If you’ve spent more than a hot minute on TikTok, you’ll have come across the slugging skincare trend. Popularised in, you guessed it, Korea, it’s the hydrating hack promising baby-soft, smooth, glowing skin. And, for most skin types, it’s got a tick of approval from both dermatologists and your favourite skinfluencers.
But what is slugging, exactly? How do you do it? And is it right for you?
For all the good, the bad and the slimy details, read on. This is your essential guide to slugging.
What is slugging?
While you might think slugging involves applying snail slime (google it, it’s a thing), the reality is a lot less bizarre. It simply means applying a generous layer of an occlusive, usually petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline or Aquaphor), to the skin as the last step of your PM routine.
This occlusive creates a physical barrier to prevent moisture from escaping. And, by most accounts, it works like a charm. However, as you might have guessed, a slather of Vaseline will leave your skin looking and feeling like you’ve been slimed. Hence the name slugging.
Believed to have originated in South Korea, slugging has gained loads of social media traction in the last 12 months. However, it’s not a new idea. Dermatologists have long recommended petroleum jelly to relieve dry skin and accelerate wound healing.
Marilyn Monroe even credited her glowing complexion to the gloop. She used it as a makeup primer and as a top-to-toe body moisturiser before plunging into her (3-hour!) morning bath. (The lady knew how to live.)
What are the benefits of slugging?
So, why bother slugging? Because, according to its many devotees, the moisturising method results in softer, smoother, super-hydrated and glowing skin. While petroleum jelly itself does not add moisture, it helps improve skin hydration by reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL) as you sleep. And it also helps to supercharge the benefits of anything you add underneath – but more on that later.
Helping to keep moisture in (and dirt and irritants out), slugging can be useful for those with dry, flaky and uncomfortably tight skin. Particularly during winter months when the humidity is lower, and your complexion can easily become parched.
It also helps to support a skin barrier that’s been damaged, for example by over-exfoliating or incorrect use of actives like retinol. However, it’s important to realise petroleum jelly is not a hydrator – and it shouldn’t take the place of your skin-plumping moisturisers and serums.
Can slugging be bad for your skin?
While slugging is generally considered beneficial for dry or sensitive skin, it’s not a good idea for those with oily, congested or acne-prone skin. Sitting on the top layer of the skin, petroleum jelly may be non-comedogenic (and hypoallergenic) – but that doesn’t mean it won’t contribute to breakouts or irritate your skin.
Although petroleum jelly is too large to penetrate and clog pores, it does create a film that can trap dead skin cells, excess sebum, dirt and bacteria. Which is obviously less than ideal. And, if you’re someone with naturally oily skin? You definitely don’t want to be slathering on something that makes it even greasier.
It’s also best to avoid slugging over actives like retinol, AHAs and salicylic acid as you may unwittingly increase their strength. This can cause dryness, peeling or irritation.
So, should you try it?
As we’ve established, slugging isn't for everyone. However, if your skin is feeling thirsty or looking dry, dull, or flaky, it’s an option worth trying.
As for how often you should do it? Some hard-core sluggers are committed to their routine all year round – and most experts will agree that’s totally fine. However, it’s really a matter of trial and error and finding what works for you and your skin type. You might find two or three nights a week is plenty for an improvement in softness and hydration.
Or you might make it a winter-only thing – when your heating addiction starts to take its toll on your complexion. (Hint: It’s also an easy way to help repair and soothe chapped and wind-burnt skin. You can also usually slug post-laser or skin procedure – but talk to your dermatologist first.)
Oh and, excuse us for stating the obvious, but slugging can get messy. Prepare to have to change out your pillowcase more than you’re used to. Some people just don’t like the feeling, either. But you’ll never really know until you give it a shot.
How do you do it?
OK, so you’re ready to slug. We know you've seen all the TikTok videos on slugging, but consider this your verified guide. Here’s what you need to do for baby-bottom skin by morning.
Step 1: Cleanse
Remember that slugging locks in everything that’s already on the skin. So you definitely want to do a super-thorough cleanse to remove all traces of makeup, sunscreen, excess oil and impurities before unknowingly sealing them onto your skin.
Step 2: Apply a hydrating serum
The aim of the slugging game is to super-charge hydration – and what’s more hydrating than a serum? For dry skin, the experts recommend layering your occlusive over a serum that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. These ingredients are called humectants, which draw water into the top layer of the skin. Such super-hydrators are found in the Sand & Sky Tasmanian Spring Water Splash Serum.
Step 3: Moisturise
Next, apply a good-quality moisturiser as usual (the Sand & Sky Hydration Boost Cream contains a triple whammy of hyaluronic acid, red algae and fermented sea kelp to lock in moisture). Now you’re ready to slug!
Step 4: Slug away
While you may have seen some seriously slimy looking faces on TikTok, the experts agree less is more. So, stick with a pea-sized amount of your occlusive and apply in an even layer. Or to any extra-dry areas.
Finally, you might want to tie back your hair and pop a towel on your pillowcase to avoid any sticky situations.