Slugging is a new skincare trend which has jumped to the top of everyone’s skincare feed.
It involves coating the skin in petrolatum or Vaseline as the final step in a skincare routine to enhance glow and hydration. However, many internet skincare trends have negative consequences for skin health and are not backed by a scientific rationale.
Dermoi’s chief scientific officer, Eve Casha, MSc in Pharmaceutical Formulation, breaks down what you need to know about slugging.
Basics of the skin barrier
The skin’s function within the body creates a strong barrier to the outside world. It is the first line of defence for the immune system and regulates our body temperature and water loss.
The skin is composed of many layers; however, the outmost layer – the skin barrier, is composed of dead skin cells (anucleated corneocytes) surrounded by a lipid matrix.
Any disruption in this barrier leads to inflammation and water loss (dryness) and can affect the skin’s DNA synthesis and lipid production. With harsh weather, alcohol, stress, cigarettes, and/or poor diets, it is very easy to disturb this barrier. This not only leads to inflammation but also causes increases in transepidermal water loss (TEWL), leading to dullness and dryness.
Formulation science of slugging
Why is Vaseline used for slugging? Vaseline is used because it is an occlusive agent. Occlusives are oil-based ingredients that form a water-resistant layer or film over the skin’s surface. They help reinforce and repair a damaged skin barrier but trap water in the skin.
Occlusive agents can instantly help to restore suppleness and glow to the skin. This is why many are seeing positive results with slugging.
In addition, occlusive agents are essential when using a skincare routine with humectants. Humectants, such as hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA or glycerin, are ingredients that bind water and draw them into the skin.
In certain humidity conditions, if humectants are not combined occlusive agents, they can draw water from the deeper layers of the skin (dermis) and increase water loss.
Are there risks with slugging?
While the risks of slugging are relatively low, there can be some negatives. The main risk with slugging is stimulating the formation of acne.
Vaseline forms an extremely thick film over the skin that blocks the release of oil and cellular debris from a hair follicle. This clogs a hair follicle and forms acne.
Avoiding slugging or opting for a non-comedogenic occlusive agent may be a great solution for those prone to acne or congested skin.
In addition, Vaseline also blocks the entry of hydration into the skin from the outside. It can make the skin feel dryer over time when used very frequently.
Alternatives to Vaseline include Squalane oil from Indeed Labs or occlusive plant oils such as those found in Codex Beauty Bia Nourishing Facial Oil. When using these alternatives, instead of only using a few drops of product, apply a thick layer as the final step in your skincare routine.
Should you try slugging?
Properly hydrating the skin is essential in any skincare routine. If you feel your skin is particularly dry or feel your skin barrier is compromised, this may be a new trend you want to try.
However, this trend is not essential in a skincare routine; occlusive agents are found in most hydrating lotions and creams in the skincare market.
Slugging does not replace the need for many other important practices for healthy skin, such as gentle cleansing and daily broad-spectrum sun protection.