“Slugging,” the most popular beauty trick that experts in skin care actually love

It’s not often to find TikTok beauty tips to have an appeal with doctors of dermatology and cosmetics. It doesn’t matter if they’re absurd (#lubeprimer #snailfacial) or even dangerous (#diymoleremoval and filing teeth) The majority of TikTok “beauty hacks” are quickly discredited by experts in skin care with the notable exclusion that of “slugging.”

Slugging is a catchy phrase that refers to the practice of applying your face with petroleum jelly in the final stage of your nighttime skin-care routine. This practice can leave your skin as sluggish as the mucus of a slug (hence it’s name).

It was initially thought to be as a beauty trend,”slugging” is believed to have first been seen on the internet in the United States in a 2014 post on the Reddit section. However, it wasn’t widely known before Charlotte Palermino, a New York City-based licensed cosmetics professional and co-founder of the company that makes skin care Dieux introduced the idea on the world via TikTok as well as Instagram users in September of 2020 she told them it resulted in her dry skin becoming “juicy.” As of press time the hashtag #slugging had 235.5 million users on TikTok.

Petroleum jelly, sometimes referred to as petrolatum, and was initially sold through Vaseline it is a yellow or white semisolid material made of a mix of complex hydrocarbons that is made by melting crude oil. According to Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist and associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, it is an occlusive ingredient: “It forms a seal over the stratum corneum (outer layer of skin or skin barrier) to protect the skin from the environment while preventing water loss.”

In forming this sealthat keeps bacteria and dirt out while allowing moisture to inthe petroleum jelly provides the perfect environment for the skin heal its own, Zeichner said. He as well as Palermino claimed, slugging doesn’t require a lot of petroleum jelly. It’s possible to use a pea-sized portion to cover your entire face, not just the one you see in the clip below (you do not wish to damage your clothes).

While slugging may be a novel term the process application of petroleum jelly to the skin as protection for the skin isn’t new. The 15th century was when, people from the Native American Seneca tribe, who worked in oil mines throughout northwestern Pennsylvania utilized petroleum jelly on animal and human skin to heal injuries, promote healing and help keep the skin moisturized. In the latter half of the nineteenth century American chemical engineer Robert Chesebrough was traveling through oilfields in this region of northwestern Pennsylvania was able to observe oil workers applying the residue of their drills with oil on their wounds. Chesebrough returned a sample to his Brooklyn laboratory, filtered it, and tested the results on self-inflicted wounds, and in 1870, he named the “miracle jelly” as Vaseline.

The moment Tiffany Clay, dermatologist based in Atlanta, noticed the slugging trend being advertised on Instagram and was amused, she was. “I laughed because I’ve been doing it my whole life.” Clay is proud of her “Black grandmothers who slathered Vaseline on my cousins and me when we got out of the bath.”

Today, Clay finds herself recommending petroleum jelly to her practice of dermatology “at least 10 times a day” – for dry skin as well as wound and post-surgical aftercare, as well “especially for my eczema patients who have a compromised skin barrier and tend to be on the dry side.” The signs of a compromised skin barrier could be dryness, redness, peeling and flaking, burning, or the sensation of stinging..

Ranella Hirsch an dermatologist who is based out of Cambridge, Mass., is in agreement. “I tell parents to coat their kids with Vaseline when they first get out of the tub to seal in the moisture,” Hirsch stated. “We’ve been using that as standard practice because the petrolatum really functions as a top coat, trapping in the moisture and preventing transepidermal water loss.” Research has proven that, in along with reducing transepidermal hydration loss (TEWL) in the range of 100 percent it also has anti-microbial properties . It also helps speed up the healing process of skin..

Palermino suggests making use of petroleum jelly as the form of a ” moisture sandwich” to capture the maximum amount of water. “In aesthetician school, one of the first things you learn is you hydrate your skin, you moisturize your skin, and then you trap it all in with an occlusive.”

However, due to its characteristic occlusive properties, Hirsch cautions against applying any active ingredients like the retinoids, exfoliants or topical vitamin C prior applying the product, since you could harm the skin. “You can take an ingredient that is fairly mild, and turn it into something very potent by sealing it with petrolatum.”

While petroleum jelly is regarded as non-comedogenic (meaning it doesn’t block pores) due to its molecular size is too big to penetrate deeply into the pores, Hirsch advised that the practice isn’t for all. “Generally I’m not a fan of it for those who have a tendency to get acne, milia or oily. I’m just not convinced that occlusives make the best choice for those with these issues.” Hirsch recommends patch-testing first to identify these skin issues and for those who are at risk of allergic reactions.

For skin that is extremely dry, Susan Taylor,a dermatologist from Philadelphia, and creator of the Skin of Color Society warns that using petroleum jelly alone does not provide any moisture to the skin. “I have my patients put the petroleum jelly over a moisturizer that has humectant and emollient ingredients.” Taylor advises patients to apply petroleum jelly if the skin is damp in order to “trap in the moisture.”

The Food and Drug Administration regulates petrolatum as an ointment sold over the counter and considers it secure and effective skin protection in the range of between 30 and 100 percent. However, the general public has several concerns regarding petrolatum. One concern is the possibility of contamination from the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are chemical compounds naturally occurring present in crude oil that have been identified as probable human carcinogens.

A few of the experts I spoke with stated that, while refined petroleum jelly (which isn’t permitted to be used in the United States) can be infected with PAHs. However The petroleum jelly available in the aisles of your local pharmacy has been very refined. “Petrolatum is essentially a waste product from the petroleum industry that goes through several rounds of refinement until all the impurities have been removed,” said Victoria Fu, a skin-care scientist, educator in the field of cosmetic formulation chemist, and the co-founder and founder of Chemist Confessions, a skin-care brand. “Petrolatum has been around for so long and scrutinized by regulators for so long that refined petrolatum has gone through the gamut of testing to ensure safety before it hits the shelves.”

Another issue raised by those who are against of slugging is the fact that petroleum jelly, which is an off-product that comes from oil production, isn’t an environmentally friendly product. However, Anthony R. Kovscek who is an Stanford University professor and senior researcher at Precourt Institute for Energy, said Precourt Institute for Energy, stated that stopping the sale of petroleum jelly will not do much to stop the climate’s warming. “Changing your driving and commuting behaviors, as well as driving the most fuel-efficient car you can afford is far more likely to have an effect on the fossil fuel industry than tamping down sales of Vaseline.”

There are several alternative options to petroleum jelly including mineral oils or plant oils, as well as animal waxes. Even though Hirsch and Zeichner suggest Waxelene however, they warned that other products than petroleum jelly aren’t as occlusive and can be more costly and pose a risk of contamination.

“Plants are bio-accumulators so something like shea butter needs to be highly refined before it hits the market,” Palermino explained. In her conclusion, this refined process results in a huge carbon footprint.


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