Ask a Dermatologist: Is Bag Balm Safe for Slugging?

Ask a Dermatologist: Is Bag Balm Safe for Slugging? featured image
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Skin-care trends emerge from unexpected corners and Bag Balm has carved out a unique niche. This petroleum and lanolin–based do-it-all salve was created in 1899 to soothe irritated cow udders after milking. Today, it has left the farm to become a social media sensation, with content creators like Alix Earle praising its affordability and versatility and even landing a feature story by the The New York Times. However, as its popularity rises, dermatologists say think twice before diving into the trend of slugging with Bag Balm.


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Featured Experts

  • Dr. Skylar Souyoul is a board-certified dermatologist based in Shreveport, LA 
  • Dr. Tarek M. Fakhouri is a board-certified dermatologist based in Sugar Land, TX
  • Dr. Lauren Ploch is a board-certified dermatologist based in Augusta, GA 

What is slugging?

Slugging is a technique that involves applying a thick, occlusive product like petroleum jelly as the last step of your skin-care routine every night. The goal is to create a protective seal over the skin to lock in moisture and prevent water loss. The name comes from the shiny, slug-like appearance it gives the skin after application, because when done correctly users say slugging can deliver plump, dewy, “glass skin” results.

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What are the risks of slugging with Bag Balm?

Sugar Land, TX dermatologist Tarek M. Fakhouri, MD says he wouldn’t just avoid slugging with it, he would avoid using it anywhere near the face. “This is a great product for dry hands, but I wouldn’t use it on the face as it could induce acne flares,” he says. 

It comes down to ingredients says Shreveport, LA dermatologist Skylar Souyoul MD, raising concerns about lanolin, which can trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. She notes, “I am not familiar with Bag Balm, but it contains lanolin which some people can have an allergy to, leading to a skin reaction or rash.”

Echoing these sentiments, Augusta, GA dermatologist Lauren Ploch, MD says slugging with Bag Balm is too risky. “Especially as lanolin was named the contact allergen of the year in 2023, I agree that we need to warn people about it.”

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