The practice of “slugging” involves spreading a layer of an occlusive (typically a petroleum jelly like Vaseline, or a healing ointment like the popular ones made by Aquaphor or CeraVe) over the entire face while sleeping at night. It has a close cousin in the beauty routines of the mid-1900s, when women wore thick cold creams on their skin overnight to prevent wrinkles.
Why try slugging? The benefits are twofold: Not only does it “hold in” all the moisture from the products you apply underneath, it also prevents dry air from further dehydrating skin.
“If you have severely dry skin that struggles to maintain hydration, slugging could be a great option to help prevent water loss, keeping skin moist and nourished,” said Geeta Yadav, a board-certified dermatologist in Toronto. “It’s also great for those who have intentionally caused skin damage through in-office aesthetic treatments like peels and laser resurfacing treatments, or those who have unintentionally injured their skin with severe sunburn or through overexfoliation with an OTC or prescription retinoid,” Yadav said.
But not everyone is as big a proponent of slugging as the numerous positive TikToks might make you assume. Writer Jessica DeFino, who asks her readers to Please Stop Slugging, even points out that petroleum jelly—which is what Vaseline and similar occlusives are made of — is a purified petrochemical, a fossil fuel and therefore a contributor to climate change. And just the idea of smearing Vaseline over your face might have you imagining the breakouts that will appear soon after. Plus, we’re all probably using too many products anyway, so is there any real benefit to adding another one?
Will slugging make you break out?
First, some good news: petrolatum is noncomedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores and cause breakouts. But there’s a caveat. Depending on your skin type, it may still contribute to acne.
“Even though it’s not comedogenic, as an occlusive, it can trap oils or other comedogenic ingredients in the skin and could potentially contribute to breakouts,” said Hadley King, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and a clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
This means that slugging is best for those with normal to dry skin types, or those experiencing irritation and eczema. King advises that those with combination or acne-prone skin skip it, but others may find it beneficial.
“For dry skin, particularly in a dry environment that will exacerbate transepidermal water loss and dryness of the skin, applying an occlusive like petrolatum can be very helpful,” King said.
Yadav likes to think of slugging as a “factory reset” for skin, giving skin the opportunity to heal itself. “Think about how you help heal a wound on your skin, like a cut: You slather it in a product like Neosporin (which not only contains healing antibiotics, but petrolatum), then cover it to keep it protected. Slugging works similarly — keeping the skin moist, then protecting that moisture with an occlusive formula,” Yadav said.
What’s the best product to use for slugging?
While petroleum jelly alone is most often used, it might not actually be the best option. “For slugging, the emphasis is on the occlusive, but ideally this still should be combined with humectants and emollients for optimal moisturizing results,” King said. Like what, then?
“Occlusives are oils and waxes, which form an inert layer on the skin and physically block transepidermal water loss,” King said. This includes petroleum, but also other substances like beeswax, mineral oil, silicones, lanolin and zinc oxide. Humectants include hyaluronic acid and glycerin, and emollients include cholesterol, squalene, fatty acids, fatty alcohols and ceramides.
Yadav recommends using a product like SkinCeuticals Hydra Balm Moisturizing Ointment. “In addition to containing petrolatum, it has rose hip oil and squalane for added moisture. I use it on my patients to help them heal after more intensive procedures, like deeper chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing,” Yadav said.
If you’d prefer to avoid fossil fuel byproducts entirely but still want to try slugging, oils and thicker night creams are good alternatives to petrolatum, and can be used the same way.
Here’s how to do it (and how not to do it)
Whatever you choose to use, make sure you start with clean skin. Then, follow up a thin layer of hydrating moisturizer before sealing it in with your chosen occlusive. “Some suggest cleansing and going straight to the petrolatum-based product, but I disagree — if your skin is very dry, the occlusive will seal in that dryness,” Yadav said.
Be cautious if you’re using any topical prescription medications, since using an occlusive on top of them could increase their potency. Other strong ingredients, like AHAs, vitamin C and retinoids should be skipped, too. “By sealing in ingredients that can irritate the skin, you’re increasing the likelihood of sensitizing your complexion and diminishing the moisture barrier,” Yadav said.
Slugging might not be the best choice for every skin type, but for those with dry, irritated skin that needs some TLC, it can seal in hydration and help skin heal.
