What is skin slugging? It's benefits and side effects

Do you remember your grandmother slathering your skin with Vaseline after showering at night? Or do you love coating your face at night with a generous portion of Vaseline so that it looks bouncy and shiny in the morning? If you answered yes to either or both of the questions above,  you’ve already participated in the viral skincare trend of skin slugging, probably without realizing it.

image of a woman applying a skincare moisturizing product

Key takeaways:

  • Skin slugging is the practice of thinly coating your face with an occlusive that helps to retain moisture.
  • It is excellent for people with dry skin and those in dry climates. 
  • Even though slugging doesn't directly lead to clogged pores, people with oily and acne-prone skin should be careful about jumping on this trend. 

Skin slugging is a skincare trend that involves applying a moisture-locking agent, like petroleum jelly, as the last step in your nighttime skincare routine. The goal of this occlusive layer is to prevent water loss and keep your skin soft and bouncy. 

Similar to practices like nutricosmetics, skin slugging has recently taken over social media as one of the latest skincare obsessions. But it’s nothing new.

Some claim it has its roots in K-beauty (Korean beauty practises), but others argue that that might not be the only origin. The Native American Seneca tribe has used petroleum jelly since the 15th century to protect wounds and keep their skin moist.

Other people also credit skin slugging to their Black mothers and grandmothers, who slather their skin with Vaseline after them bathing at night.

How skin slugging works

The occlusive used in skin slugging typically creates an oily physical barrier on the skin through which water cannot pass. Therefore, it helps to lock in moisture and protect it against harmful environmental factors.

Contrary to most ridiculous videos on TikTok, where people plaster their faces with Vaseline, a pea-sized amount is enough for the occlusive to do its job.

Skin slugging is an excellent skincare technique for dry skin, and it’s also beneficial during the dry winter and harmattan seasons

Benefits of skin slugging

This trend definitely lives up to its hype based on the following benefits:

  • Hydrates the skin: The occlusive product forms a coat over the skin to prevent moisture loss so that your skin remains soft and hydrated.
  • Improves skin texture: Slugging may help smoothen and reduce the appearance of fine lines. This may help maintain your skin’s smooth and bouncy texture.
  • Soothing irritated skin: Another benefit of the occlusive is that it could help soothe inflamed or irritated skin.
  • Protects skin barrier: Skin slugging also helps protect the skin against pollutants.
  • Restore damaged skin barrier: Skin slugging may benefit people with eczema, allergies, or sensitive skin. It acts like a shield while the skin repairs itself from the inside. 

How to slug your skin

Here are the steps to follow if you want to slug your skin overnight:

  • Cleanse: This should be the first step in any skincare routine. You can use your regular, everyday cleanser.
  • Observe your nighttime skincare routine: Slugging should be the last step before bed.  Just follow your regular nighttime routine, and do not hold back on generously moisturizing your skin, as it is that moisture that would be trapped. However, be careful not to use products with active ingredients like retinol or glycolic acid before slugging, as they can get trapped under the skin and cause irritation.  
  • Slug: Choose your slugging product, apply it only in pea-sized amounts, and spread it evenly on your face. 
  • Cleanse again later: In the morning, cleanse your face again to remove the layer of products you slept in and allow it to breathe. Now, it's time for your morning skincare routine.

Fair Warning:

Skin slugging can sometimes get messy, especially if you use oily occlusive agents like Vaseline. On the night of your intended skin slugging, you might want to consider only using sheets and pillowcases you don’t mind staining. 

Alternatively, you could do a short-contact slug. You’d follow the same process as the overnight slug, but instead of waiting until morning, you can wash your face after some time and continue with your day. 

While skin slugging may offer numerous benefits for your skin, it’s important not to overdo it. Once or twice per week is perfect because doing it too frequently can send the wrong signals to your skin and affect your results.

Is slugging great for all skin types?

If you have dry skin or reside in an area with a dry climate, you could really benefit from skin slugging.

Although all skin types can technically benefit from this practice, people with oily acne-prone skin need to be careful. If you have an active acne flare-up, slugging your skin might trap bacteria and oil that could worsen the breakout. 

For combination skin, you don't have to slug your entire face. It might be better to just coat the specific dry patches on your face and leave the oily portions alone.

For example, if your forehead and chin are the areas where you have dry and flaky skin, slug just those areas.

You must have heard of and seen minimalist home decor and fashion, but have you heard of minimalist skincare, also known as skinimalism?

Skinimalism is a new skincare trend that advocates for using lesser skincare products to achieve maximal skin benefits.

Can slugging cause acne?

The good news is that the molecules in Vaseline are too large to clog pores, so it’s considered a non-comedogenic product. However, it may indirectly contribute to or worsen acne in some individuals by trapping oils and acne-causing bacteria. This would irritate hair follicles on the skin and may trigger breakouts.

Keep in mind that everyone’s experience is different, and some people with oily acne-prone skin enjoy the benefits of skin slugging without problem. To be safe, only use products with non-comedogenic ingredients if you’re worried about acne flare-ups. You should also try doing a patch test to see how your skin responds before trying it on your whole face.  

Downsides to skin slugging

While tons of benefits are associated with skin slugging, there are also some potential drawbacks. Here are some cons of skin slugging:

  • Not suitable for all skin types: Even with non-comedogenic products like Vaseline, skin slugging can clog your pores by trapping dirt and bacteria. If you are acne-prone, this has the potential to cause acne breakouts. 
  • Greasy feeling: The heavy texture of the products used for skin slugging leaves a sticky residue on the skin. Some people might find this uncomfortable, especially if they apply large amounts. 
  • Stains: Another issue with skin slugging is that you’ll likely transfer that oily coat to everything you touch, including your bedsheets and pillowcases. One way to reduce oily stains on your sheets is to use a pea-sized amount. You could also try sleeping on your back.

Choosing the right products

Although Vaseline is a trendy choice for skin slugging, not everyone is a fan because it can get really greasy. Here are some lighter, more eco-friendly options for skin slugging:

  • Beeswax-based products: Combined with additives like rosemary and olive oil, they can create a thick and waterproof layer.
  • Oil-based products: If you're more keen on using even lighter oil products, natural oils like jojoba oil, argan oil, shea butter, and squalene can also be used.


Everyone is jumping on the skin-slugging trend as it promises more youthful, supple skin. If you have acne-prone skin, ensure your slug products do not contain pore-clogging ingredients. You might also want to limit how often you slug your skin. 

Ultimately, slugging should not replace moisturizing because Vaseline is not a moisturizer. Its job is to lock in moisture. Therefore, moisturizing and slugging should go hand in hand. You can also use other products, like natural oils and beeswax, as your slugging occlusive for a lighter coat. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does slugging clog pores?

Although Vaseline cannot block your pores directly, it can trap skin oils and acne-causing bacteria, which can trigger breakouts. 

Can you slug over retinol?

No, it is advisable not to slug over active ingredients like retinol. What slugging does is it traps in whatever skincare product you put on your face. That is why it is better to moisturize before slugging, focusing on moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid. 

What is a slugging mask?

A slugging mask is the application of an occlusive as the last step in your nighttime skincare routine. The idea behind this practice is to create a barrier on the skin, preventing it from losing moisture and helping it retain its youthful look.