What Is Slugging + Should You Try It?

What Is Slugging + Should You Try It?

Maybe you've heard about skin slugging — but what does it actually mean?

Slugging refers to one of the hottest skin care trends making its way around TikTok and Reddit.

But slugging is more than just a trend — it’s been part of K-beauty routines for years, and for good reason. If you have dry skin or simply want an extra boost of hydration, skin slugging might just be your answer.

What is slugging?

Slugging is a skin care technique that involves using an occlusive (a product that forms a protective seal over the skin) as the last step of your evening routine to lock in moisture and prevent dryness. It gets its name from the thick sheen that occlusive products leave on your skin, just like a slug leaves behind. 

While the original slugging trend involved using petroleum jelly (AKA Vaseline) or Aquaphor, there are other ways to encourage extra skin hydration without using as thick of a product.

Slugging doesn’t have to be something you do every night, either. You can start with just a day or two a week to see if you like it or how your skin reacts, then increase it as needed to get the results you’re hoping for. 

What are the benefits of slugging?

The primary benefit of slugging is its ability to protect and repair one of the most crucial parts of your skin — the protective barrier (also known as the moisture barrier or skin barrier). This barrier is vital for keeping out external factors and reducing the amount of water loss that occurs on the skin’s surface. Rating transepidermal water loss is one of the ways that dermatology professionals can measure the health of the skin. 

With a healthy moisture barrier, your skin can better retain hydration, leaving it baby-soft, resilient and smooth. The right slugging product can also help lock in your other skin care ingredients, making them even more effective, as long as you also provide your skin with moisture. 

Properly hydrated skin also appears more radiant. Dry skin lacks natural luminosity, and dead skin cells that build up on its surface can cause the skin to look dull, as well as affect overall skin health.

However, that doesn’t mean that slugging is for everyone. People with more naturally oily skin types, those who have sensitive skin or those who are prone to breakouts may find that an occlusive is too much for their skin, increasing their risk of clogged pores. However, using products labeled as non-comedogenic (which means they are non-clogging) can reduce this risk. 

How do you “slug?”

Slugging is excellent for skin hydration, but it can also lock things other than moisture into your skin. If you don’t start with a clean face, you run a much higher risk of trapping acne-causing bacteria and debris inside your pores — so every skin care routine should start with a cleanser

To make sure that your skin is as clean as possible, you’ll want to follow up your cleanser with another exfoliating product — preferably one without any of the active ingredients we’ll talk about next. 

After your skin is clean, your next step is to apply a thin layer of a humectant-based moisturizer (a moisturizer that draws moisture in) to your entire face. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin are known to be effective humectants, so make sure to look for them on an ingredient list. 

Apply this product on damp, not dry, skin — these ingredients generally work best when they have more moisture to work with. Occlusives don’t actually provide moisture to your skin; they can only lock it in, so you have to give them something to work with.

The last step in slugging is applying your occlusive, which could be petroleum jelly, jojoba oil, squalene oil or products heavy with ceramides (like our Face Whip). Most skin care providers recommend waiting at least half an hour after your routine to head to bed, as it gives your skin the time it needs to absorb all of your products. 

While skin slugging can be beneficial, be aware that it can also be messy! You may want to put a soft microfiber towel over your pillowcase and put your hair up overnight. 

In the morning, it’s crucial that you wash your face thoroughly. Occlusive products are naturally very sticky, so while they can do wonders for your skin, they can also pick up all sorts of things from your environment as you sleep. 

Washing all of it off your skin before going about your day can help ensure that your pores are open and unclogged for your morning skin care routine. 

What should you avoid when slugging?

Although slugging is a fairly beneficial skin care technique across the board, not every active ingredient pairs well with this K-beauty trend. 

Specifically, if you plan on slugging, you should avoid any active ingredient that's known to be a powerful exfoliant. For example, AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) and retinols/retinoids can significantly increase in potency when trapped under an occlusive. In some cases, pairing these can cause irritation or a breakdown of your skin barrier.

Instead, you may want to stick with more gentle products, like vitamin C serums, that could use the boost in effectiveness to make even more of a difference in your skin’s health. 

The bottom line...

Slugging may sound strange, but this skin care trend is far from fading away. This hydrating routine helps lock in the moisture your skin needs to look dewy and radiant. 

Whether you’d like to try slugging, want to minimize breakouts or keep your skin looking young and healthy, choosing the right skin care products to include in your skin care routine is a crucial part of the process. Our skin care providers can help you find the best options for your skin — schedule a skin consult with us to get started.

SOURCES:

A comparative histological study on the skin occlusion performance of a cream made of solid lipid nanoparticles and Vaseline | PMC

Skin Epidermis and Barrier Function | PMC

Research Techniques Made Simple: Transepidermal Water Loss Measurement as a Research Tool | PubMed

Efficacy Evaluation of a Topical Hyaluronic Acid Serum in Facial Photoaging | PubMed

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