One fateful night, many moons ago (*dims lights*), I looked in the bathroom mirror before bed and realized that my skin was absolutely, positively, utterly f*cked up. My face was perpetually red and dry, I had a tiny rash around my nose, a smattering of cystic acne had claimed sovereignty on my chin, and my skin itched and tingled all day long. This promptly kicked off a week-long research/crying jag that led me to the very wonderful thing called slugging, which was ultimately the key to healing my angry messed-up skin.
You’ve probably heard of slugging before, especially now that’s it’s been trending on TikTok and IG in the last few months. But if not, here’s the quick gist: “Slugging, which comes from the K-beauty world and then went viral on Reddit, involves putting a thin-layer of Vaseline on your face to help prevent water loss,” says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, dermatologist and founder of Mudgil Dermatology in New York City.
And if that little explanation just opened up more questions than it answered—especially like how TF does Vaseline fix your face?!—then I get it, and I’ve got you with everything you need to know about slugging, below.
What does slugging mean?
The term “slugging” comes from the idea that after you coat your skin in Vaseline, your face ends up looking shiny and ~slimy~, kinda like a slug. Yum. As Dr. Mudgil mentions, slugging comes from the world of K-beauty, where moisture reigns as the most important aspect of skincare, and slugging is the ultimate way to max out your moisture.
How does slugging work for skin?
At its core, slugging is simply coating your face in an occlusive moisturizer, like Vaseline or any petrolatum-based formula, in order to help it heal. An occlusive, FYI (because you’ll see this term used a lot), is a moisturizing agent that creates a physical barrier on your skin to lock in hydration and prevent water loss. “We use occlusives, or Vaseline, for wound healing after surgeries,” says Dr. Mudgil. “I’ll put it over stitches because it keeps the wound moist and helps it heal faster.”
So how does that apply to your face? Welp, your skin barrier—i.e., the top layer of your skin that’s largely responsible for how your face looks and feels—can get damaged (or wounded) pretty easily by anything from sun exposure to pollution to using overly harsh skincare products. Take me, crying in the bathroom mirror a few years ago: I had, in an effort to fix my facial keratosis pilaris, doused my face with salicylic acid every single night for months, ignoring the tingles and itches, until I had very slowly and unknowingly destroyed my skin barrier.
“When your skin barrier doesn’t have an effective balance of fats, the moisture and hydration that make your skin look supple, full, and plump can’t be maintained,” Dana Stern, MD, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai in NYC, has told Cosmo. And that’s what can happen when you go overboard on the peels, scrubs, and acids—you can break down your skin barrier, leaving it wounded and vulnerable to outside chaos.
Slugging, however, can help repair the damage by creating a moist environment that allows your barrier to slowly heal and rebuild itself. “For really dry skin, or eczema, I think slugging works very well,” says Dr. Mudgil. “It locks in hydration and really forces the moisture back into the cells.”
Is slugging bad for acne?
Yes and no—but probably not for the reasons you think. Vaseline gets a bad rap because of its greasy feel, so it has to be a recipe for clogged pores, right? Actually, no. Vaseline on its own won’t clog pores, because the size of its molecules are too large to fit into your pores, making Vaseline completely non-comedogenic (seriously, there are even published studies to prove it). So if you’re someone who never breaks out and has bone-dry or damaged skin, don’t let the fear of acne stop you from slugging, because Vaseline is not the enemy.
That being said, if you’re naturally oily or acne-prone, slugging is risky. “For acne-prone folks, I’d say stay away,” says Dr. Mudgil. “Vaseline is so occlusive that it won’t let your skin oils escape, which can irritate the hair follicle and stimulate acne.” Basically, that whole “let your skin breathe” thing is very true when it comes to zits.
Instead, Dr. Mudgil suggests swapping out your regular moisturizer for one that’s filled with barrier-repairing ingredients (think: ceramides and hyaluronic acid), like one of these below:
How do you slug your face?
You can slug two ways: overnight (the traditional way), or short-contact (like a wash-off face mask). Here’s how to do each one.
〰️ How to slug overnight 〰️
Your skin works hardest to repair itself while you sleep, so slugging right before bed is the preferred and most-popular method. The downside? You’re going to stick to your pillowcase (and leave some grease marks behind), so get out your white linens and accept a little facial discomfort until you get used to the slug life.
- Step 1: Do your normal skincare routine, but omit any spot treatments or face oils.
- Step 2: While your skin is still slightly damp from products, spread a pea-size scoop of Vaseline over your skin. You don’t need a thick layer—as long as you’re covered, you’re slugging.
- Step 3: In the morning, cleanse your skin to remove any excess Vaseline (use an oil cleanser if necessary).
〰️ How to short-contact slug 〰️
Initially, I tried the traditional slugging method, but I just couldn’t get past the stickiness. So instead, I did short-contact therapy—i.e., slugged for a few hours every night before I showered. It wasn’t quite as effective or fast-acting as regular slugging, but it still helped heal my damaged skin barrier without messing with my sleep. Here’s how I did it:
- Step 1: Right when I got home from work each day, I removed all of my makeup washed my face like usual.
- Step 2: Then, with my skin still visibly damp from cleansing, I coated my face in a thin layer of Vaseline.
- Step 3: I went about my usual evening activities (eating, Netflixing, phone-scrolling) for a few hours, before hopping in the shower and washing off the Vaseline and following with my regular skincare routine.
How often should you do slugging?
That’s up to you and your skin needs. For me and my messed-up skin barrier, I had to stick to the slugging life for two months straight to get my itching and irritation under control (in hindsight, I should have just gone to the dermatologist immediately—please don’t try to fix rashes on your own; it’s so not worth it). But if your skin is just a little tight and dry from, say, an overzealous at-home peel, or going a bit too hard on the retinol cream, you’ll definitely see some improvements within a week. And if not? Please get thyself to a derm ASAP (even if it’s virtual).
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io