Can Face Slugging Make You Break Out?

Megan Dominion

Yes, slugging can cause breakouts. Slugging is not an effective skincare method for all skin types and if you don’t watch out, this skincare trend can leave your skin with more of the very break-outs you are trying to avoid in the first place. But let’s take a look at what slugging is and who exactly should be avoiding this beauty trend.

The wording being added to many skincare fans vocabulary, ‘slugging’ is a petroleum jelly facial. You heard that right! With the hashtag #slugging garnering over 450 million views on TikTok, slugging is a lauded beauty trend to fight off acne breakouts and dry skin by hydrating your epidermis.

Before you experiment with this very popular slugging trend on your own face, it helps to understand what exactly slugging is, how it works, and how it could potentially affect your skin.

Hold on to your regular skin care products for a moment, and let’s take a closer look.

Woman with clean face

What is Slugging?

Slugging comes from the word ‘slug,’ a mollusk known to secrete a gooey mucus trail, and this is where the spectacle of giving your face that extra shiny glow comes from, thanks to the petroleum jelly’s shiny yet slimy texture.

Slugging works by spreading petroleum jelly throughout your face during your nighttime skincare routine. By coating your face with petrolatum (whether it’s with Aquaphor or Vaseline), it is said to moisturize the skin and intercept transepidermal water loss (TEWL).

Coating the face with petroleum jelly to lock in moisture and repair your skin barrier is the main takeaway on how slugging works.

Is slugging good for acne?

Theoretically speaking, slugging should help you prevent breakouts. Slugging is the polarizing opposite of comedogenic, a fancy word for something that causes blackheads, acne, or breakouts through blocked pores. According to the Cleveland Clinic, slugging is beneficial by adding a defensive layer to the skin, and the petroleum jelly’s occlusive jelly-like substance keeps your face hydrated overnight.

Slugging is the perfect solution to H.P.D., which refers to hydration, protection, and damage repair. Dermatologist Amy Kassouf, MD1Amy Kassouf of Cleveland Clinic, confirms that slugging exhibits those three aspects. Slugging moisturizes the skin; your super-hydrated epidermis acts as an elastic sponge, protecting your skin from external elements that could irritate your skin, as well as repairing any damage brought on by skin dehydration during the day.

If you are someone who suffers from stress acne, pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, and other types of breakouts, don’t fret. There are plenty of ways to find the perfect solution for your beloved face, and slugging is just one of those peculiar skincare recommendations to try out.

How To Safely Slug Your Face

So you’re convinced on trying out slugging for yourself, and feel as though your face could do with an intense miosture facial? Here’s our top tips on how to get the most benefit and least risk of adverse effects from slugging:

1. Clean your face

First things first, wash the face with your favourite facial cleanser thoroughly. It is a huge no-no to apply petroleum jelly onto the face immediately without cleansing. You’ll just be trapping dirt between your skin and the petroleum this way. In fact, slugging is recommended as the last step of your nighttime skincare routine. After cleansing, apply any of your usual serums or toners you’d like to lock into your skin during your slugging, and apply a moisturizer.

Warning: Avoid your facial skin care products with active ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acid, beta-hydroxy acid, and retinoids, as they could irritate the skin more than usual once the petroleum jelly coats these ingredients and locks them in.

2. Slather a decent amount of petroleum jelly over your recently applied skincare products

The next step is dependent on your preference. If you don’t mind the thick, slimy, and sticky sensation of petroleum jelly, then apply a generous amount of this product over your entire face. But if you don’t want to, you can simply apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the dry and thin parts of your face.

Here’s a tip: focus on the lips and eyelids.

3. Wait for half an hour

Don’t hit the hay immediately. Give at least 30 minutes for the petroleum jelly to sink in and slowly take effect. Then, we recommend prepping the bed with a towel over your pillow to prevent making a mess, and try wearing a nightcap to protect your hair too.

Read: Why we recommend sleeping on silk

4. Sleep well

Of course, getting at least seven to ten hours of sleep is beneficial when it comes to skincare. You’ll be spellbound at how sleep improves your skin.

5. Wash your face after slugging when you wake up

Greet the morning with a decent face wash so that the remaining petroleum jelly are rinsed off properly. Most importantly, it is through thorough cleansing that you’ll be washing away dead skin cells, bacteria, and certain oils.


So, Is Slugging Good For Your Skin?

Touted as a skincare regimen to keep your face hydrated and acne-free, slugging’s effects to ward off breakouts depends wholly on your skin. Get in touch with your skin first. Then, be the judge if face slugging is beneficial or not.

Unpleasant effects on the skin may have something to do with your genes, unwashed makeup, clogged pores, or if you have an existing skin condition. Whether you have sensitive, normal, dry, oily, or both dry and oily skin, outcomes to expect from slugging will vary.

Can you Slug your skin on top of acne?

No, we would really advise against this – petroleum jelly is noncomedogenic and may contribute to even more clogged pores than your acne has already caused. Additionally, if you have active acne, you would be trapping that bacteria underneath the petroleum jelly which could just lead to even more acne. Rather skip the slugging until your acne is no longer active.

How Often should you slug your skin?

This is once again completely dependant on your skin. If you try it once and get amazing results, maybe try incororpate it into your face routine once a week and see how it goes.

Who Should NOT Try Slugging?

Slugging is practically safe because petroleum jelly itself is used for treating itchy, dry, scaly, or rough skin, as well as minor skin problems. It is a simple skin treatment or ointment. However, perhaps think twice about this particular treatment if you have:


Infected skin
Open wounds and other types of ongoing infection on your skin shouldn’t be coated with petroleum jelly. Chances are the infection would only get worse as you’d be trapping the infection underneath a protective layer..

Acne-prone skin
If you have sensitive skin or easily get acne, always consider the worst possibilities before trying out slugging.

Oily skin
There is already a generous amount and strong lipid layer from oily skin, and another dose of lipid layer won’t do any better for the skin. Hence, oily skin types would most likely get poor results in trying out the slugging trend. Try these other skincare ingredients for oily skin rather.

Slugging & oily skin

Slugging is not good for oily skin. To reiterate the question, “does slugging cause acne?” It’s a big, very likely, yes for those with oily skin, unfortunately. According to Everyday Health, slugging may entrap dead skin cells, debris, oils, and bacteria that would likely lead to breakouts, especially for those with oily and acne-prone skin. So while this beauty trend sounds weirdly fun, perhaps skip it from your to-do list and listen to what works or doesn’t work for your skin first.

Let’s digress: it’s not the end of the world if you suffer from oily skin. Back away from the slugging skin care trend and try out these alternatives to managing breakouts instead.

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Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.