09 April 2022
One of the most popular trends to emerge from Tiktok in 2021 that shows no signs of abating is this slugging your face! Unlike what you might imagine, slugging your face does not mean applying snail slime (another K-beauty trend) to your skin. Here’s a doctor’s guide to understanding everything about your face and how to do it right for your Tiktok video.
Currently trending on Reddit forums and Tiktok, slugging your face means applying a thick, occlusive skincare product to your skin overnight. The current favourite on Tiktok and Reddit for slugging your face is good ol’ vaseline; but you could use any skincare that is rich in petroleum jelly to slug your face.
What is Slugging your face? What does slugging your face mean?
The process of slugging your face is more palatable than the connotations that its name suggests. Leaving copious amounts of vaseline or petroleum on the skin is akin to the appearance of snail slime, hence the name, slugging.
Prior to skin slugging going viral on Tiktok, the premise behind slugging and the use of petroleum jelly has been employed by doctors for decades.
Petroleum jelly is an effective and easily affordable ingredient for relieving dry skin and diaper rash. Despite what green or clean beauty enthusiasts say, petroleum jelly is safe and non-comedogenic. Petroleum jelly in skincare products has been refined and is very different from petroleum fuel as we know it.
Many Tiktok beauty trends such as drinking chlorophyll and sunscreen contouring (no, Gwyneth Paltrow is not the only one who is guilty of this) have been called out by doctors and professionals. Skincare slugging, however, has doctors on the fence about this trend.
What are the benefits of slathering vaseline or petroleum jelly on your skin? According to Tiktok users, slugging your face overnight gives it a moisture boost for softer and plumper looking skin.
Vaseline or any petroleum jelly rich skincare product forms an occlusive barrier on the skin to reduce transepidermal water loss and dehydration. By slugging your skin, skin becomes more moisturised; and looks and feels more plump, soft and dewy.
Another benefit of slugging- improved percutaneous uptake of skincare products and hence, improved efficacy. This is due to the occlusive effect of petroleum jelly or any skincare used for slugging- similar to using face masks.
Tiktok may have many people think that slugging your face is a recent trend- however, the premise behind it has been around for decades. The concept of using something occlusive to lock in moisture and seal in medications or skincare is used more commonly in the treatment of eczema with wet wraps.
In wet wrap therapy, wet bandages are wrapped over steroid creams or moisturisers for treatment of eczema. The seal from the wet bandages provides a longer lasting moisturising effect and enhances the skin’s absorption of medications.
If you’ve used a face mask and felt the immediate plumpness or moisturising effect- that’s because of the occlusion effect.
If you want to give slugging a shot- even if it’s for a Tiktok video (no judgement)- here’s how to do it right so that you can avoid side effects (see below).
Cleanse your skin. Double cleanse if you need; ensure that your face is as clean as possible. Slugging your face with dirt on it is a bad romance.
Pick a few actives to seal in with your preferred skincare for slugging. I recommend using actives that hydrate your skin (e.g. hyaluronic acid) for a more complete moisturising effect.
Slug it out! Pick your poison, or skincare slug of choice. Besides Vaseline, other Tiktok and Reddit favourites are Aquaphor and Cetaphil Healing Ointment. I highly recommend wearing a hairband to avoid the mess when your hair gets in your face.
Yes, please wash your face to remove the vaseline (or slugging skincare of your choice), sebum and any dirt underneath, after leaving it overnight!
Slugging your face is generally safe. Petroleum jelly is a very safe and bland ingredient that’s been used for more than a century to treat various dermatological conditions such as dry skin, chafing and diaper rash. Contrary to popular belief, petroleum jelly is NOT comedogenic. However, if you have oily skin or acne, I would not recommend that you attempt slugging with petroleum jelly at all. There are alternatives to sealing in moisture for your skin that do not cause breakouts. Here’s why:
If you have oily skin, slugging your face is not a recommendation. Petroleum jelly may be non-comedogenic however the process of slugging and covering your skin with petroleum jelly or any heavy cream or moisturiser for that matter- can trap excess sebum and seal in dirt in the pores. These create a favourable environment for infection and acne outbreaks.