Getting chapped or dry lips is truly one of the greatest humbling experiences — and one that nearly everyone can relate to. After all, I’m yet to meet anyone, regardless of gender and age, who doesn’t own and use a lip balm (even if it’s just seasonally) when the going gets tough, or when temperatures start to drop.
“Lips are highly specialized mucosal skin that take a beating from overuse during speaking, to being the frequent target of trauma — biting,” says dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “They are prone to dryness and easily irritated by both the environment and products that are used on the face for anti-aging, like retinols and hydroxy acids.”
And those of us prone to dry or chapped lips understand the delicate dance of autumn and wintertime hydration, but not all lip balms are created equal. Here, we asked three dermatologists for their take on what makes a lip conditioner effective, as well as their favorite ones currently on the market. Read on for your softest lips ever.
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask
Have chapped or chronically dry lips that just won’t go away? Try an overnight mask, says New York City-based dermatologist, Dr. Morgan Rabach. “We lose moisture overnight as we sleep, especially with AC or heat,” she explains, pointing out that we aren’t hydrating (as in drinking water) as we sleep, either — another key issue for the driest lips. “A sleeping mask really helps trap moisture and prevent lips from getting overdried.” She recommends the antioxidant and vitamin C-rich Laniege Lip Sleeping Mask to her patients to help soften and hydrate lips. Bonus: it has an eight-hour time-release, so you’ll get layer upon layer of the juicy goodness while sleeping your way to softer lips.
When it comes to supporting the skin’s moisture levels, hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that’s as good as it gets to “drive hydration and provide a source of continued moisture,” says Dr. Hartman. Brimming with a mighty blend of goji, acai, blueberry, and blackberry extracts, mixed with hyaluronic acid, topical melatonin, and Persian silk tree extract, this heavenly-scented formulation of chamomile and lavender plumps, protects, and provides anti-aging benefits while you kick back, relax, and go to sleep.
Data doesn’t lie: In a clinical four-week trial, people using this lip balm daily described improved hydration, smoothness and lip plumpness, which is not at all surprising when you consider that the formula is filled with hyaluronic acid, konjac root, and water-attracting vitamin E. But if your lips still don’t seem to improve, it may be time to see a dermatologist, says Dr. Rabach. “It could be a precancerous spot called actinic keratosis, or other skin cancer.”
This dermatologist favorite — all three dermatologists InStyle spoke to recommended this product — proves that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep your lips healthy. In fact, Houston-based dermatologist Dr. DiAnne Davis calls it her “go-to moisturizer” for lips, thanks to its glycerin-filled formulation that draws in moisture, as well as other derm-approved ingredients, like shea butter and beeswax. “It provides a protective barrier for overall lip health,” the MD adds.
Is it pricey? Yes. Is it also worth every penny? Also, yes. Velvety soft with a minty aroma, this balm delivers hydration and healing instantly with an infusion of glycerin. “It’s a great humectant because it works to pull water into the skin and lips like a sponge,” raves Dr. Davis. The formula is brewed with aloe leaf, seaweed, eucalyptus, and algae extracts, along with castor, sesame and sunflower seed oils, which is basically like a tall glass of water for parched lips. To boot, it also strengthens the natural moisture barrier to protect against future environmental damage.
“Maintenance of a good skin barrier and constant hydration of the lips are paramount to keeping the lips luscious and plump,” explains Dr. Hartman, who prefers balms over other textures. When in need, he reaches for one from Laniege (the brand’s second appearance on this list — they know lip conditioners!) on the daily to keep the hydration pumping. “Go for a lip balm with shea butter and ceramides,” he suggests. And if you don’t know when to start, the appropriate time is right now. “It’s better to get ahead of lip dryness because once it starts and gets bad, it can be difficult to control,” he cautions.
Just because the seasons are changing doesn’t mean we can stop forgetting about sun protection. This lip protectant boasts 30 SPF, along with petroleum, making it a solid option for summer, winter, and every day in between. “Apply it nightly to seal in moisture and smooth the lip surface overnight,” suggests Dr. Hartman.
With an unbeatable price and more than 80 years spent helping the world repair dry and chapped lips, Carmex’s classic balm glides onto lips with the greatest of soothing ease. Lanolin, beeswax, petrolatum, cacao seed butter, and camphor — an anti-inflammatory oil distilled from the bark and wood of a camphor tree — are the heavy hitting ingredients that work to calm angry lips and fight against further moisture loss.
