What is Slugging in Skin Care?

It seems like there is a new viral skincare technique every week! And the recent trend of slugging is no exception. A technique used by dermatologists and women of color for decades, it’s recently become popularized as part of K-beauty due to its success in making skin smooth and even more hydrated than before! The slugging technique has gained newfound popularity after skincare enthusiasts shared their love for it on the popular Skincareaddiction subreddit and the slugging hashtag amassing over 1.5 million views on TikTok.

What is slugging in skincare?

Slugging has recently been popularized by K-beauty. It involves applying an overnight ointment to your face, preventing transepidermal water loss and keeping moisture inside skin cells – it’s like a moisturizer but more intense! The standout product in this routine is the use of occlusives. They can be anything from oils or waxes that make up a protection layer, think Vaseline; they help heal wounds by preventing them from drying out further and providing soothing relief. This occlusive product is the key to sealing the ingredients and trapping moisture overnight.

What does slugging do for your skin?

The main benefit of slugging is to prevent transepidermal water loss and improve skin barrier function, leaving hydrated and plump skin. It can also help with the absorption of skincare products (serums, ampoules, creams) as they would be applied under the occlusive layer, theoretically allowing them to penetrate the skin on a deeper level because they cannot evaporate. Your occlusive product (Cerave, Aquaphor, Vaseline, AnteAge) is the final layer in the slugging process, trapping moisture.

Many people who swear by the slugging technique say they can notice differences in their skin in as little as 8 hours! Their skin looks more plump and hydrated and, at times, can look less flaky. But, of course, all skin types are different, and this technique may not work for everyone.

Is slugging suitable for all skin types?

The benefits of slugging are appealing. I mean, dry and flaky skin gone overnight? Sign me up! And with its widespread use and tutorials on social media, it can be very tempting to try this at home. But, as with many things we see on the internet, take it with a grain of salt and do your research, as slugging may not be suitable for all skin types.

Due to the slugging process’s hydrating purpose, it is a skincare technique recommended for those with drier and more sensitive skin types. In addition, those with skin irritation or eczema can also benefit from slugging as this technique can help restore barrier function leaving hydrated and healthy skin. This also means that if your skin barrier needs restoring or has been obliterated by over-exfoliating, slugging may help speed up the restoration process.

There is also the option of spot slugging, which means you only apply the slugging steps to certain areas of your face (drier areas). This technique also works well if you have a combination skin type.

Is slugging good for oily skin?

Slugging is generally not recommended for oily skin types. Sure, oily skin may mean that your skin needs some hydration, and what better technique to help with that than slugging? Well, as with all things you see on the internet, what works for one may not work for all.

Slugging on oily skin may cause clogged pores which can lead to breakouts. Many who have tried slugging on their oily skin say that you may get results initially, and your skin will look great. But as time passes, they experience more and more breakouts.

Conduct a patch test first, or speak with your skincare professional to see if slugging is something that can benefit you.

Slugging for acne-prone skin

If your skin is acne-prone, you may want to skip slugging. Because slugging traps any ingredients and moisture, it could also trap more acne-causing bacteria leading to more breakouts. Unfortunately, this also means that the richness of ingredients and slugging can clog your pores, causing more breakouts.

Although various users on the subreddit Skincareaddiction swear by this technique in combination with the acne medication, tretinoin. According to them, slugging can work better than most moisturizers to keep the skin hydrated once your skin has reached a certain level of dryness.

Of course, it is always recommended that you consult with your skin professional or dermatologist before adding a new technique to your routine.

Why is slugging breaking me out?

So, you don’t have acne-prone skin, and slugging is still breaking you out. Why is that? Well, there could be a couple of reasons, like:

1. Slugging may not be for your skin type.

Slugging may be too rich for you. On the other hand, slugging may be ideal and even recommended for your skin type, but everyone is different, and not all skin treatments that work for some will work for all. This is why it’s important to conduct a patch test before trying out a new product or treatment.

2. You are not using the right products.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of experimenting to find the products that will work best for your skin and your routine. Regarding slugging, Vaseline and Aquaphor are the most recommended products, but those don’t always yield the best results for everyone. Nevertheless, using the best products can help minimize the chance of breakouts.

3. You are using too much of each product.

The biggest question with slugging is, “how do I keep my pillowcase clean?” The answer is that you shouldn’t use enough product to leave it on your pillowcase. The exception may be the occlusive layer, but even then, a dime size amount should be enough for your entire face. It’s also important to not over-tone or uses too much serum on the skin, always apply the recommended amounts and let each layer fully sink into the skin before moving on to the next step.

4. You are not properly cleansing and toning the skin.

Properly cleansing and toning the skin is crucial in slugging and reducing the chance of breakouts. After cleansing, apply a toner (preferably alcohol-free, witch hazel is ok) to reset your skin’s pH levels and clear out any remaining sebum or gunk that can cause breakouts. This is important because the point of slugging is to trap in the products you have applied, and without proper cleansing and toning, you may be trapping acne-causing bacteria

What products should I use for Slugging?

Now that you know how slugging helps certain skin types improve, you have to ask yourself what to use for skincare slugging.

You can use many products marketed for slugging, but you can use products that contain jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil, or shea butter. Although we recommend using an occlusive or a product that contains petrolatum or shea butter as sometimes oils (although effective) can be irritants to some skin types.

An occlusive product can be things like Vaseline or Aquaphor, which are popular for slugging. Looking for a product with petroleum jelly is ideal because that is what traps the moisture in your skin. Balms designed for post-peel care or other facial treatments are a great option to use in place of your regular occlusive, like Vaseline. Although Vaseline and Aquaphor may be more accessible, occlusives created to protect the skin barrier will be more effective. These products have shea butter, petroleum jelly, and other ceramides that can help soothe and hydrate the skin while minimizing the potential for breakouts and protecting the skin barrier.

The slugging process

So now you’ve decided you want to give this slugging technique a try. Here are the slugging skincare steps:

  • Cleanse

After removing your makeup, cleanse and pat your skin dry with a soft cloth. We recommend a gentle cleanser that won’t further dry out the skin, so avoid using cleanser and toners with alcohol.

Cleanser Recommendations:

  • Toner

This step is important to remove extra congestion in the pores. This makes sure that your congestion doesn’t clog your pores. Congestion may lead to acne and negative results.

Recommended Toners:

  • Serum

This step is optional, but if you are slugging, chances are you want to maximize the skin’s hydration; serum will help you achieve that. A hyaluronic acid serum is ideal for this technique, but most serums are humectants that should work well with occlusives. So if there is a serum that works for your skin, don’t stress about replacing it.

Recommended Hyaluronic Serums:

  • Moisturize

After removing your makeup, cleanse and pat your skin dry with a soft cloth. We recommend a gentle cleanser that won’t further dry out the skin, so avoid using cleanser and toners with alcohol. Apply your occlusive product

Recommended Moisturizers:

  • Occlusive product

The last step in your routine should be to apply a thin layer. This traps in the previous skincare products you used and traps them so they can set into the skin overnight. Do not apply any other products afterward; your occlusive should be the final product.

Occlusive Recommendations

Slugging is a process that many people are unfamiliar with, but it can be incredibly beneficial for your skin depending on your skin type and condition. We’ve outlined the basics of slugging and which products you can use to get started. Will you try slugging? Let us know how it goes!

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