The Benefits and Risks of the Viral TikTok Beauty Hack

A woman looking in a mirror.Share on Pinterest
‘Slugging,’ is a new TikTok trend that involves slathering Vaseline – or some other petroleum jelly-based ointment – on your face as the final step of your nighttime skin care routine. ohlamour studio/Stocksy
  • A beauty hack called “slugging” has gone viral on TikTok.
  • Promoters of the trend say it can help moisturize and protect your skin.
  • They say it can also help reduce wrinkles.
  • Skin care experts say slugging can be a good idea if done correctly.
  • However, it could lead to problems for some people with certain skin types.

There’s a new viral beauty trend on TikTok these days called “slugging.” As of this writing, the social media site reports there have been 25.4 million views of videos tagged “slugging method,” with beauty influencers and skin care doctors alike weighing in.

Slugging, in a nutshell, involves slathering Vaseline – or some other petroleum jelly-based ointment – on your face as the final step of your nighttime skin care routine.

Researcher Kyla Pagani, who authored a paper on the topic which was published in Clinics in Dermatology, told U.S. News and World Report the goal of slugging is to “help moisturize and strengthen the skin barrier.” Proponents also claim it can reduce wrinkles.

In her team’s analysis of videos available at the time of the study, it was found that 36.7% of the videos were deemed to be educational in nature.

However, only 20.4% of these videos mentioned the risks associated with slugging.

According to Pagani, this demonstrated the potential for harm to the general public when health content is not presented in a balanced way.

Pagani did emphasize, however, that it’s not that slugging itself that is harmful. It’s simply that TikTokers didn’t always mention the downsides associated with the practice, preferring to play up the benefits.

In fact, overall, the researchers found that 6 out of every 10 posts focused mainly on the positives while only 2 out of 10 mentioned potential problems of which users should be aware.

So what is the truth about slugging? Is it good for your skin? And what are the risks that might be associated with it?

According to Dr. Hope Mitchell, a board-certified dermatologist and founder and CEO of Mitchell Dermatology in Perrysburg and Fremont, Ohio, applying an occlusive ointment can indeed help to hydrate and heal your skin.

“It moisturizes or retains moisture, protects the skin barrier, and repairs dehydrated skin,” she explained.

She noted that it can be done on any part of your body, but the face, lips, and eyelids are common targets.

“Dermatologists have been using this beauty hack to prevent transepidermal water loss and lock in moisture to quickly heal dry skin for many years,” said Mitchell, “and now this beauty tip has a formal name – slugging.”

Dr. Susan Massick, associate professor of dermatology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, added that the practice could be helpful with certain skin conditions in particular.

“If you’re someone that struggles with eczema or dry skin, applying an emollient type of moisturizer can help,” Massick said.

Mitchell said that slugging is also beneficial when it comes to wrinkles.

“With aging, the skin barrier loses its ability to repair itself, and one may notice decreased hydration, or saggy skin and more fine lines and wrinkles. Slugging can be a benefit in all of these cases,” she said.

According to Massick, it’s not that slugging itself is particularly effective as an anti-wrinkle treatment. Where it can help, she noted, is to replenish the natural skin barrier function.

In other words, it helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles rather than actually preventing them.

Mitchell said that slugging might not be appropriate for all skin types, however, especially oily, acne-prone skin.

“Let’s face it, building another layer on top of oil may be asking for trouble,” she said, noting that it could clog the pores, and lead to further breakouts.

Massick further explained that occlusive emollients like petroleum jelly can cause sebum (oil) and bacteria to become trapped within your pores – something you don’t want if you are already experiencing breakouts.

In these cases, Mitchell suggests that people use a serum with hyaluronic acid as a moisturizer and then a noncomedogenic lotion or cream as a spot treatment.

However, if you have dry skin slugging may be just the thing you need.

“Slugging is a great way for people with sensitive skin to heal and protect their skin, especially during the cold winter months,” said Mitchell.

If you want to practice slugging, Mitchell and Massick recommend the following routine:

  1. Cleanse. Massick suggests using a mild cleanser and gently patting dry.
  2. Moisturize. “Consider a product with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin which will work in tandem to lock moisture into a protected skin barrier,” advised Mitchell. She also stressed that you should avoid using products with AHAs, BHAs, or retinoids, however, since these could cause chemical burns when locked in under a barrier.
  3. Seal the moisturizer with a thin layer of an occlusive ointment. According to Mitchell, some good options are Vaseline, CeraVe Healing Ointment, or Aquaphor. Massick added that you can either leave the treatment on for a few hours or leave it on overnight while you sleep.