I Tried ‘Nail Slugging,’ and My Once-Brittle Nails Have Never Been Healthier
Similar to other popular TikTok hacks like “skin slugging” and “hair slugging,” nail slugging involves massaging your nails and cuticles with a petroleum jelly product like Vaseline or Aquaphor. “We all know acrylates can be harsh and damage nails,” said Charles Puza, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in a recent TikTok video. “Slugging the nail cuticle can strengthen nails and protect them from water damage.”
As someone who doesn’t often wear acrylics and who hates when her natural nails break off, I was excited to give this trend a try to see if it lived up to the hype.
@drcharlesmd1 Slug your nails?! Yes. #slugging #nails #nailart #drcharlesmd #dermatology #nailtech #nailhack #skincare #lotion #nailsartvideos #fyp #needtoknow #slug ♬ Envolver - Anitta
The benefits of nail slugging
Petroleum jelly is an occlusive, which means it seals in moisture and prevents water from evaporating. When applied to your nails, it hydrates your cuticles to leave them soft and supple.
“Nail cuticles are crucial for our overall nail health. It’s the layer of dead skin cells that form a barrier on our nail plate to prevent dirt, bacteria, and anything foreign from getting into our nail bed to cause an infection,” says Brittney Boyce, celebrity nail artist and founder of NAILS OF LA.
Healthy cuticles protect and thicken the nail plate to allow your nails to grow thicker and stronger. When they’re strong, they act as your body’s natural moisture barrier—but when they’re dry and cracking, it means the barrier is compromised and foreign objects can get in.
According to Dr. Ivy Lee, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology based in Los Angeles, petroleum jelly gives our nails the much needed moisture so that they don't become brittle. It also helps protect the nail fold, the thick skin at the bottom of your nail, from water damage.
How to slug your nails
To properly slug your nails, Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology of Boca recommends soaking your fingertips in warm water for a few minutes to hydrate the skin and nails, drying your hands, and applying petroleum jelly to add in further moisture and lock it in.
While there are plenty of pricy moisturizing products you can use to achieve similarly hydrating results, petroleum jelly is really the best (affordable) bet. "People think they need fancy products or serums or tools for their nails, but most of the time, simple is better, and you don't need to spend a lot of money to get good results," Vivian Nguyen, a manicurist at Nail Lounge of La Jolla in La Jolla, CA, previously told Well+Good. "Vaseline works so well for so many things—I use it literally all the time."
What happened when I tried nail slugging
I began the nail-slugging process by removing my nail polish so that I would have a clean canvas to apply the petroleum jelly on top of. Per Dr. Fromowitz’s advice, I then washed my hands and soaked them in water for three minutes before slathering Vaseline onto my cuticles. I had globs of Vaseline left over so I massaged my hands with the excess—which brought back memories of the Vaseline-and-shea-butter hand massages my mom used to give me when I was little.
When I woke up in the morning, my nails and cuticles were not only moisturized, but they also had a natural shine and enhanced color that made them look far healthier than they did the night before. They were also strong (I hadn't seen them this fortified since the last time I applied nail hardener!) and felt exceptionally smooth. I have a few cracks on my nails, but post-slugging they were barely noticeable and blended in with the rest of my nail.
All in all, this particular trend really *is* as good as TikTok says it is, and it will be a part of my routine for the foreseeable future.
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