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Advice 2 min

Last Updated Jan 13, 2024

A Dermatologist’s Guide to Slugging

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Board-Certified Dermatologist
Dr. Muneeb Shah

The Ultimate Guide to Slugging: A Dermatologist's Perspective

What is Slugging?

Slugging is a skincare practice that involves applying an ointment, often one with a petrolatum base, as the final step in your skincare routine or even as the only step at night. The primary goal of slugging is to help restore the skin's protective barrier. The term "slug" here refers to the generous application of an occlusive product, resembling the mucous trail left by a slug.

What are the risks of slugging?

Before slugging it’s important to consider what you are occluding underneath that thick layer of petrolatum. If you are acne-prone, occluding acne-causing bacteria could increase the risk of acne breakouts. If you are prone to milia, it can also increase your risk of milia. Finally, be cautious when slugging over retinol and exfoliating acids, this can increase the risk of irritation by enhancing their penetration into the skin. 

What product should I “slug” with? 

Vaseline, CeraVe healing ointment, or Aquaphor (risk of lanolin allergy) are preferred slugging ointments. 

How to slug like a dermatologist:

1. Cleanse Cleanse the skin thoroughly with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser.
2. Moisturize After cleansing, Apply a hydrating moisturizer.
3. Protect

Apply preferred slugging ointment.


Conclusion:

Slugging is a skincare practice that, when done correctly, can help restore the skin's protective barrier and enhance the efficacy of your skincare routine. However, it's crucial to “respect the slug” as Dr. Maxfield puts it, carefully select the products, and consider individual skin needs and sensitivities. 

Doctor's Note

Slugging is the practice of applying an ointment as the last step in your skincare routine

It is an effective technique for dry skin to help repair the skin barrier

Be cautious if you have acne or are prone to milia

Do not slug over retinol or exfoliating acids

Vaseline (pure petrolatum) is our preferred ointment for slugging

The Research

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26431582/

Czarnowicki T, Malajian D, Khattri S, Correa da Rosa J, Dutt R, Finney R, Dhingra N, Xiangyu P, Xu H, Estrada YD, Zheng X, Gilleaudeau P, Sullivan-Whalen M, Suaréz-Fariñas M, Shemer A, Krueger JG, Guttman-Yassky E. Petrolatum: Barrier repair and antimicrobial responses underlying this "inert" moisturizer. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Apr;137(4):1091-1102.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2015.08.013. Epub 2015 Oct 1. PMID: 26431582.

Dr. Muneeb Shah

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dr. Muneeb Shah headshot

Dr. Muneeb Shah

Board-Certified Dermatologist

Dr. Muneeb Shah is a double Board-Certified Dermatologist and Micrographic Dermatologic Surgeon in Hudson Yards, New York. He is passionate about educating the public on common skin issues and has accrued a following of 21+ million across his social media platforms on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

Location: New York City, NY

Doctor's Note

Slugging is the practice of applying an ointment as the last step in your skincare routine

It is an effective technique for dry skin to help repair the skin barrier

Be cautious if you have acne or are prone to milia

Do not slug over retinol or exfoliating acids

Vaseline (pure petrolatum) is our preferred ointment for slugging

The Research

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26431582/

Czarnowicki T, Malajian D, Khattri S, Correa da Rosa J, Dutt R, Finney R, Dhingra N, Xiangyu P, Xu H, Estrada YD, Zheng X, Gilleaudeau P, Sullivan-Whalen M, Suaréz-Fariñas M, Shemer A, Krueger JG, Guttman-Yassky E. Petrolatum: Barrier repair and antimicrobial responses underlying this "inert" moisturizer. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Apr;137(4):1091-1102.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2015.08.013. Epub 2015 Oct 1. PMID: 26431582.

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