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Slugging in Skincare: How To Repair A Damaged Moisture Barrier

by Emily Linehan on August 05, 2021

Slugging, a trend that began a several years ago, is the act of sealing your nighttime skincare products into the skin with an occlusive agent (typically petroleum-based) to lock in moisture overnight. The term "slugging" refers to a thick, mucus-like substance, much like the slimy trail a snail or slug leaves in its path. A pretty gross analogy, but slugging is a skincare technique that has real benefits. I have recommended it to clients for over a decade when the skin's moisture barrier is compromised. 

The foundation of healthy skin is a hydrated moisture barrier. When the skin's moisture barrier is compromised, not only will the skin be excessively dry, tight and flaky, but it creates skin sensitivity, irritation and inflammation.

Once the skin's moisture barrier is compromised, it can take days, if not weeks, to repair. However, by using the slugging method, it allows the skin to heal, hydrate and restore a healthy moisture barrier very quickly. 

What Causes a Damaged Moisture Barrier?

A damage moisture barrier can occur in many ways. It can be due to:

  • the climate you live in (desert, dry) or from traveling to a dry climate from a humid one. 
  • hanging out in sweaty skin after a workout, in which the salts from the sweat rapidly draw out moisture from the skin.
  • a skincare routine where the products dry out the skin too quickly or the skin does not have enough time to acclimate to them.
  • allowing your skin dry between steps in our skincare routine. 
  • inconsistency with your skincare routine (skipping days or nights)
  • not drinking enough water. 

As you can see, there are several ways in which a damaged moisture barrier can occur. Generally, what I find is that a combination of these factors, overtime,  snowball into a bigger issue. Many times, clients who reach out with concerns about excessively dry and irritated skin are guilty of many of these moisture barrier damaging factors and it just sneaks up on them. 

What "Slugging" Product Should I Use?

Although it has gotten an unwarranted bad reputation on the internet, the best and only product I recommend to use for slugging is 100% Petroleum Jelly. Petrolatum (another name for Petroleum Jelly) is not only non-comedogenic (thereby making it 100% acne safe), but it is an FDA approved skin protectant. It is also known as the "gold standard" of occlusive ingredients because it creates a physical barrier that prevents moisture from leaving the skin.

Bonus Tip: 100% Petroleum Jelly is also my top recommendation for acne safe lip hydration! You can get it in this cute little tube. 

How and When Should I Slug My Skin?

While I highly recommend slugging to quickly repair a compromised moisture barrier, it is not a technique I suggest as a regular part of your skincare routine.

Why not? Slugging creates an occlusive barrier which traps the moisture into the skin, but it does not allow the skin to "breathe". Think of an occlusive barrier like Saran keeps what is on the inside from going out, but it also keeps what is on the outside from going in. 

In the context of restoring an impaired moisture barrier, an occlusive barrier is amazing as it won't allow the moisture applied to the skin (in the form on humectants and emollients) to evaporate off of the skin.

In contrast, I also recommend slugging for my acne-prone clients who swim a lot as chlorine is a major acne trigger. So by slugging on top of the sunscreen, it doesn't allow the chlorine to come in contact with their skin, thus eliminating that trigger. 

Slugging Skincare 101

If you feel your moisture barrier is damaged, I first highly suggest you fill out our free Check In form to ensure slugging is right for your skin and the exact steps you need to take. This is important since your Emme Diane skincare routine is customized for your skin, so there may be additional steps you will need to take. 

A basic "slugging" skincare routine would look like this:


  1. Gentle Cleanser (double cleanse if wearing makeup or SPF)
  2. 12 sprays of Calm Down Toner on a cotton round and wipe the skin gently
  3. Apply Your Humectant:

        In short, while this trendy skin technique is not something I would recommend on an ongoing basis, there is a time and place to "slug" - and it's when the skin is compromised and needs to be hydrated and healed.  


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