What is slugging? Everything you need to know about the TikTok trend

TikTok has unveiled some fairly odd skincare trends in its time. Using lube as a primer? That was one of the weirdest. (Please don’t do it, have a look through our list of best primers if you’re after a new one.) But one of the ones that has stood the test of test and continue to perform is slugging. But what is slugging and what do dermatologists think?

What is slugging?

Slugging is inspired by the K-Beauty practice of using a thick emollient, typically something petroleum-based product like Vaseline, on top of your day cream to try to trap the moisture in the skin.

‘Slugging is built upon the concept that your skincare routine is missing the occlusive part of the three moisturising principles (humectants, emollients and occlusive),’ elaborates skin expert Fiona Brackenbury. ‘The best moisturisers will have a balance of all three. The key is to get the ratio of the three right for your skin. The occlusive part is key to creating a barrier, preventing water evaporation and enhancing the skin’s ability to hold water in the skin.’

Slugging works by trapping hydration under a layer of petroleum-based products, like Vaseline.

Does slugging actually work?

Surprisingly, this is one of the TikTok trends that has not angered skin experts. Instead, some of them say there are definitely benefits. Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, Cosmetic Doctor and the Founder and Medical Director of the medical and aesthetics clinic, Adonia Medical Clinic, has this to say: ‘It can have great benefits for dry and very dry skin and when the skin barrier is breached. If this is you, good moisturiser followed by slugging can be helpful. However, if someone has oily skin then this is an absolute no-no, as it can clog the pores and lead to breakouts.’

‘In principle, this should work,’ says Brackenbury. ‘However, slugging isn’t for everyone. If your skin is constantly feeling tight, taught, even flaking – I’d recommend upping your occlusives.’

Is it good for the skin to use a petroleum-based product?

‘Petrolatum-based products have been around for decades,’ says Dr Ejikeme. ‘As there’s great evidence showing that they help to reduce water loss particularly when the skin barrier is compromised. This helps the skin feel more moisturised.’

Brackenbury agrees and adds that you’ll feel the benefit most in the dry heat during the summer. ‘When the heat is dry and your skin is dry, an occlusive will help. However, when it’s humid you’re missing out on the moisture in the atmosphere. Air-conditioned offices in the summer and central heating in the winter will leave your skin gasping.’

Does it suit all skin types?

As mentioned, slugging only really suits those with drier and irritated skin. ‘Slugging doesn’t moisturise the skin though,’ says Brackenbury. ‘So those with dry skin will need to still hydrate and moisturise as well, especially during the day. Sensitive and dehydrated skin that feels especially tight around the cheeks will also benefit.

However, if you are even the slightest bit oily, steer well clear.

Things to be wary of if you are going to try slugging

  • Don’t slug if you have overdone it in the sun as it will make the inflammation worse
  • Don’t slug if you are using exfoliating acids and/or retinol as it will cause irritation
  • Don’t slug on hot summer sweltering nights as it won’t let the skin cool down
  • Don’t slug if your skin produces a lot of oil
  • ‘You’ll need to get past feeling like a greasy chip pan and mind your best silk pillowcases!’ warns Brackenbury.

Best products for slugging:

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