on TikTok, slugging is dermatologist approved. It’s also not a particularly new method — slugging has been practiced for years by many, but has only garnered the buzzy nickname more recently. The technique is simple: When performing your evening skincare routine, cleanse and apply hydrating formulas like serum and moisturizer, then finish by slathering on a generous coat of a petroleum jelly-based product, such as Vaseline or Aquaphor. Though it sounds messy (and can be — we’d recommend sleeping on an old pillowcase), it’s quite effective. After wiping off the excess in the AM, you’ll see softer, hydrated, and more radiant skin.

What makes slugging an effective method for moisturizing is the layering. if you were to only slick on the petroleum jelly before bed and call it a day, you’d still wake up with a parched complexion. This is because petroleum jelly is what’s known as an occlusive ingredient. It works as a shield to prevent water from escaping the skin and evaporating. However, if your skin is dry underneath that shield, the petroleum jelly will only lock in that dryness. 

For slugging success, apply serums and moisturizers with humectant ingredients first. Humectants work by drawing water into the skin; common examples of humectants include hyaluronic acid, a sugar molecule that can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, and glycerin. Be sure to apply your humectant-packed products of choice with damp fingertips or to damp skin to ensure you’re maxing out your moisture levels. Once your formulas have fully absorbed, seal in all that hydration with your favorite petroleum jelly.

Most skin types can benefit from slugging, and it’s especially helpful post-procedure (such as laser skin resurfacing) or to counteract the harsh effects of a prescription retinoid. It’s also great for dry patches on the body, such as the elbows or knees. That said, we’d suggest that those with acne-prone or oily skin steer clear of slugging as Vaseline and/or Aquaphor can exacerbate breakouts. Otherwise, why not try it? In many cases, you may only need to slug once a week to reap the method’s benefits — meaning that happy and hydrated skin is just one thick coat of petroleum jelly away.

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