It was the chemist Robert Chesebrough, who in 1870 realized that oil workers used a pasty ointment to heal wounds that stuck to drilling machines. Today, more than 150 years later, the cosmetic power of Vaseline has transcended from generation to generation and thanks to its versatility of uses.
We use it to hydrate lips, soften the skin on the elbows, heal cracked heels, and even comb eyebrows. It is a basic of a toiletry bag. Marilyn Monroe used Vaseline to brighten her cheeks, her makeup artist Allan Whitey Snyder revealed in the US edition of Harper’s Bazaar, and Olivia Palermo opts for the liquid version to remove make-up from her eyes. Interest in this miraculous ingredient has skyrocketed again since Korean women, one of the greatest references in skincare, closed their nighttime beauty ritual by applying a layer of the ointment to their face.
TikTok has long been imitating this trend called slugging and thousands of videos circulate showing users with shiny faces covered in petroleum jelly. The idea behind this viral phenomenon is that this product acts as an occlusive, which is a hydrating agent that secures moisture within the skin.
Slugging is a technique that has become fashionable both in Korea and in many other parts of the world because of its effectiveness and because it does not involve a large financial outlay to aid hydration. It consists of finishing the care routine with the application of a thin layer of mineral oil, for example, Vaseline, which we all know, to take advantage of its occlusive capacity that prevents the loss of hydration.
The term slugging refers to the sticky and shiny trail left by slugs when they move around and which is similar to the layer that remains on the face after the application of petroleum jelly or similar. This technique seems strange or very novel, but in reality, it is not that much. It is like the old poultices or very lipid cosmetics. In a way, it is like sealing the skin and spending a few hours with them or all night. It is like the typical, very dense cream that is used under gloves to help repair the skin of the hands or nails.
Based on the philosophy that Vaseline is a great ally that helps repair and regenerate chapped skin, Korean cosmetics have discovered that by applying a light layer to the face, it softens. It is a product that acts by creating a hydrophobic barrier that prevents the evaporation of water, blocking the skin. Therefore, although it is not a proper humectant, it has the ability to hydrate in that indirect way; it does not add or retain water, but it prevents it from being lost. Its application makes sense in certain skin diseases of its barrier function. This is the case of contact eczema in which there is an intolerance or allergy to certain cosmetics since neutral petroleum jelly does not contain additives or fragrances.
Like everything related to skincare, this trend is not for everyone. The technique is only beneficial for very dry or atopic skin, no matter the time of year. The slugging is ideal for sensitive skin. If petroleum jelly is refined, it doesn’t have to be bad. I don’t think much marketing has been done on this skin cosmetic, in my opinion, because of its low price.
Although the process can help people with certain types of dry skin, in oily skin the barrier created by petroleum jelly could worsen the problem. As it is a greasy and occlusive product, it can cause a greater appearance of acne by clogging the pore that regularly secretes more sebum than normal. It can trigger the appearance of open or closed comedones because it is very comedogenic.
How does it apply?
Skincare depends on personal preferences and, of course, trial and error experiences. The same thing doesn’t work for all of us, but we’ll never know if we don’t experience it. The idea is to use it as a night treatment, all night, but we emphasize the importance of cleaning afterward. It is extremely important to clean your face thoroughly the morning after slugging. We recommend doing the double cleaning since the load of the product to be removed (and the dirt particles that will have adhered to the mineral oil) is high.
According to the experts consulted, smearing your face daily can be excessive. Instead, it is postulated as a good one-time-use strategy.
It is not a bad idea when we need an extra repair or when the skin requires extra protection against the cold since it conserves the water of the skin itself and repairs it afterward excessive sun exposure, or after having used retinol, which leaves the skin more irritated.
The expert recommend it instead of healing after some medical-aesthetic treatments, such as Plasmage, or after micro pigmentation, because it is a very good protector
On the other hand, some doctors find as much use as cosmetics. I see it as a bit sticky. Other creams are more pleasant to use, such as those based on hyaluronic acid or proteoglycan serums, which also retain a lot of water from the skin.
Some dermatologist groups are not in favor of its cosmetic use either. Vaseline is a very safe product since it is refined and purified once extracted from oil to eliminate traces of molecules that may be harmful to health. However, since it is a petroleum derivative, the current trend is not to include it so much in cosmetic products in the interest of environmental sustainability.