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Skincare Slugging: The Beauty Trend Used for Eczema Treatment

May 5, 2021

Slugging involves sealing your skin with Vaseline, petrolatum, or white soft paraffin. In this article we will explain everything you need to know about skincare slugging, it’s benefits and when you should use this method. Including excerpts from Skincare Bible: Dermatologist’s Tips for Cosmeceutical Skincare by Dr. Teo Wan Lin, dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre. 

What is skincare slugging? 

Slugging is a term coined by K beauty and recently popularized on the social media platform Tiktok. This skincare trend refers to the process of sealing your skin with an occlusive agent – Vaseline, white soft paraffin, or petrolatum. It is touted to keep your skin moisturized and prevent transepidermal water loss. 

While this technique has been recently popularized again, dermatologists have been recommending this as the last step in the treatment of severe eczema, sealing in moisturizer and helping to trap in moisture. However, this is not commonly recommended for the facial skin, especially in humid climates like Singapore. Because, the face is usually greasier due to the distribution of oil glands. Applying an occlusive substance like Vaseline if you produce quite a bit of oil or if you have acne, is not a good idea.

The science behind slugging 

Petrolatum, the ingredient found in Vaseline, Aquaphor and other topical creams, acts as an occlusive and a skin protectant – which means it prevents transepidermal water loss or evaporation of moisture from the skin. 

“The trend of skincare slugging is essentially borne out of moisturising in layers. For example, what dermatologists usually recommend for individuals who suffer from severe body eczema is applying first a ceramide dominant moisturiser, one that is formulated correctly with the lipid ratio, then as a final layer, petroleum jelly. This is to increase the occlusive effect on the skin’s microenvironment and this can actually help to maintain moisture in the topmost layer of the skin.

Use a ceramide based moisturizer before skincare slugging

The Multi-CERAM Cream is a new generation “Smart Moisturiser” formulated as a Prescription Emollient Device. It is formulated with an optimal skin lipid mixture, containing a mixture of plant-derived phytoceramides and synthetic ceramide. Antioxidants that fight skin inflammation are incorporated for optimal treatment of eczema.

However, slugging should be applied with other moisturizers for the best effects. The use of ceramides in moisturisers is crucial in preventing and repairing skin barrier dysfunction. When paired with the process of slugging, it can help to increase absorption of the moisturizer and speed up healing of the skin barrier,” accredited dermatologist, Dr. Teo Wan Lin.  

Eczema and dry skin 

Eczema is primarily due to a defect in the skin barrier and quite frequently presents as itchy and dry skin. The condition is genetically determined and can be made worse by skin irritants, allergies, environment and stress. In my practice, only ceramide-based moisturisers which focus on restoring the skin barrier are prescribed. Ceramides are lipids that occur naturally on the epidermis and are integral to locking in moisture to the skin and regulating healthy skin barrier function. 

In layman terms, you may think of the skin as a protective brick wall, and ceramide being the cement that holds the bricks together and prevents water from seeping through, in order to perform an effective barrier function. Intensive moisturising with ceramide is often recommended through the course of an eczema treatment so as to restore healthy barrier function to the skin. In cases of more severe eczema, wet-wrap therapy, which enhances absorption of topical medications by the skin, may be employed over the topicals and moisturiser applied on to the skin as part of treatment. 

Slugging is often recommended as the last step in order to seal in ceramide-based moisturizers for increased absorption and enhanced healing. 

Is Vaseline safe to use on skin? 

Mineral oils in petroleum jelly or Vaseline are completely safe for skin. As long as it’s approved for cosmetic use, the origins of this mineral oil component is not going to cause any damage to your skin. In fact it’s an effective skin smoothener and can help to prevent water loss to the environment. 

Is slugging for everyone? 

If you do have oily acne prone skin or active acne we don’t recommend applying a petroleum jelly on your skin. Using occlusives on an acne-prone individual can cause a form of occlusion-type comedogenic acne. Instead, opt for a moisturiser that is either cream, serum or lotion based to hydrate and protect the skin barrier.

In humid, tropical climates like Singapore, skincare slugging can increase the occlusiveness of any product that is applied to the skin. This holds truer still with the wearing of the face mask. Sealing on a layer of Vaseline will increase the comedogenicity of any moisturiser that is potentially applied on your face when it’s applied under occlusion. 

Additionally, while it does act as a barrier to trap in moisture from leaving the skin, if applied on unwashed skin, it can also trap in any bad bacteria, dirt and grime – leading to breakouts. 

How to do skincare slugging the right way? 

  1. Apply a ceramide-based moisturizer on dry, flaky, eczema-prone skin on the body. 
  2. Seal the products in with a thick layer of white soft paraffin, Vaseline, or a petrolatum based ointment. 

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