Slugging in Skincare: How to Repair a Damaged Moisture Barrier
by Emily Linehan on August 05, 2021
Updated July 28, 2023
Slugging, a trend that began 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, using the slugging method allows the skin to heal, hydrate and restore a healthy moisture barrier very quickly.
What Causes a Damaged Moisture Barrier?
A damaged 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, since 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 to dry between steps in your skincare routine (unless otherwise directed).
- 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 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.
#EmmeTip: 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 that traps the moisture in the skin, but it does not allow the skin to "breathe". Think of an occlusive barrier like Saran Wrap...it 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 of 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.
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.
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 get 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 consider.
A basic "slugging" skincare routine would look like this:
- Gentle Cleanser (double cleanse if wearing makeup or SPF)
- 12 sprays of Calm Down Toner on a cotton round and wipe the skin gently
- Apply Your Humectant:
2 pumps of Skin Quencher Gel, or, 1 pump of Dew Drops Serum
- Apply Your Moisturizer:
2 pumps of HydraLuxe Cream or Pure Light Lotion, or, 1 pump of Barrier Balance Cream
- Apply a thin layer of 100% Petroleum Jelly on top to lock in all that moisture and quickly rehydrate the skin overnight.
Slugging can be a handy quick fix, but as I mentioned earlier, it’s not a long-term solution. That’s why I formulated our Barrier Balance Cream.
This isn't just your typical moisturizer, it's an antioxidant-rich formula meticulously designed to protect, strengthen, and defend your skin's moisture barrier. The luxurious blend of humectants and emollients work synergistically to fortify the skin's natural barrier, keeping it well-hydrated, healthy, and plump. Unlike slugging, which often leaves a heavy, greasy feeling on your skin, the Barrier Balance cream provides that much-needed hydration while maintaining a non-greasy, lightweight finish both day and night. Plus, it's power-packed with Chaga Mushroom extract, the ultimate antioxidant which not only fights inflammation but also amps up the brightness of your skin.