What is Slugging and What Can it Do For Your Skin?

What is this skin trend and should you be doing it?

Slugging seems to be everywhere at the moment - it’s a skincare trend that sees participants slathering on a greasy occlusive product as the final layer in their evening skincare routine. This results in sliding into bed looking (and often feeling) like a slug. It sounds pretty unappealing, but there are countless positive testimonials across the internet backed up by slug-advocating dermatologists and also…science. 

But Why? 

The reason for this somewhat ridiculous practice? Ultimate hydration. 

The goal here is to lock as much water as possible into the upper layers of your skin overnight. This helps restore your skin barrier while you’re sleeping. The more water your skin can hold onto, the better it can heal, repair and function; ultimately delivering smooth, plump skin from the moment you wake up! Our skin loses the most moisture overnight so if you’re finding you wake up  with dull, dehydrated or dry skin, slugging might be your new obsession. A thick, barrier-forming product is recommended when slugging; a petrolatum based ointment like Vaseline or Aquaphor is the preference because petrolatum is able to prevent 99% of trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL).

Should you be getting your slug on?

So who is the ideal candidate for slugging according to the experts? Many dermatologists recommend this for skin conditions related to an impaired skin barrier - think eczema or psoriasis. Also temporary conditions like windburn, sunburn, over exfoliation or post-treatment skin will also benefit from this intensely protective layer to keep bacteria and allergens out as well as keeping that precious moisture in. It’s definitely not recommended for those with active acne as it will essentially trap the breakout-feeding bacteria in a warm, moist environment where they can have a great time! When it comes to oily skin, it’s advised to test out a small area first as it may help oily but dehydrated skin types. The molecular size of petrolatum is way too large to be able to penetrate the skin or block pores, but it seems that the oily-skinned among us have varying results when it comes to getting their slug on. 

Hang on - there’s also a downside?

It’s not all rainbows and unicorn farts though.. slugging has a dark side too.

By sealing in all the products in your skincare routine,“it can increase the strength of active ingredients you’re using underneath it up to a thousand fold,” dermatologist, Dr Maxwell advises.

Doctors Maxwell and Shah of one of our favourite dermatologist-led YouTube channels ‘Doctorly’ warn against slugging over retinoids or chemical exfoliants to avoid further problems. So, depending on what’s going on in your usual evening skincare routine, you could end up with irritation, sensitivity or an impaired barrier - and you’re back to square one! But, if you’re feeling bold (and you know your skin’s limits) you can use this to your advantage by boosting the strength of your salicylic acid product to really dislodge those blackheads or clogged pores. Just be cautious and try a small area first. 

So which products are best? 

The idea here is to hydrate, plump and support the skin’s barrier with the products underneath, because the petrolatum based ointment you’ll be using over the top offers no hydration in and of itself. You have to BYO hydration first, then seal it in at the end. The best choices to pair alongside your slugging ointment of choice would be non-active moisturiser, humectant rich serums and hydrating toners. Look for ingredients like panthenol (Vit B5), glycerin, hyaluronic acid, allantoin, ceramides, vitamin E and bisabolol. For the slug itself, you’ll want to look for an ointment or balm that has petrolatum, mineral oil, lanolin, waxes and/or silicones as its main component. 

Lastly - the reverse slug!

If slugging proper doesn’t appeal to you, there’s always the ‘reverse slug’.  This is neat little skincare trick that is great for protecting sensitive areas from irritation. It’s super easy - just apply your ointment or balm to your delicate eye area, lips or anywhere you don’t want your active products to penetrate. Personally, I find this has saved me from retinoid sensitivity, redness and flakiness many times! 


What do you think? Will you be giving this a go or are you a slug devotee already? Let me know! 

Words by Julia Pratt 

Julia is a self-confessed skincare nerd and co-founder of The Formula. She has been obsessed with skincare for many years and researches and talks about skincare almost every hour of every day. After many years working for some of the world’s top skincare brands, she is focusing on sharing her experience and knowledge learned from her countless hours of research and experimenting with every product she can get her hands on. 



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