Slugging Is More Than Just a TikTok Trend—It’s Become an Entire Skin-Care Category of Its Own

Photo: Courtesy of Futurewise
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It appears as though overnight, everyone on #beautytok has added slugging to their skin-care routines. For the newly initiated, slugging refers to the skin-care technique of slathering a heavy occlusive, like petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline), as the last step of your nighttime skin-care routine to lock in moisture and hydrate the skin. It offers amazing water retention and hydration, leaving your complexion looking supple and bouncy. Slugging also works to restore the skin barrier and is a preventative against surface water loss.

Interestingly, unlike most TikTok trends that stick around for a few weeks, max, this one seems to be here to stay. Skin-care brands like Jouer and Loops are embracing slugging, so much so that they’ve incorporated slugging products into their new launches. And it doesn’t stop there: Starface founders Julie Schott and Janet Park recently launched Futurewise, a skin-care brand dedicated solely to slugging—another indication that this trend isn’t going away anytime soon.

Experts In This Article

The Slug Life

Despite slugging’s recent popularity on social media, it’s actually been around for centuries. The hydration method was first discovered by the Native American Seneca tribe in the 15th century and has since been passed down through generations within different cultural communities and become a K-beauty mainstay. Moreover, it has been used as an effective method to repair the skin barrier and provide hydration for extremely dry skin in dermatology for decades.

Skin slugging, as per the experts, offers a multitude of skin-care benefits. “If the skin is dry, slugging could restore some of the skin’s natural moisturizing factors, locking in hydration, protecting the skin’s barrier, and maintaining skin integrity and elasticity,” says Jodi Logerfo, DNP, a nurse practitioner in New York. "Slugging may also help improve the signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles, because it can help smooth and plump up the skin.”

The problem with slugging, warns Julie Russak, MD a board-certified dermatologist practicing in New York City, is that it’s not appropriate for a lot of skin types.“If you have oily skin, acne-prone skin, or seborrheic dermatitis, you should not be slugging,” she says. “If you’re using retinol in your skincare routine or if you’re using exfoliating acids, slugging will seal them in and can lead to irritation.”

However, the practice can be particularly helpful in the case of dry skin with a broken-down protective barrier. “When the skin is sealed with an occlusive barrier such as Vaseline or Aquaphor as the very last step, it helps the active ingredients in serums or moisturizers to penetrate into the skin better. It also decreases transepidermal water loss,” says Dr. Russak

Slugging goes beyond Vaseline

While Vaseline is most commonly used for slugging, it isn't formulated specifically for facial skin. So more and more brands are creating slugging products that are more cosmetically elegant than their predecessor.

Christina Zilber, the founder and creative director of Jouer Cosmetics, has been slugging since her mother taught her to put Vaseline under her eyes in the 1980s and recently launched Luminize Overnight Dark Circle Slugging Balm ($30), a dark circle slugging balm. "I believed Jouer could offer a more modern approach by incorporating ingredients that target specific under-eye issues, such as vitamin K and caffeine for dark circles and puffiness,” she says. “I also felt as though there were stronger ingredients than petroleum, Aquaphor, or Vaseline to offer occlusive benefits, so we've loaded it with shea butter, jojoba seed oil, sunflower seed oil, and more."

Another common issue with Vaseline is that it can get very messy. Meg Bedford, the CEO of Loops, wanted to solve that problem, so the brand launched Dream Sleep Nighttime Slugging Face Mask ($7 to $35), the first hydrogel sheet mask specifically designed for slugging. “With a layer of the first-of-its-kind Slugging Serum delivering nourishing natural oils, vitamins, and antioxidants to your skin overnight, Dream Sleep works to seal, hydrate, and plump your skin while you dream, making it both a functional barrier as well as an active serum doing the work while you sleep,” she says. “In just ten minutes, before you drift off to sleep, you let the mask do the work, and it won’t leave any mess on your pillow like other occlusives.” It contains active ingredients such as bakuchiol, ceramides, and niacinamide, which promote cell turnover, enhance elasticity, shield against free radicals, brighten, and fortify the skin.

And though certain TikTok trends come and go, Futurewise has banked its entire brand on the assumption that slugging is here to stay. “We had been working on the brand for a while, and certainly, the idea came about a long time ago, and it wasn’t something we decided to create because of the virality,” explains Futurewise co-founder Janet Park. “Slugging is a practice that really works and is backed by history and medical professionals. We were very thoughtful about developing high-quality products that could stand on their own apart from any trend. And if anything, the virality isn’t even doing justice to the efficacy of the process, which is why we have created a ton of content to help educate people.” The brand has three products, and you can get all of them—Slug Boost, Slug Cream, and Slug Balm—in a $66 kit. This power trio contains humectants, emollients, and occlusives that work together to deeply nourish and revitalize your skin, restoring its natural balance and providing intense hydration

Cocokind recently launched the Ceramide Recovery Balm ($22) and it is packed with a blend of natural ingredients like ceramides, squalane, and vitamin E to nourish and strengthen the skin barrier overnight while locking in moisture. Ceramides "help preserve the barriers of the skin and lock in moisture as well as shield the skin from pollutants,” Sheel Desai Solomon, MD, a Cary, NC dermatologist previously told Well+Good. For those allergic or sensitive to petroleum jelly, this balm is free of fragrances, preservatives, and other potentially harmful additives, making it a more natural and gentle option for those with sensitive skin.

It will be interesting to see how the practice of slugging evolves and is incorporated into new skin-care products as more people discover its benefits. As with any skin-care technique, seeking professional advice is always a good idea if you're unsure about what's best for your skin.

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