If you haven’t heard of “slugging” yet, then you probably don’t spend a lot of time perusing Reddit’s Skin Care Addiction forum or the skin care–centric part of TikTok. Through these mediums users often share their best beauty and skin care tips, and many are singing the praises of petroleum jelly as a facial moisturizer.
“Applying a heavy occlusive ointment as the last step in your nighttime skincare is known slugging,” explains Campbell, CA dermatologist Amelia K. Hausauer, MD. “It’s a Korean skin-care term, because it leaves you looking slimy like a slug.” Many Redditors and content creators swear by the technique and say turning themselves into a slug before bed is totally transforming their skin.
Now, before you go layering on the petroleum jelly and ruining your pillowcase, be warned: Some doctors give a thumbs up and while others say not so fast.
“The use of Vaseline as a nighttime moisturizer may have gained in popularity and been given a new name, but it isn’t new,” says New York dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD. “My late mother applied it every night over Retin-A on her face and hands 40 years ago under cotton gloves. Petrolatum is safe, hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t cause blackheads and whiteheads, so it is safe for all ages and skin types. It’s an occlusive and does not contain any humectants. That means that on its own, it will seal in the moisture that is there and aid in healing of dry, peeling skin.”
“I would not recommend Vaseline as a moisturizer, but to use it as an adjunctive after applying the appropriate moisturizer for you,” counters Bay Harbor Islands, FL dermatologist Stacy Chimento, MD. “While it is great for very dry areas such as the elbows and knees, it has a very thick and often greasy feeling so I typically do not recommend using it on the face regularly. It is not advisable for patients with acne-prone skin or oily skin to use occlusive ingredients.”
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Dr. Hausauer agrees it’s not for everyone. “It can leave your skin very soft by locking in moisture as well as additional emollient products underneath, but occlusives themselves don’t infuse moisture, they just prevent it from evaporating off the skin, so I often use hyaluronic acid, glycerin or other hydrators underneath to maximize the benefit. However, I don’t recommend this for all skin types. It is best for those with dry skin, sensitive skin or a compromised skin barrier like after a laser or other procedure. And even if it works for you, you may only need to do this a few times a week, not daily,” she says.
So, the verdict is in. While it won’t do you any major harm to give it a try if you’re convinced slugging is for you, it might lead to unwanted breakouts. But if you’re one of the 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from mild, occasional or severe acne, you might want to put the Vaseline down and avoid taking the risk.
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