hand slugging

“Hand slugging” is the best way to repair dry, cracked skin, says Reddit

Equipped with a serum, oil and Vaseline, I set to work slugging my perpetually dry hands.

Between the ages of 18 and 22, I would unknowingly “slug” my face in the morning and then again in the evening. Blessed with sensitive, dehydrated skin, a layer of non-fragranced, unctuous Vaseline felt like the only thing that wouldn’t cause redness and irritation. Plus, it seemed to help my skin retain more moisture. An intuitive solution, I was referred to as “perpetually shiny and sticky” by my siblings – largely in the hour-long period after application before some of the petrolatum jelly had absorbed into my face and neck.

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An occlusive moisturiser, Vaseline or generic petroleum jelly works by “sealing” in whatever’s beneath it (serums, tonics, acids), creating a barrier between your skin and external stressors. This barrier also stops water from escaping from the skin (technically known as transepidermal water loss), which can be exacerbated in the winter due to central heating and weather.

Now, five years later, slugging is a mainstream option for people looking to repair and improve the healthy functioning of their skin barrier. Originally a Korean beauty ritual, slugging spans the gamut of treating dry, inflamed and sensitive skin. Users on TikTok extol the benefits of slugging, many say it “changed my skin” and helped deal with the fallout of retinol use (aka the retinol purge). 

Over on Reddit, however, users are explaining how “hand slugging” improved the health of dry and cracked palms. Hand slugging – the act of applying hydrating serums and occlusive moisturiser to your hands to lock in moisture and repair the skin barrier – has been hailed as a saviour from jobs that require repeated hand washing (food industry workers and medical professionals) making up the majority of comments.

Two years into the pandemic, regular handwashing has become part of all of our routines and, if you’re anything like me, your hands are paying the price: chalky white palms, increased fine lines and that tugging feeling when you try and spread your fingers wide. I’ve never had soft or smooth hands but recently, I’ve entered a new category of tough roughness.

Spurred on by the persuasive Reddit/TikTok alliance, I decided to try slugging my hands overnight. Equipped with a hyaluronic serum, silky body oil and a trusty tin of vaseline, I set about trying the hack. 

Initially, I was excited about the prospect of restoring my dry hands overnight and felt I could withstand the discomfort of sticky gloop all over them. Turns out, I couldn’t. My evening doomscroll was rendered impossible; greasy fingerprints were smeared onto my screen protector. I lay with my hands on small flannels to stop the ointment staining our bedsheets. The need for a pair of thin cotton gloves was palpable.

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However, sleep did come and my worries of oil stains subsided. The following morning, I could feel the difference more than I could see it. The skin on my hands felt more supple but there was still the appearance of months of dryness, something I suspect will take a few months to counteract. The dry cuticles that surround my nail bed were softer too, not getting caught on my clothes or gently throbbing.

I would try hand slugging again (it sealed in moisture loss and took my cuticles from a four to an eight on the health scale) but not without a pair of natural-fabric gloves. It just doesn’t feel worth the fear or pounds spent on Vanish Oxi-Action. 

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Main image: Getty