The Head-to-Toe Guide to Slugging

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You’ve probably seen the viral trend slugging by now, but we’re here to break it down beyond the 20-second TikTok trials. While slugging first became popular for the face, it’s now being used from head to toe, with people slugging their bodies and hair. We got insight from some experts on how to accomplish the trend and why slugging is beneficial.

What is slugging?

“Slugging is an odd version of an old skin-care concept that has been lauded in recent months by K-Beauty, where moisturization is essential to beautiful skin,” explains Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda C. Honet, MD. “It basically involves frosting one’s face with petroleum jelly as an overnight treatment. Simply put, it is a supposed skin-care hack to prevent overnight moisture loss from the surface of the skin.” Even more simply put, Dr. Honey describes it as a “jelly bandage.” The main benefits are that nothing evaporates off, such as other skin-care products or moisture, and nothing can penetrate either.

Dr. Honet explains that “the petroleum jelly creates an impermeable, occlusive barrier of hydration while you sleep, and it does work. It boasts healing, hydration, correction, and luminosity. It’s just not for everybody.” The concept isn’t new to dermatologists. “We have always recommended moisturizing at bedtime after cleansing. Slugging is just an extreme version of this,” says Dr. Honet.

Who is a good candidate for slugging?

Although you might want to hop on the trend, experts warn that it’s not for everyone. Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby warns that people with acne-prone skin may want to skip slugging. “It’s best suited for dry, irritated, inflamed or sensitive skin,” advises Dr. Honet. 

Although petroleum jelly is considered non-comedogenic, some acne-prone individuals experience more breakouts, clogged pores and blackheads following slugging, notes Dr. Honet. “Over-treated, over-exfoliated or over-waxed skin are all scenarios where slugging may be of benefit. Oily-skin or acneic individuals should probably stay far away,” advises Dr. Honet. Even for those that are ideal candidates, Dr. Honet would only recommend it as an occasional, infrequent nighttime treatment.

Facial slugging

When discussing facial slugging, Dr. Allenby remarked, “What a funny name for the reinvention of using a facial mask.” While slugging is a bit more than wearing a mask, when it comes down to it, the two are similar. By definition, slugging is using an occlusive covering, usually petroleum jelly, to create a moisture barrier. “Slugging is a gross word for a really simple process,” says Alli Reed, founder of Stratia Skin. “Just take a small amount of an occlusive ointment and apply a thin layer all over your face before bed—a pea-sized amount is more than enough.”

Reed notes that “occlusive” refers to an ingredient that locks in moisture. “It prevents water from evaporating through your skin, which means it helps keep your skin plump and moisturized,” says Reed. “Slugging temporarily reinforces your moisture barrier, allowing your skin to heal and renew itself. It can also increase the presence of antimicrobial peptides in the skin and reduce irritation and inflammation.”

Dr. Allenby notes that people are often trying to “push” another ingredient into the skin, which is layered below the occlusive. “Medically speaking, as long as you are not creating an overdose environment in delivering too much product or not what a product is designed for, it is a little gimmicky but safe,” says Dr. Allenby. However, she notes that the greasier the product, the higher the risk of aggravating acne-prone skin, so take caution. Reed says any ointment with petrolatum as the first ingredient works for slugging. Her favorite is Aquaphor ($14) but notes that Vaseline ($4) and CeraVe Healing Ointment ($23) are also great options.

Body slugging

The same logic is applied to body slugging as with facial slugging. “Although your facial skin usually gets all the attention from your skin-care routine, your body can also benefit from slugging,” says Reed. “Just apply a thin layer of ointment all over, same as your face.” Dr. Honet notes that while “slugging the body is logistically more difficult, one could coat the body with petroleum jelly, wrap the treatment areas in close-fitting, cotton clothing to seal in the moisture, and thereby trap the petroleum jelly.” She adds that it’s bound to get messy, so be prepared.

Dr. Allenby says the trend “can be done anywhere on the face or body and may quicken the desired effects of what you are trying to achieve” with other products. Reed suggests using a hydrating toner or moisturizing lotion on your body before slugging to help lock in the products. Dr. Allenby notes that as we age, our skin barrier tends to lose a lot of its qualities, “the skin cells aren’t attached as well, and we lose the natural hydration.” Dr. Allenby notes that slugging allows for “a temporary boost to hydration which may cause the skin to look and feel smoother.”

Dr. Honet says she often recommends this or something similar to eczema patients, especially during the winter months. “We also routinely recommend moisturization with occlusion for extremely dry skin, hand eczema, keratoderma, fissured dry heels, and crusty elbows and knees, for instance.”

Hair slugging

While facial and body slugging may seem somewhat intuitive, you may not have seen hair slugging coming. Hairstylist and DESIGNME co-owner Amy Stollmeyer explains that hair slugging enhances shine and hydration by applying rich oils followed by petroleum jelly to lock in moisture. Experts warn that hair slugging is not for all hair types, for example, Stollmeyer notes that those with thinner hair may have a hard time washing it out the next day.

“These deep-treat or protective treatments have been around for generations and are sworn by in many cultures and communities,” says Stollmeyer. “For example, pure quality castor, coconut, olive, and argan oils (to name a few) are well known for achieving the same ‘slugging’ concept in hair for straight, wavy, curly and coily textures, alike.” The keys to a successful slug is choosing the right product and amount of product for your hair type, applying evenly (with a focus on mid-lengths and ends) and gently securing your hair to protect it overnight using a soft fabric, says Stollmeyer. 

If you have straight, wavy, fine or thin hair, she suggests trying GLOSS. ME Hair Serum ($30). For those with curly, coily, coarse or thick hair, try GLOSS. ME Hydrating Treatment Mask ($30). Layer these products, or the products of your choosing, with petroleum jelly, “sleep with the products on and covered overnight and enjoy the boost of hydration, shine and softness the next day,” says Stollmeyer.

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