This ultra-smooth, vegan lip butter is just what the doctor ordered to relieve chapped lips. Literally. “Use a thick moisturizing balm with shea butter or petrolatum,” recommends Dr. Rabach. And lucky for us, this creamy emollient is mixed with heavy doses of both to instantly moisturize and protect.
A brand adored by nearly everyone, dermatologists included, Vaseline’s petroleum jelly is a fall and winter classic for a reason. “If your lips get chapped, Vaseline is a favorite amount dermatologists,” says Dr. Davis, noting that the formulation contains 100% petroleum jelly, making it one of the purest and simplest — but completely effective — lip conditioners. “[The jelly] soothes the irritating symptoms someone may have, while also adding hydration,” she says.
T’is the season of flaky, chapped lips… which is why we keep our pockets, purses, and nightstands stocked with an arsenal of positively conditioning lip treatments. And you can trust I’ve tried every product under the sun: medicated balms, do-it-all salves, SPF spiked tubes, tasty, all-natural scrubs — I’ve even slapped on sheet masks made just for the mouth.
Here are some of mine, and ALLURE editors’ picks for this season:
Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm
Don’t let the millennial-friendly packaging fool you: Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm is widely loved for a reason. Not only does it work wonders on dry, cracked lips — as well as chapped areas anywhere on the body — but it’s also lightweight, non-sticky, and leaves behind a silky sheen that doesn’t disappear after an hour. You can’t go wrong with this one.
Nuxe Paris’s Reve De Miel Ultra Nourishing Lip Balm is a classic French pharmacy favorite that’s beloved by bloggers, YouTubers, and beauty editors alike. While it has a thick, balm-like consistency thanks to its beeswax base, the formula never feels greasy or chunky on your lips. Instead, it dries down to a subtle matte texture and restores moisture within minutes.
Kosasport’s LipFuel Hyaluronic Lip Balm glides on smoothly with zero stickiness, yet moisturizes like an overnight mask, thanks to heavy-duty hydrators, such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and konjac root. For anyone unfamiliar with the latter ingredient, it works by creating a gel-like barrier between the lips and outside aggressors that affect dryness. Choose between two shades (cool pink and dusty rose) and one clear option.
A 2019 Allure of Beauty winner, Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask works overtime to ensure lips are moisturized, supple, and smooth-as-silk by morning. Infused with berry-derived antioxidants and vitamin C, as well as its proprietary “moisture wrap” technology, you’ll notice a visible difference in dryness after just one use. The intoxicating fruity scent doesn’t hurt either, though if that’s not your jam, it also comes in vanilla and apple lime.
A word from Allure beauty editor Paige Stables: “Even though it’s designed to use as an overnight mask, I also love it during the day,” she says. “A thin layer of the antioxidant-rich balm adds the prettiest subtle sheen to lips, and it layers nicely with lipstick, too.”
Loaded with antioxidants and vitamins — including A, C, and E — Dr. Pawpaw’s Multipurpose Soothing Balm delivers an intense dose of nourishment to the lips, as well as anywhere else on the body that could use some T.L.C. Additionally, its main ingredient, plant-derived fermented pawpaw, is lauded for soothing dry, irritated lips on contact. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also fragrance-free and vegan-friendly, making it suitable for so many different people.
Shiseido’s Sun Protection Lip Treatment SPF 35 is everything you’d expect from a brand that takes sun protection so seriously. This sleek little tube contains a whopping SPF 35, thanks to a mixture of both chemical and physical protection. Amazingly, it doesn’t taste the least bit like sunscreen, though it can leave a subtle white cast (but it’s nothing a little bit of lipstick layering can’t fix).
Fresh’s Sugar Tinted Lip Treatments are a beauty editor staple, and it isn’t hard to understand why. They feel rich and moisturizing on lips, and depending on swipe strength, the color can range from a sheer tint to a juicier, more saturated sheen.
Sun Bum’s SPF 30 Mineral Lip Balm is zinc-based and made of minerals that soften and smooth lips. Additionally: skin-smoothing cocoa butter and SPF 30 protection — with a dash of vitamin E provide sun protection. Not to mention, this packaging is undeniably adorable.
By Terry’s Baume de Rose Balm is formulated with ceramides and shea butter that help repair lips’ natural moisture barrier, addressing the problem for the long term instead of just temporarily. It also layers well with lipstick, keeping lips moisturized without causing it to slip and slide around.
