What Is ‘Slugging’ (and Is It Really Good for Your Skin)?

What Is ‘Slugging’ (and Is It Really Good for Your Skin)?
Photo: Anna Gawlik, Shutterstock

On social media, what was once conventional beauty wisdom can easily start to trend after a quick rebranding to make it seem like a brand-new, cutting-edge tip. Just as easily, it can be replaced with another hot new trend, which could contradict the first one. Remember how beauty gurus used to insist you should put a huge, downward-facing triangle of concealer under each eye, then suddenly reversed course and said you should only use a tiny amount at the outer corners and, actually, it should point upward and outward? Now, every time you do your contouring routine, you have to stop and question which way is the supposed “right” way to apply concealer — at least according to a handful of well-compensated and conventionally attractive young women on YouTube and TikTok.

It’s better, of course, to keep aware of the trends, test them out, and only adopt those processes or techniques that make sense for your face, your lifestyle, your budget, or your schedule. “Slugging” is a great example of a beauty trend that is everywhere right now, but might not be a great idea for your skin, just as giant triangles of concealer didn’t do your under-eyes any good in 2017.

Here’s what you need to know about slugging before you test it out.

What is slugging?

“Slugging” is the trendy word for applying a substance like Vaseline or Aquaphor to your skin in a decently thick layer, then sleeping in it. The idea is that because occlusive products create a barrier, they’ll make it easier for your skin to retain water. Your face, then, will be well-hydrated, less dry, and plumper, in theory.

Slugging isn’t new in any sense. The word itself has been around for years, but has boomed recently on TikTok, where views of the hashtag total more than 189.5 million. Many of the creators who are beaming into their cameras while instructing their followers to glob Vaseline on their faces also claim their mothers or grandmothers shared this secret to perfect skin with them and have done it for decades.

Does slugging work?

Like any other skincare practice, this might work for you or it might not. Your skin is impacted by all kinds of things, from where you’re at in your hormone cycle to what the weather is like outside. If coating yourself in Aquaphor could magically give you perfect skin, dermatologists would be out of business.

It can be useful, sure, by helping you retain moisture, as long as it doesn’t clog your pores. While all the beauty gurus hyping this slimy routine insist it won’t do that, you won’t know for sure until you try. It is key, however, that you cleanse and exfoliate well before glooping anything occlusive on your face. If the goal is to create a barrier that water can’t escape, think of how bad it would be to create a barrier over dirt.

Some fact-checks have rolled in since this started trending, too, so you don’t solely need to rely on your own field testing. Dr. Mamina Turegano pointed out in her own TikTok video that slugging can exacerbate acne on the skin of those who are prone to it, but added it’s “otherwise great for other skin types.” If you get breakouts or blackheads easily, this might not be for you at all.

Another drawback: Consider that your pillowcase is going to be disgusting and require extra washing.

So, how do you slug?

If you still want to slug, start by putting your hair back with a headband. Your face is going to be full of goo, very sticky, and uncomfortable as it is. Next, cleanse your face. If it’s your exfoliating night, do that (but remember not to exfoliate every single evening). Do your skincare routine as you normally would, including your toner, your serums, your retinol, and even your standard moisturizer.

Using a clean scoop or a clean finger (if you don’t share the tub of Vaseline with someone else), grab some of your petroleum product. Better yet, use an ointment that comes in a squeezable tube. Smooth the product over your face. You don’t need a massive layer — just enough to cover all of your face and lock in the benefits of the serums and moisturizer you used.

This is just one step in a long process that is going to be unique for everyone. Slugging alone isn’t that spectacular; it needs to be done over the products you want to retain. Those products are important, too, as is consistency, using the right amounts, and putting them on in the right order. If you want hydrated skin, for instance, you should use a hyaluronic acid serum for maximum plumping. Slugging on top of that would enhance your result. If you use an alcohol-based toner at any point in your routine, you will accidentally make your skin drier, so try to choose a different type. See how all of your skincare choices work together? Slugging might be the go-to thing now — and, allegedly, has been a big deal for decades — but if you don’t want to slip and slide all over your pillow every night in the name of being on-trend or slightly more moisturized, there are still tons of solid skincare options for you out there.

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