Extra hydration has become a viral sensation. Who should—and shouldn’t—try it.
If you’re not already glued to Tik Tok, allow us to introduce you to “#slugging,” a hashtag that has over 300 million views and counting. This suddenly popular skincare hack is everywhere, and while the concept may seem new for millennials and Gen Z, it’s actually a fairly traditional skincare concept.
Basically, slugging is the act of applying a layer of petroleum jelly (that’s right, plain old Vaseline or Aquaphor, among other options) on top of your cleansed, moisturized face in order to create an additional moisture barrier to seal and hydrate overnight. Influencers and other social media enthusiasts swear they wake up with their dewiest, glassiest complexions ever.
That said, the idea of slathering petroleum jelly on one’s face sounds a little bit… suspect. Let’s take a closer look.
What is slugging exactly?
Slugging can thank social media for its most recent incarnation, but generations of people have actually been using the technique for centuries. After all, the wound healer and ointment that is Vaseline has been around since the late 1800s (and the use of earlier forms can even be traced back to 15th century Native Americans), making it one of the most OG beauty products in North American history.
Petroleum jelly is actually petrolatum, a thick substance that is created as a byproduct of the process of dewaxing crude oil, which sounds less than appealing in terms of an ingredient you’d want to put on your face. That said, once this compound is purified, experts agree it is generally safe, even for sensitive skin types.
A dermatologist’s take on slugging
Somewhat surprisingly, this is one viral beauty trend that many dermatologists and aestheticians don’t seem to find too much fault with, but don’t exactly endorse in a big way either. For example, because the substance is an occlusive sealant that helps prevent water loss, adding a layer on top of your moisturizer is theoretically a nice treatment to try a few times a week if your skin if feeling extra tight and dry. (One of our testers cleansed, applied Daily Renewal Cream, then a thin layer of Vaseline on top, and did report waking up with beautifully hydrated skin.)
Is slugging right for you?
While petroleum jelly is generally tolerated by most skin types, derms typically recommend its use for dry-to-very-dry skin. However, there are also reasons to avoid it in certain cases. For example, trapping in that moisture could be harmful if you apply it on top of potent topicals such as retinoids or acids.
That said, realistically: “No need for anyone with a healthy hydrated skin barrier to do this!” says Dr. Eva Simmons-O’Brien, a dermatologist that is one part of the Lady Derm Docs practice in Towson, MD and a medical advisor to Ourself. “Only someone with very sensitive skin (such as allergies to preservatives) and eczema might be helped by this technique.” She also recommends considering “well made creams like Vanicream, Ceravae, Eucerin, Cicaplast” as alternatives in these cases.
Also, even though it is technically considered non-comedogenic—meaning it doesn’t clog pores—experts agree it is not an ideal treatment for oily and/or acne-prone skin, which typically don’t require hydration overload.
“I think that people who are prone to acne, milia, or syringomas should avoid this trend as it could block their pores and exacerbate these underlying issues,” notes Dr. Simmons-O’Brien’s partner, Dr. Diane Orlinksy, who is also an advisor to Ourself.
Dr. Simmons-O’Brien echos this recommendation: “If someone is oily and inflamed it could make the skin worse by trapping bacteria, yeast, and oil, making for more inflammation.”
How to do it well
To get the most benefit out of slugging, it’s important to observe the following protocol: cleanse, hydrate with a moisturizer like Daily Renewal Cream (which provides the additional benefits of Firming Intides™, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid), and apply a thin layer on of petroleum jelly on top—while skin is still somewhat moist—to create a barrier.
If this sounds a little “extra” to you, try Daily Renewal Cream Rich for a non-sticky boost of hydration, no additional step required. After all, we’re a little concerned about our sheets.