shiny skin

‘Slugging’ is the K-beauty trend that’s all over TikTok, but what are the pros and cons?

‘Slugging’, a K-beauty skincare technique, is doing the rounds on TikTok. But what is it and does it actually help dry skin?

TikTok has been the source of many beauty trends and hacks, including five-step foundation routine for a flawless finishheatless curlsthe dry shampoo trend and how to get a fringe without cutting your hair. There’s a lot to learn from scrolling through those 60-second videos. Now, a new trend has emerged from the social media platform and it has caught our eye after being credited to Korea, the home of innovative skincare. Enter: slugging.

OK, so the name may not sound particularly appealing but stay with us. ‘Slugging’ is a K-beauty skincare trend that involves coating your face in petroleum-based products, such as Vaseline, before bedtime. This is meant to help seal moisture in your skin and prevent transepidermal water loss. Thanks to TikTok, the trend has gone global (according to LookFantastic’s new trend report, Google searches are up 319% over the last year) with key names like Skincare by Hyram praising it for those with dry, dehydrated skin – but it has created a clear divide within the skincare world.

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What is slugging?

Originally from the K-beauty scene, slugging’s rise in popularity over the last 12 months can be traced via Reddit and TikTok. While the term slugging might be new to you, the process is incredibly simple and has been used in dermatology for years. It is the process of sealing skin with an occlusive agent, such as Vaseline, overnight. Slugging gets its name from the shiny layer that your skin has after being smeared with a petrolatum-based occlusive.

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How does it work?

Petroleum jelly, the most common ingredient used in Vaseline and other topical creams, is an occlusive, which means that it creates a barrier to seal in hydration. It’s worth remembering that this is no different to using facial oils overnight, which also offer hydration benefits by creating a seal on the top layer of skin to prevent moisture loss, although many of these also let the skin ‘breathe’ as they lock moisture in. 

Slugging is popular since it allows this moisture lock-in technique with the most cost-effective skincare products. It is a technique often recommended to those with dry or sensitive skin, or on areas such as eyelids and lips that can lose moisture and dry out easily. You can also combine slugging with deep hydrators such as those containing humectants such as hyaluronic acid that draw moisture to the skin, just remember to apply these before your occlusive layer, or they’ll have no effect (since the skin will be ‘sealed’). You’ll also want to make sure skin is thoroughly cleansed before slugging, or you’ll be locking any dirt or grit into the skin.

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‘Slugging’ is the K-beauty trend that’s all over TikTok but what are the benefits?

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The pros

“I think there is some merit in slugging due to the fact that petroleum jelly is an occlusive, which is known to prevent water loss from the skin’s barrier,” explains Maree Kinder, founder of Beauty & Seoul. “However, I would always opt for other products containing occlusives such as shea butter or facial oils. Facial oils give you the benefit of an occlusive but are formulated in a way that allows your skin to still breathe.”

For some skin types, slugging can be game-changing. Dr Uliana Gout, founder at London Aesthetic Medicine told us: “If you are over the age of 45 and have had some photodamage and especially post-menopausal skin: get the slugging on. But the trick is not to occlude too much (using heavy basic petrolatum products) and too often (i.e. daily for prolonged periods of time). After all, we need to shed that stratus corneum (dead top layer of our skin) otherwise our skin can start to look dull.”

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The cons 

It’s not for everyone, though. Dr Liakas, medical director at Vie Aesthetics says: “Using an occlusive such as Vaseline, is not something I would typically advise in a night-time skincare routine as, when applied all over the face, such products can actually prevent the skin from being able to breathe and slow down cell turnover. Vaseline sits on the surface of the skin and disrupts the self-regulation of the skin in terms of hydration, in other words, giving a false representation of the condition of the skin. This can result in drier skin – the opposite of the intention of slugging.”

It’s also a risk if you have acne-prone skin. Dr Gout told us: “Avoid it like the plague if you’re prone to congestion and spots. It will make matters worse and create more skin irritation, oiliness, larger pores, more congestion, skin roughness and outbreaks. At home we recommend a blend of humectant skincare to not only moisturise but simultaneously infuse the skin with rich booster antioxidants, peptides and vitamins. After all, it makes more sense to apply the actives while hydrating and repairing the barrier function.”

Should we all be slugging?

If you’re not sure slugging is right for you, maybe dip your toe into the trend, or better still, your eyes and lips. Dr Gout says: “Focal slugging is a perfect fix for anyone transitioning from the summer to the colder autumn/winter. Skin ‘seasonality’ is the hot new trend I’ve just coined to highlight the new Covid-centric world we live in and the impact it has had on our skin. When it comes to skin seasonality, slugging is something I recommend especially around the lips and eyes. These areas are always prone to dryness.” 

“Personally, to combat my dry skin in winter, I like to use a mixture of occlusives to help prevent water loss from my skin barrier but also humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, to draw moisture to the surface of the skin,” she explains.

Maree Kinder, founder of Beauty & Seoul suggests an alternative to slugging - layering your moisturiser at night or mixing a few drops of facial oil in with your moisturiser for an extra hydrating boost if your skin needs it. She adds: “If your skincare routine consists of hydrating products such as a hyaluronic acid serum or a good quality sleeping mask or night cream, there really shouldn’t be any reason to slap petroleum jelly all over your face.”

Finally, Kinder adds that slugging is a method that only those with very dry or dehydrated skin should try. “It could cause congestion issues for some, and I wouldn’t recommend it for those with sensitive skin,” she adds. This is because petroleum jelly isn’t absorbed by skin. Instead, it sits on the top layer of skin which can lead to breakouts.

So, pick your occlusive ointment of choice wisely and start small with this K-beauty TikTok-approved budget beauty hack for guaranteed slug-cess.  

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Main image: CoffeeAndMilk/Getty

Originally published on 1 February 2021.