Believe it or not, Vaseline has been around since 1870. According to Unilever (Vaseline’s parent company), a chemist named Robert Chesebrough visited oil fields in Pennsylvania in 1859 to research new materials that could be obtained from the fuel. Over the following 10 years, he developed what we now know as the formulation of Vaseline petroleum jelly.
Though it’s been a household name throughout all of our lives and you can find it at any drugstore, the slugging trend we saw all over TikTok beginning in 2021 put the clear goop back on the map in a big way. However, TikTokers began experimenting with Vaseline against dermatologists’ best wishes, and a result, skin-care experts joined the conversation to share their advice. “Skin care is not one-size-fits-all, and its not all or nothing,” says New York dermatologist Kiran Mian, MD. “A product can have benefits and pitfall. It’s about using products the right way based on your skin’s needs.”
Vaseline has a variety of uses, but the “Healing Jelly” has one clearly defined, primary function: heal dry skin and lock in moisture for 24 hours. “Vaseline helps to calm, soften, moisturize, condition, clean, protect, and reduce friction and chafing on the skin,” explains Miami dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD. Here, insight from three top derms on how to use Vaseline properly and when to avoid it.
5 Expert-Approved Ways to Use Vaseline
For Slugging: “This is a huge trend,” says Dr. Mian,” and it’s beneficial in that it can help lock in moisture and help your products penetrate better.” If you’re new to slugging, it’s essentially applying a heavy occlusive ointment as the last step in your nighttime skin-care routine and letting it seal in moisture to heal dryness.
“As we age, we do have a less competent skin barrier, which actually creates a water-loss situation for the tissue,” explains Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby. “As a result, this increases dehydration or drier skin. An occlusive barrier such as Vaseline may help some people reduce that transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which keeps the tissue healthier.”
On Dry Patches: “I love using Vaseline for dry patches, or any area of skin that needs a little extra attention, like the corners of the nose when using tretinoin, or the eyelid skin when it gets dry or irritated,” says Dr. Mian. “It hydrates the cuticles, and softens elbows and knees.” Dr. Allenby says dry lips are one of the most frequent things Vaseline is used for, especially for people whose lips tend to dry out from mouth breathing.
On Rashes: “It is also effective in treating athlete’s foot and small skin abrasions, and repairing and preventing diaper rash,” says Dr. Chacon, noting that you can use Vaseline on the majority of your body.
On Wounds: Any scrape, burn, wound, or cut will heal better and faster when dressed with Vaseline, says Dr. Mian. In the office, Dr. Chacon says dermatologists advise their patients use Vaseline to keep a wound moist after a procedure. “It stops it from drying up and developing a scab because these wounds heal more slowly. This will aid in avoiding a scar from growing excessively broad, deep or itchy.”
On Faux Lashes: “If a stubborn fake lash needs to be removed, try not to tear out your natural lashes,” says Dr. Chacon. “By carefully massaging the troublesome lashes with Vaseline until the glue/false lash comes off, you can use Vaseline to remove glue that has become stuck.”
Who Shouldn’t Use It
“Vaseline is a dermatologist’s best friend, but like any friend, there’s an appropriate time and place for use,” says Dr. Mian. “Because it’s an occlusive, it can be comedone-inducing in acne-prone patients if too much is used or it is used too frequently.” Even if a person is not prone to acne, Dr. Mian says slugging with Vaseline can cause milia or comedone formation. If you experience this, it’s best to skip out on this trend. Dr. Chacon agrees, saying even though it helps the skin stay hydrated, it can trap oil and debris. “Applying Vaseline to the face may cause pimples for those prone to acne.”
Some people apply Vaseline on top of their retinoid, which increases its penetration, but Dr. Mian says this can also cause irritation. If this sounds appealing, let you skin fully adapt to the retinoid you’re using first, and then introduce this version of slugging to see how your skin reacts.
The Bottom Line
Overall, Dr. Allenby says that despite the many ways people are using Vaseline these days, petroleum jelly is very low-risk in the allergy department and there’s really no downside other than potentially clogging pores and causing acne. However, being aware of your skin type should avoid this outcome.