Slugging: Understanding the science behind the overnight skincare trend

Social media platforms are inundated with lifestyle and beauty advice. Now and then, a new trend emerges and takes the platform by storm. Slugging is one of those beauty trends that first emerged on some social media platforms and instantly became a part of many people’s nightly skincare routines.

Though the trend has gained immense traction in recent years, thanks to social media, the practice of slugging is not new. It is obvious to question the effectiveness since it is popularised through social media platforms, but the process of slugging does work for some.

The viral trend, which comes from the South Korean beauty world, involves slathering the face with a thin layer of rich ointments like Vaseline or Aquaphor at the end of the nightly skincare routine. These occlusive products prevent water loss, thereby imparting a ‘slug-like’ sheen to the skin. It makes the face look dewy, plump and hydrated.

The skin generally appears dull or dry when its top layer, also called the skin barrier, lacks the balance of keratinocytes (skin cells) and lipids. When the skin barrier gets damaged due to sun exposure, pollution, over-exfoliation and other factors, the lipids or the glue that keeps the outer layer intact starts depleting. This leads to water loss, leaving the skin dry and flaky.

Occlusives, used for slugging, rest on the surface of the skin, acting as a shield to prevent trans-epidermal water loss. They eventually make the skin look fresh and hydrated. Occlusives have nothing to do with moisturising, as the skin cannot absorb petroleum. They simply lock in the water, helping the skin retain moisture. Considering the process helps prevent water loss, slugging is ideal for those with dry skin. But it may not be suitable for naturally oily or, acne-prone skin, as occlusives may clog the pores, leading to irritation and increased risk of breakout. This night time routine is extremely beneficial for older people as the problem of water loss spikes with age.

However, one must not overdo it and should listen to the skin when including this routine in their daily skincare regime. In winter months, the frequency can be increased as the skin loses water easily due to dry and harsh weather. In the summer and rainy months, the process should be limited to once or twice in a week. This is because in the hotter months, the skin naturally produces more oil, and the rainy season is often accompanied by extreme humidity, causing the skin to produce excessive oil.

Above all, it should be done correctly for maximum effectiveness and to reduce the chances of any side-effects. The skin works harder at night time to repair itself, so slugging at night is the best way to get maximum output. One must start by cleaning the skin properly to avoid any dust or germs getting trapped in the outer layer. After that comes moisturising, followed by applying a thin layer of Vaseline or an occlusive of your choice. In the morning, cleanse the skin to remove any excess product and carry on with the normal daytime skincare routine.  Without proper moisturisation, slugging won’t be effective. In the case of sensitive skin, avoid slugging with retinoids as it may lead to irritation.

Slugging is safe and has been recommended by experts for decades. It is an affordable and effective method to restore skin moisture. The only thing one must consider is the type of occlusives used for slugging.

The author of this article is Priyanki Mehrotra, Deputy General Manager, Consumer Products Division, Ginni Filaments Ltd.

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