Slugging is a viral skincare trend that involves taking an ointment with the ingredient petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly / vaseline), and applying it as a final step of your skincare routine right before bed. You basically go to bed looking like a slug left a greasy trail of slime on top of your skin. Yum!
Slugging can be amazing for people with eczema or very dry skin. Petrolatum is very “occlusive” meaning it sits on the surface of the skin and prevents water from evaporating out. So, if you use it as a final step in skincare routine, it can help seal in moisture. If your skin is very dry and chapped no matter how much moisturizer you put on, layering some petrolatum on top can really help to heal that damaged skin barrier.
That said, slugging is not for everyone, and it's not for every night. Who should think twice before slugging...
Slugging is not ideal for people with acne-prone skin. Even though petrolatum itself isn't "comedogenic" per se, having treated thousands of patients for over a decade, many patients with acne-prone skin will indeed break out if they slug because of how occlusive it is.
PRONE TO MILIA:
Slugging is also not ideal for people who are prone to milia. Milia are those tiny white bumps that form especially around the eyelids and lips. They can be very stubborn and sometimes require a dermatologist or aesthetician to manually extract them in order for them to resolve. So if you're prone to those, I would say pass on the petrolatum.
PRONE TO ROSACEA:
If you have rosacea, and are prone to flushing or blushing, a heavy layer of petrolatum can make the heat and discomfort associated with flares feel even more severe. When your vessels are alone prone to becoming dilated, the last thing you want to do is apply a heavy, occlusive layer to your skin.
If you do decide to try slugging, steer clear of these common mistakes!
First, don’t forget to apply a well-formulated moisturizer with a blend of humectants, emollients and occlusives, like Bowe Glowe™ Microbiome Nourishing Cream, before you slug. If you simply apply petroleum jelly after cleansing, you are missing these essential ingredients that dive into the skin and hydrate and support the skin barrier on a much deeper level. As mentioned, petrolatum sits on the surface of the skin and only serves as an occlusive ingredient, so it is not serving the same purpose as your moisturizer.
Second, don’t slug over powerful skincare actives like retinoids and acids. Slugging can drive these active into the skin in an unpredictable way, increasing your risk not only for irritation but for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. So if you’re excited about slugging and using my Skin Cycling program, this is a step that should be reserved for recovery nights only.
Other considerations: safety and sustainability:
I have heard concerns about the safety of petrolatum and even concerns that it could be carcinogenic. Unfortunately, a lot of this discussion falls into the category of fearmongering. The petrolatum used in cosmetic products by reputable brands is actually very safe. Look for words like, “Refined,” “Cosmetic grade,” or “USP” on the label or packaging, as these are all signs that the product in question is formulated using cosmetic grade, highly-refined petrolatum.
When it comes to sustainability, petrolatum is considered a non-renewable resource. Some people prefer to use plant-based ingredients like squalane, which can be more sustainably sourced. The squalane we used in our Bowe Glowe™ Microbiome Nourishing Cream is sourced using a process called biotech fermentation, which is considered by many environmental experts to be one of the most sustainable ways to source ingredients.
So do I slug?
I have acne-prone skin, and I break out if I try to slug using a heavily occlusive product. So, I tend to reach for a less occlusive “recovery balm” as my final step on recovery nights during the winter months. Blending oils and water into a balm results in a semi-occlusive layer that seals in sufficient moisture but doesn’t break me out. But, for many of my patients and members of my social media community, slugging has been a favorite!