The One Common Mistake Dermatologists Say Could Be Making Your Skin ‘Lazy’

Photo: Getty Images/ Maryna Terletska
It takes more than a clever name and a couple hundred thousand views on #beautytok for a fad to escape the inevitability of the trend cycle, but slugging has done just that, spawning an entire skin-care category of its own. For the uninitiated, slugging refers to a skin-care technique in which moisture and hydration are locked into the skin via a heavy occlusive (like petroleum jelly) applied as the last step in a nighttime skin-care routine. Not only does it boost water retention and restore the skin barrier, but slugging also leaves skin looking supple and plump.

And unlike other TikTok trends, the phenomenon has taken off in a big way. Legacy brands like SkinCeuticals and Jouer have both introduced their own slugging products, while FutureWise, an entire line dedicated solely to slugging, launched earlier this year to rave reviews.

But too much of a good thing isn’t always beneficial, and that’s certainly true when it comes to slugging. Read on to find out why daily slugging might not be the best move.

Is there such thing as too much slugging?

Water retention and skin barrier support are both essential healthy skin. And since slugging does both, the more you slug the more you can help your skin, right?

Wrong. According to board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, overuse of occlusives can potentially make your skin ‘lazy.’ While slugging is a great way to trap moisture and hydration deep into the skin, it does all the hard work for you. Over time, and with too-consistent use of an occlusive, our skin can become lax and complacent.

As Dr. Zeichner explains, that artificial layer on the skin’s surface can potentially trigger the skin to stop producing its own lipids, which, in turn, makes skin even drier. In other words, chronic slugging may block the skin from receiving certain signals from the outside world telling it to rev up its self-hydrating and moisturizing activities. As a result, skin can become a little too chill for its own good.

You might be more familiar with the phenomenon than you realize: It’s the same cycle seen with lip balm ‘addiction,’ in which the overuse of occlusive-based lip balms causes lips to become extremely dry and chapped. The result is a vicious cycle of dependency that’s not only harmful to the skin but also expensive.

That being said, according to board-certified dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD, it’s important to keep in mind that for those with very dry, regular slugging can be incredibly beneficial. The key here, dermatologists say, is to listen to your skin.

How much moisture is too much?

Because skin care isn't one size fits all, there’s no one, definitive answer here. And that’s not to say that no one should slug ever, or even regularly. Ultimately, it comes down to your own needs and how your skin reacts to the occlusive.

If you find that your skin feels dry, stiff, and tight on non-slugging nights, that’s a good indicator that you might be overdoing it. Other telltale signs that your skin might be veering into lazy territory include lingering dullness, congestion, and reactive, acne-prone skin. If that occurs, it’s important to drop the slugging for a bit and instead rely on lightweight serums and moisturizers to hydrate the skin without compromising its productivity.

And to be totally clear, this is all theoretical—there haven’t been any studies conducted to definitively prove the phenomenon—and according to Dr. Zeichner, it’d require long-term, consistent slugging. As Dr. Hirsch explains it, your stove doesn’t stop working just because you UberEats every night. That is to say, there could be other factors at play beyond just excessive occlusives.

All's to say: We still love a good slugging session, but you won’t catch us getting gooey on the daily—we’ll be saving it for those occasions when our skin could really use that extra TLC.

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