If you are on TikTok, you’ve heard of slugging — a term for the dermatologist-approved skin-care technique that has reached over 100 million views on the app. Slugging entails applying an occlusive layer — traditionally balms like Aquaphor or Vaseline, which contain petroleum — as the final step of the skin-care regimen before bed.
According to New York City board-certified dermatologist Elyse Love, M.D., this “pushes the [skin-care] products underneath into the skin and prevents the environment from pulling water out of the skin overnight [leading] to fresh, plump skin in the morning.”
In addition to being an effective means of combating transepidermal water loss (TEWL) that occurs overnight, slugging is also a tried-and-true way to soothe skin irritation and patchiness. As Dr. Love points out, this is not a “new” phenomenon or mere TikTok trend, as slugging has been popular among Black women and eczema patients for ages.
Because balms have an occlusive, barrier-like effect, Dr. Love recommends applying your nourishing, hydrating serums first, leaving your slugging ointment of choice as your last step to lock it all in. (Otherwise you’ll essentially be locking it all out.)
Lately, I’ve noticed some TikTokers catching on to my favorite slugging hack; namely, swapping out petroleum-based drugstore staples for a clean balm such as one of my favorite products, Anifsa Skin Lilou Radiant Hydra-Balm. My skin-care swap has made its way into the mainstream. But is it as good as it seems to be?
How do you slug without Vaseline?
You’ll often hear people who are into slugging say they first tried the hack because they experienced dry skin or eczema. My journey into the practice looked a little different. I have oily skin that is prone to congestion, and I rarely experience dryness. However, I apply a multi-step regimen of costly skin-care products at night, so I am interested in sealing in every last drop. That’s why the basic concept of slugging — locking moisture in — first seemed appealing to me.
My taste in skin care has always included products with both “clean” and active ingredients, such as growth factors, peptides, and either retinol or retinaldehyde making regular appearances on my top shelf. On top of that, I have a stellium in Virgo that can make me more detail-oriented than your average beauty enthusiast. I gravitate toward products that are both potent and effective; the more multitasking, the better. Vaseline and Aquaphor work for slugging, but I prefer something that can do a bit more.