Yes to Coconut’s Lip Oil is a Best of Beauty award winner — and for good reason. The silky oil won’t disappear from lips the way other balms do. Instead, it leaves them pampered and glossy with a healthy, stick-free shine.
As far as we’re concerned, the only thing better than a lip balm is a tinted lip balm. Kiehl’s Butterstick Lip Treatment comes in five hues (plus one clear option). Add a side of protection — SPF 25 and antioxidants from lemon peel — and consider all your bases covered.
Dry lips, listen up. Coola’s Liplux SPF 30 Organic Lip Sunscreen contains pretty much every skin-softening ingredient imaginable: aloe, beeswax, coconut oil, raspberry seed oil, and jojoba seed oil. Not to mention, the aqua tube reminds us of days spent by the pool.
Clarins’ Instant Light Lip Oil is one of those products that we could keep smearing on our lips all day because it feels slick, smells like vanilla, and makes lips super shiny while hydrating them at the same time.
“Malin + Goetz’s Mojito Lip Balm is as shiny as a gloss, so it’s great as a last step in your makeup routine. Not only is it really nourishing, but it’s also incredibly slippery, which feels awesome on dry, parched lips.” — Sophia Panych, former digital deputy beauty director
Hourglass’s No. 28 Lip Treatment Oil is so good that you can slather it on before bed and still feel it on your lips the next morning. It’s a little sticky, so we find nighttime is the safest time of day to apply it without added mess. Plus, the gold applicator tip looks incredibly fancy.
Shea butter fans, listen up: Supergooop’s Açai Fusion Lip Balm contains the hydrating ingredient, plus a dose of SPF 30. Initially, the formula is a pale pink, but it sheers out to a nice, neutral glisten.
Carmex Lip Balm is an oldie but a goodie. The iconic formula (which contains petrolatum, menthol, and camphor) has been soothing cracked lips for almost 80 years. One application, and it’s no surprise why we keep going back to it every winter.
There’s a chance that Marc Jacobs’ Lip Lock SPF Lip Balm is the chicest lip balm we’ve ever laid eyes on — but it’s more than just a pretty face. It’s spiked with shea butter, avocado oil, and a sweet, minty flavor. Add the fact that it contains SPF 18 (not the recommended SPF 30, but still SPF, nonetheless), and you have yourself a balm that’s both sexy and smart.
Korres’s Lip Butter is as rich and creamy as the name suggests, which is precisely what makes this a coveted editor favorite. That, and the fact the gorgeous tints provide the perfect dose of color without skimping on moisture.
“Makeup artists love this balm for their male clients because it’s exceptionally hydrating but doesn’t leave any shine behind. After hearing that, I had to give it a try, and of course now I’m hooked. I use it when I’m wearing a bold lipstick. I put it on before I start my makeup and let it settle as I apply base, blush, and eye makeup. Once I’m ready for lipstick, my mouth is perfectly prepped.” — Sophia Panych
In addition to being insanely hydrating, Smith’s Rosebud Salve has the slightest hint of pink, making it one of the easiest way to boost your natural lip color if you’re going for a no-makeup makeup look. Makeup artist Diane Kendal keeps tins of the stuff in her kit at all times.
Almost every Allure editor has Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment floating around their houses. It’s great for every dry patch — elbows and knees in the winter, itchy skin in the summer — and takes off the most stubborn eye makeup. But we particularly love it best as a lip balm. It’s not the sexiest, but it really soaks into chapped skin.
RMS’s Beauty Lip & Skin Balm was created by makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift, whose celebrity clientele includes a lineup of former Victoria’s Secret bombshells (Gisele Bündchen, Miranda Kerr, Karolina Kurkova). It can’t exactly promise Angel status, but the organic coconut oil balm will keep parched lips soft and supple all day long.
La Mer’s The Lip Balm is a bit extravagant for an everyday lip product ($60, to be exact), but the marine extracts do a heck of a job healing severely parched lips in record time. Reserve the little pot as a nighttime treatment and lips will be soft and lush by morning — and remain that way all day long.
Drunk Elephant’s Lippe Lip Balm is short and squat, so the shape is more like a glue stick than a typical lip balm. The natural formula contains peptides, along with a bunch of moisturizing oils, so in theory, it should also ward off signs of aging in addition to keeping lips hydrated. It’s also lightweight and fairly matte, so your lips don’t end up looking overly glossy.