Everything you need to know about ‘slugging’, the intriguing new Korean beauty trend

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Jacqueline Kilikita
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Slathering your skin in petroleum jelly before bed is all the rage in Korean beauty circles. But is it any good for your complexion? Stylist investigates…

From five-step cleansing routines to infusing moisturisers, serums and masks with unusual ingredients like snail slime and salmon eggs, it’s safe to say those in Korea are big on skincare.

But we’re just a little sceptical about the latest trend to hail from the K-beauty mecca: enter ‘slugging’. 

What is ‘slugging’ in skincare?

Despite the name, the craze that’s been taking bedtime beauty routines by storm has absolutely nothing to do with actual slugs. Instead, it consists of coating the skin in a slick of petroleum jelly before going to sleep, with the idea that you’ll wake up with a radiant, soft and super-smooth complexion.

After a winter of parched cheeks and flaky foreheads, it sounds tempting, but while slathering your skin in petroleum jelly works wonders to keep moisture on lock-down, it could be a no-no for those with problem skin. Stylist got London-based consultant dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk involved to find out why…

Can ‘slugging’ cause breakouts?

“My concern with applying a greasy ointment like Vaseline to the face is that, whilst products like this do form a water-tight seal to lock in moisture and are therefore useful for cracked lips and rough or thickened heels, they are also occlusive, meaning that they are likely to block pores on the face,” she says.

As we know, blocked pores can lead to spots.

Dr Kluk continues, “There is a real risk that you could make breakouts worse if you are already prone to acne, or indeed, you may trigger spots even if you don’t normally get them. Dermatologists already know that people who use greasy hair waxes or gels tend to breakout more along the hairline so it is highly likely that ‘slugging’ would do the same to the whole face.”

And that’s before we’ve touched on the havoc that a thick layer of petroleum jelly would wreak on our pillowcase…

So, what else can we do to ensure we wake up with super-soft skin? According to Dr Kluk, it’s simple – and it doesn’t involve sticky sheets. 

“If you want plump, well-hydrated skin and you haven’t specifically been advised by a doctor to apply a thick ointment to your face, I would avoid ‘slugging’ in favour of a non-comedogenic moisturiser (a moisturiser that won’t clog your pores). Pair this with a hydrating serum beforehand for an extra moisture boost,” says Dr Kluk. 

We recommend trying some of the products below…

SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5

Approved by Dr Kluk, this B5-packed serum floods thirsty, deflated skin with the moisture it needs. The added hyaluronic acid banishes that tight, uncomfortable feel which is synonymous with cold weather and dehydration, and fills any fine lines.


La Roche-Posay Effaclar H Moisturiser

The star ingredient in this non-greasy moisturiser is niacinamide, which is proven to strengthen the skin’s barrier function and maintain hydration. It makes skin satisfyingly soft without blocking pores.


Oh K! Gold Dust Hydrogel Mask

Packed with moisture magnet hyaluronic acid, nourishing plant extracts and actual gold, this sheet mask makes slack skin feel elastic. You only need to wear it for 20 minutes to feel like you’ve had a mini facial.


If you really want to step up your skincare game, incorporating complexion-perfecting ingredients like glycolic acid and retinol into your night-time routine will make a world of difference.

“They are important to incorporate into your evening routine for a brighter, smoother and more radiant complexion,” says Dr Kluk. “They increase cell turnover, shed dead skin cells that dull the skin surface and prevent fine lines and wrinkles.”

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid In Emulsion, 2%

This milky serum prompts cells to regenerate at lightning speed with no irritation, leaving skin brighter and smoother.


Lixirskin Night Switch BHA/AHA 10%

With beta and alpha hydroxy acids this delivers a double-pronged attack on dull, rough skin. Hello, glow.


Alpha-H Liquid Rose Gold

Don’t let the slight tingle put you off. This harnesses glycolic acid to slough away dead surface cells and excess sebum. The result? Insanely radiant, soft skin.


Main Image: Getty