Slugging your skin will not improve acne outbreaks; and may cause breakouts. If you’re struggling with dry skin and hypersensitivity from your acne skincare and treatments- there are better acne-friendly options instead of slugging.
Instead, focus on improving your skin barrier. The skin barrier is also known as the moisture barrier and protects the skin water loss, toxins and infections. A healthy skin barrier reduces transepidermal water loss, just like slugging. The skin barrier consists of skin cells called corneocytes and a mixture of essential lipids in between these cells. Skincare can strengthen and also damage the skin barrier. To learn more about the skin barrier and how to improve yours, please read How to Repair Your Skin Barrier.
Does slugging help wrinkles? Slugging your face will not help wrinkles at all. Slugging your skin may plump your skin to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles; deeper wrinkles in your crows feet, forehead and glabella will require Botulinim toxin to relax the underlying facial muscles and their pull on the skin. If you’re new to getting Botox, I suggest trying Baby Botox, a style where smaller doses of Botox is used to lightly relax the muscles. Baby Botox will get rid of wrinkles but keep your facial expressions and movements intact. I’ve shared my experience and photos with Baby Botox (job perks!) in Baby Botox & Preventative Botox are Real.
I would not recommend slugging in Singapore’s humid climate. Humidity can worsen oiliness and acne. As mentioned above, slugging your skin could trap sebum and dirt in the pores to cause breakouts or worsen acne. Here are alternative skincare steps to seal in moisture for your skin without causing a breakout:
A couple of acne and oily skin friendly ingredients that will your skin moist without running the risk of breakouts in Singapore:
• Ceramides and essential lipids.
These form part of the skin barrier. Skincare ceramides and essential lipids help to soften the skin, reduce moisture loss and strengthen the skin’s defenses. You can learn about how to pick a ceramide skincare product Ceramides in Skincare: A Relief for Dry & Sensitive Skin.
• Hyaluronic acid
This is a very affordable active ingredient that binds water to the skin. It pairs well with occlusives for more complete moisturising effect. You can learn more in 4 and 5 Cult Favourite Hyaluronic Acid Serums & Moisturisers Reviewed.
Niacinamide is an antioxidant that offers all round benefits such as reducing inflammation and oiliness. It also strengthens the skin barrier. You can read more about niacinamide in Niacinamide: A Versatile Ingredient Your Skin Will Thank You For.
For longer lasting, deep hydration of your skin- consider injectable moisturisers such as Profhilo, Skinboosters and Rejuran Healer. These treatments replace the skin’s hyaluronic acid that have been lost due to ageing and reboot the skin’s moisture levels. All of these injectable moisturisers also build collagen fibres in the skin to shrink pores and reduce acne scars. Some of these, such as Profhilo, can also lift the skin to reduce sagging in the cheeks and laugh lines. You can learn about these treatments and see how it’s done in these posts:
If you have dry skin and you’d like to attempt slugging in Singapore’s weather, I suggest starting once a week at night and then assess how your skin responds. If you find that your skin is better moisturised without any side effects, you can increase your frequency to twice a week.
Slugging your skin increases the uptake of skincare. This means that the effects of skincare are intensified- but the manner in which this occurs is unpredictable. For ingredients such as retinoids and acids (AHAs, BHAs)- the increased uptake could cause dermatitis and burns. If you are using any of these ingredients- slugging your skin should be avoided.
Is slugging your face the Tiktok trend that will last? Slathering your skin with petroleum jelly may be a salve for dry skin; but if you have acne or oily skin or live in a humid climate like Singapore; it could cause breakouts. Nonetheless if you still would like to slug your skin- I hope that this guide to do it right will help you to do this correctly! If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy 5 Worst Tiktok Skincare & Beauty Trends to Avoid.