Skintellectuals – ELLE’s panel of pros pass judgment on the latest skincare trends, techniques and ingredients.
The world of skincare is full of pretty strange phrases. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a die-hard skincare fanatic, chances are you’ve come across phrases such as skin icing (not as painful as Hans Solo being frozen in carbonite, we assure you) moisture sandwiching, and more recently, sluggish.
Not as gross as it sounds, but still quite befitting of the name, slugging is a beauty practice which, like many a skincare trend, became a source of conversation on skincare Reddit forums before culminating on TikTok in the form of thousands of faces covered with a glistening viscous layer of… well, we’ll come to that. the promise? To leave you with immensely hydrated, super-soft skin.
To find out if this skincare trend is all slime and no substance, we asked three beauty industry experts to weigh in with their experiences and expertise.
Read on for the Skintellectuals’ verdict on slugging…
‘Slugging is when you use an occlusive or oil-based moisturizer as the final step of your skincare routine – usually at night time. Occlusive moisturisers or “ointments” as we call them in dermatology, help lock in moisture to the skin, because they reduce the evaporation of water from the skin to the environment.
‘This type of intense moisturizer application has known benefits to the barrier function of the skin, and strengthens the outer layer – the stratum corneum- which is very important for healthy and resilient skin. The most commonly used slugging product is Vaseline, which is 100% petroleum jelly, but any other “ointment” would provide a similar effect, such as Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment.’
‘I’ve frequently recommended these types of products to patients with an impaired skin barrier in dermatology, and it’s a perfectly legitimate recommendation in this context. However, I wouldn’t say it is a cure-all for all skin problems. It’s most beneficial to those who are prone to dryness, irritation and itching, whereas it may be less beneficial to those with oily and acne prone skin. Although Vaseline is theoretically non-comedogenic, some people do experience breakouts with more oily products. I personally would only do it if my skin felt very dry or irritated, and I also would prefer a balm as opposed to an ointment as balms tend to be slightly less thick and greasy.’
‘Although I think slugging is a trend, hopefully it helps to inform and introduce people to the importance of using a moisturizer at night time, and that a thicker moisturizer can support the skin barrier. The skin barrier is a key component to healthy skin and hopefully this trend familiarizes people with that concept.’
Skintellectual No.2: Hannah Thompson, Luxury Hub Beauty Assistant
‘If, like me, the moisture levels in your skin perpetually resemble that of the Dust Bowl (welcome, fellow desert dweller), you’ll try any weird trick once. While most of the time, a routine of hyaluronic acid and water-based moisturizers can keep my skin happy, now and then different temperatures and environments can upset my hydration homeostasis, which is where slugging comes in.
‘To be honest, slugging didn’t seem too dissimilar to my current night routine anyway (my golden rule is: if your face doesn’t stick to the pillow, you’re not doing it right). I’ve always been slightly agog at people that don’t finish their skincare routine by sealing it all in with a cream, but I could also see how smothering your face in Vaseline might be a bit overkill. I settled for a middle ground, favoring Ren’s Overnight Recovery Balm to slather over my serums. In the morning, my skin was plump, if slightly slick, and felt noticeably softer and happier.
‘Being the ethical beauty journalist I am, I used my flatmate as a guinea pig to see whether slugging had the same benefits for him. Though he has acne prone skin, he’d also been experiencing irritation and dryness, so I prompted him to try it out a few nights a week. To both of our surprise, his skin loved it and within a week, his complexion looked visibly healthier, and any flaking and redness was long gone.
‘When you peel away the hype and the mad viral videos, slugging is basically just good common sense. Using an occlusive moisturizer is, by its nature, going to stop hydration escaping your skin. Not all of it of course, but definitely enough to make a difference for those with dry and irritated skin. But by that reasoning, it can also be a pretty comedogenic practice, so not one if you’re struggling with active breakouts. The most important thing to note here is: listen to your skin.’
Skintellectual No.3: Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe, Medical & Cosmetic Doctor
‘There’s no real consensus on where Slugging came from, but a post from 2014 on Reddit may hold the answer. Slugging can be great if you have particularly dry skin. If you have acne-prone skin however I would suggest avoiding it, as you’ll find that it will probably make your breakouts worse.
‘If you have the appropriate skin type and skin concerns for it, then I would suggest doing it as often as you need to; Once a week is a good starting point. I prefer using petroleum-based products to oils. Cerave’s Healing Ointment is my favorite! It’s essentially premium petroleum jelly in a cost-friendly tub. It is thick but dissolves much easier into the skin than Vaseline, and it has added ceramides and hyaluronic acid.’
‘I love it! I’ve been doing it for a while actually. I tend to reserve it for the moments where my skin is “falling off” (so particularly dry and sensitive) after retinoid overdosing. Great for dry, sensitive skin types. However, please avoid it if you have acne-prone skin.’
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