Unpacking how eczema impacts long-term mental health, even when skin is calm.
Published On: Nov 30, 2022
Last Updated On: Nov 30, 2022
Slugging is one of the latest TikTok trends, but it’s nothing new to people with eczema. In fact, eczema warriors may have even been the original “sluggers.” In this article, we explore what slugging is, what the research has to say about it and tips on how to do it.
Slugging is the process of applying a moisturizer to your face, then coating it with a layer of petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline). You can slug at any time, but most people do it before going to bed. Slugging gets its name from the skin’s shiny, slug-like look and texture once all the products have been applied.
Slugging is nothing new to the eczema community. Dermatologists have been recommending it for years, not just for the face, but for the whole body. People in the Black community may also be familiar with this practice, also known as “greasing up.”1The practice has recently gained wider popularity on TikTok and other social media. TikTokers who swear by it say that it refreshes their skin and gives them a healthy glow.
Petroleum jelly has long been a favorite of many dermatologists. There is sound research behind this recommendation. Research has shown that using petroleum jelly helps the skin retain water.2 This is great news for anyone with dry skin, but especially for people with eczema who have a compromised skin barrier.
Petroleum jelly can also help to speed skin barrier recovery.3 It is often recommended for wound care after outpatient surgeries.4 If that’s not enough, it has also been found to increase the skin’s production of anti-microbial peptides.4 This means it may actually help to boost the skin’s own ability to fight foreign bacteria or viruses and could explain why it’s helpful for post-operative patients. This is an important benefit for people with moderate or severe eczema who struggle with infections.
Want to try slugging? We asked Dr. Sabra Leitenberger, associate professor of pediatric dermatology at Oregon Health and Science University, for her advice on slugging best practices for people with eczema specifically.
The good news is Dr. Leitenberger recommends petroleum jelly to her patients. In fact, “Petroleum jelly is my favorite moisturizer!” she said. While some people recommend applying petroleum jelly over another moisturizer, Dr. Leitenberger explained it can also be used on its own.
First, you’ll need to source the right type of petroleum jelly. “Be sure to check labels and ensure the product being used is 100% pure white petrolatum — this should be the only ingredient,” said Dr. Leitenberger. “Some white petrolatum products include the addition of fragrance, which should be avoided.” If you’re looking for a product, this one has received the NEA Seal of AcceptanceTM. White petroleum is also more refined and therefore does not contain chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which can be toxic.
How often should you slug? “It’s a good idea for people with eczema to moisturize at least once daily regardless of whether they bathe or shower,” said Dr. Leitenberger. “Always moisturize immediately after contact with water to prevent rapid evaporation or skin drying. This includes bathing, hand washing or after wiping down a baby’s cheeks.”
In terms of how much to apply, Dr. Leitenberger recommended, “Enough to thinly cover the surface — the skin should look shiny. Generally, this is about 1.5 grams for the face and neck of an adult.”
Even though there are many benefits to using petroleum jelly for eczema, there are some potential drawbacks.
“Some people will find total body application of white petrolatum makes them feel hot, especially in warm summer months,” explained Dr. Leitenberger. “In these situations, I suggest use of white petrolatum only to areas that are especially prone to eczema like the elbows, ankles, hands and behind the knees. Then use a cream type of emollient for the rest of the skin.” Another drawback is that petrolatum is derived from petroleum. People who are concerned about this may try vegetable shortening or Un-Petroleum Multi-Purpose Jelly as recommended in this article by Dr. Margaret Lee, assistant professor and director of pediatric dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine.
While the term “slugging” might be new to some, it has been long been used by eczema warriors to soothe flaring skin and lock in moisture. As long as you use the right product, this is one viral skin-care trend that’s dermatologist-approved.
1. Nasheed, J. You say ‘slugging’, I say ‘greasing up’. The Cut. February 16, 2022. Accessed November 17, 2022. https://www.thecut.com/2022/02/hey-tiktok-what-is-slugging.html
2. Lodén M. The increase in skin hydration after application of emollients with different amounts of lipids. Acta Derm Venereol. 1992;72(5):327-30. PMID: 1361276. Accessed November 17, 2022. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1361276/
3. Ghadially R, Halkier-Sorensen L, Elias PM. Effects of petrolatum on stratum corneum structure and function. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1992;26(3 Pt 2):387-96. doi:10.1016/0190-9622(92)70060-s4. Czarnowicki T, Malajian D, Khattri S, et al. Petrolatum: Barrier repair and antimicrobial responses underlying this “inert” moisturizer. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2016 Apr;137(4):1091-1102.e7. doi:10.1016/j.jaci.2015.08.013