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 skin care 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.
What It Does
“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.”
Who It’s For
Dr. Hausauer shares that while its a great solution for dry areas, it’s not really the best facial moisturizer: “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.
“When we do a full-face CO2 laser treatment, which is a very strong laser, we recommend the use of vaseline twice daily during the healing process since it protects the skin and helps with dry skin as well,” notes Aventura, FL dermatologist Dr. Bertha Baum.
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Who It’s Not For
“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,” says Bay Harbor Islands, FL dermatologist Stacy Chimento, MD. “It is not advisable for patients with acne-prone skin or oily skin to use occlusive ingredients.”
“Also, if you have acneic skin, slugging is not recommended because of the occlusion caused to the pores and the amount of oiliness that the product can cause,” adds Dr. Baum. “It’s definitely not a good choice for acne prone or oily skin.”
While it won’t do you any major harm to give it a try if you’re convinced slugging is for you, our experts advise it might lead to unwanted breakouts. If you’re one of the 50 million people in the U.S. who suffer from mild, occasional or severe acne, our experts suggest putting the Vaseline down and avoiding taking the risk.