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When I first heard the term “slugging” applied to skincare, I immediately pictured myself leaned back in an esthetician’s chair with slugs and snails slowly depositing a trail of mucus on my face as some sort of anti-aging treatment. While snail mucus (called snail mucin) is a common ingredient for anti-aging in Korea, thankfully, that is not what slugging means. Keep scrolling to learn everything you need to know about this slimy skincare trend and watch as I turn myself into a shell-less snail for science.
Slugging refers to a practice in which you cover your face in a thick emollient, like petroleum jelly, before you go to bed. This skincare trend got its name because it makes you look slimy as a slug. It's a Korean beauty ritual that was popularized six years ago on the Skincare Addiction subreddit after someone submitted a post titled "I have turned myself into a slug," detailing their positive experience with this trend. It has now resurfaced as a trend on TikTok after Charlotte Palermino made a viral video explaining how to slug.
Coating your skin in a thick emollient provides an impenetrable layer between your skin and the outside world. "It is a great option for people with dry or irritated skin to help repair the barrier while you sleep," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Think of it like a pool cover, which helps keep the water inside the pool from evaporating out while also protecting the pool from bugs, leaves, and other debris that may blow into the pool without the cover. Slugging locks in your skincare products and it protects your skin from outside aggressors, like the bacteria lingering on your pillow. The outcome is super hydrated skin and faster results from your skincare products.
If you want to try slugging, be mindful of what skincare ingredients you're applying underneath your emollient layer. "Slugging can be helpful when using ingredients like hyaluronic acid or niacinamide, which are non irritating," says Dr. Zeichner. "I recommend caution when applying vaseline over ingredients like hydroxy acids or retinol, because enhanced penetration into the skin may ultimately mean more irritation as well." If you want the benefits of slugging, but you don't want to completely give up using chemical exfoliators or retinol, try alternating. Slug one night, then use those skincare actives the next.
While petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic, meaning it does not clog pores, there is a chance that you will break out from slugging if you’re not careful. Only those with normal to dry skin should attempt to slug. If you have oily skin or acne-prone skin, you risk trapping oil and acne-causing bacteria between your skin and the emollient layer, which could lead to clogged pores.
The most important step in slugging is making sure you start with a completely clean base—Double cleanse if you have to. Then apply the rest of your nighttime skincare routine. After you apply your moisturizer, scoop a pea-sized amount of petroleum jelly onto your fingers and begin rubbing your fingertips together to warm up the gel so it spreads more easily. I like to start with the high points of my face and then smooth it out, but it doesn’t really matter how you apply as long as you only apply a little bit. Remember: when it comes to slugging, less is more.
Watch my slimy review of this skincare trend:
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