Beauty market

What does it mean and how to try it

Share on Pinterest
ohlamour studio/Stocksy United

We include products that we believe will be useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here is our process.

Although you may have first encountered the term “slugging” on Reddit or TikTok, skin slugging isn’t just the trend du jour. This practice has been present in K-beauty routines for quite some time.

For those curious about slugging who aren’t fully aware of this moisturizing trick yet, slugging doesn’t actually involve slugs. But he Is involve doing like a slug, in a way – you smear your face with an occlusive, like Vaseline, before bed so you wake up with glowing skin. Occlusives are things that act as barriers on your skin to retain moisture.

Does it work? We reached out to Jessie Cheung, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Cheung Aesthetics & Wellness, to find out.

“Skin slugging is simply the application of an occlusive to act as a barrier to seal moisture into the skin. Dermatologists have been recommending it for years as the last step in your skincare routine to treat dry skin, because we know skin bumps help prevent water loss,” Cheung explains.

Want to try slugging? Read on to find out what to use and how to do it, plus other slugging tips and tricks.

The main objective of slugging? Helps keep your skin hydrated.

In short, you may just wake up from a slippery, slug-like night’s sleep with glowing, plump, dewy skin.

Surface benefits aside, here are the deep benefits that help make slugging a beauty hack worth trying.

It prevents moisture loss

The plosives sit on the surface of your skin. This thick surface layer helps prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL), or the process of evaporating water out of your skin. TEWL is an expected bodily function, which increases with age. As you age, your skin may naturally become drier and your skin barrier function may work less effectively.

A night of slugging can help prevent some of that TEWL so your skin stays hydrated — and shows the difference.

It protects your skin from harmful elements

Do you like to turn up the heat when you sleep? This hot, dry air can suck excess moisture from your skin and dry it out. Chemicals in skincare products and other environmental elements can also dry out the skin.

Adding the protective layer of an occlusive of your choice can help shield your skin from these elements so it doesn’t absorb much-needed moisture.

It restores lipids

Skin lipids, the natural fats in your skin, play an important role in the structure and function of the skin. They help your skin retain moisture, ward off harmful bacteria and other invaders, and maintain skin elasticity.

The same things that attract moisture to the skin can also affect the lipids on and in your skin.

2015 research suggests, however, that applying moisturizers containing occlusives like petroleum jelly can restore lipids and repair the skin barrier.

Slugging may not be a good option for everyone. Whether this beauty tip works for you may depend on your skin type.

Cheung recommends avoiding skin bumps if you’re prone to clogged pores or acne.

“Be careful if you apply potentially irritating actives under your occlusive, as you will improve their penetration. Be careful with retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs),” says Cheung.

FYI: AHAs and BHAs are hydroxy acids that exfoliate the skin to varying degrees, depending on their concentration. Retinoids are compounds derived from vitamin A that can help treat acne and other skin problems.

The key to slugging is to use an occlusive so that it creates this barrier on the skin to lock in moisture. Vaseline products and products containing ceramides work best.

Some choices to consider:


Vaseline – petrolatum – is inexpensive and generally available. According research 2017it is also the most effective occlusive: it can reduce TEWL by more than 98%.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Aquaphor, another versatile pomade that sluggers swear by, contains 41% petroleum jelly. It also contains mineral oil and lanolin, which reduce TEWL by 20 to 30 percent.

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

CeraVe moisturizing cream contains petroleum jelly, as well as three ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

Ceramides are lipids found in the skin. 2018 research suggests that ceramide cream can increase skin hydration and decrease TEWL. Although ceramides are not occlusive, they work the same way when it comes to retaining moisture.

Hyaluronic acid, another popular skincare ingredient, can also help keep your skin hydrated.

You can try slugging in two different ways.

You can go all out and slug during the night, or you can try short-contact slugging, which involves slugging for just a few hours. The latter offers a good way to try slugging if you just can’t stand the sticky feeling of sleeping.

Here’s how to slug, both ways.

How to slug overnight

Grease marks on your pillowcase will happen when you sleep the slug life, so you might want to start by swapping your good sheets for backups if you’re worried about the mess.

How to short-contact the slug

Short-contact slugging can work well when you have a few hours to spare, such as between getting home from school or work and going to bed.

Ready to try slugging?

A few final tips:

  • Try applying the occlusive to damp skin, whether it’s damp from cleansing or other skin products.
  • If you’re using over-the-counter or prescription medications for acne or other skin problems, don’t apply them before you hit. You could increase their effects and irritate your skin. But don’t skip them either – check with your dermatologist before you try knocking.
  • If you have a skin condition like psoriasis or eczema, it’s best to consult a dermatologist before you strike.
  • If slugging leads to increased rashes, rashes, skin discoloration, or other irritation, you’ll want to stop doing it. If skin symptoms do not improve within a day or two, contacting a medical professional is a good next step.

Slugging can leave your skin looking soft and glowing right away. But if you want to soothe dry skin, you may need to pound it for several days before you see results.

In short, everyone has different skin and individual skin care should match. So there is no set timeline for how quickly slugging will work.

The slugging may have gone viral thanks to skincare and beauty influencers on TikTok and other social media platforms. But applying petroleum jelly and other occlusives to seal moisture into the skin is nothing new.

If you want to treat dry skin or just want to boost your glow, slugging offers a safe beauty trick to try at home.

Hoping to treat stubborn skin concerns or get general advice on creating a personalized skincare routine? A board-certified dermatologist can provide you with more information about treatment options and help you get started with a skin care regimen.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and writer who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for over a decade. When she’s not cooped up in her writing shed looking for an article or interviewing medical professionals, she can be found frolicking around her seaside town with her husband and his dogs or wading on the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.