Slugging (No Snails Included)

Up until a few years ago I had always been a balanced-to-combination skin person. Dehydration was never an issue, so I didn’t have to worry about itchy, flaky skin. But after I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, my medication started triggering some uncomfortable changes. My skin’s moisture barrier was no longer functioning in quite the same way. To combat my new constantly tight, inflamed skin, I started sealing in my other skincare products with heavier balms that house ingredients known as “occlusives.” (Occlusives are ingredients that act like seals or barriers, which I’ll discuss more in a moment.) This new ritual had my skin glowing and dewy again in no time. 

I recently discovered that this practice is nothing new and has been trending in the K-Beauty world (a clear sign I was on the right track). It’s called “Slugging.” However, in the Korean Beauty Sphere, it’s accomplished by layering on petroleum-based occlusive products like vaseline, which if you’ve seen our Never MadeWith List, you know we’ve banned petroleum (you can read more about why we banned it here).

Even though we’ve banned petroleum, we can still partake in this ritual. At MADEWITH, the occlusives we opt for are balms derived from botanical sources. 

So what makes slugging such a beneficial practice for the hydration-impaired? Balanced skincare has an appropriate blend of:

1  – humectants (water & water binding ingredients)
2 – emollients (smoothing & softening ingredients)
3 – occlusives (sealing & barrier ingredients)

If your skin’s moisture barrier isn’t functioning properly, your body’s own humectants, as well as humectants you’re applying from skincare, will evaporate quickly. Using a separate occlusive will seal in those humectants and slow transdermal moisture loss. 

Occlusives are generally made of impermeable oils, waxes, or fats that create a barrier between your epidermis (outermost layer of your skin) and the environment. They act like a bandage allowing your skin to repair itself by keeping harmful particles out of your compromised moisture barrier. While they do protect your skin from moisture loss, occlusives alone don’t moisturize. For best results use slugging as your final step to seal in all of the benefits of your other skincare products.

Slugging your skin to boost moisture retention has some other great benefits too! When your skin’s hydration levels are balanced, lines and wrinkles are naturally diminished. You’ll also notice a more glowing complexion and reduced dullness. Even elasticity and density are improved, since a healthy moisture barrier protects collagen.

Most skin states can benefit from slugging, especially in very cold, dry weather, or even after extreme sun exposure. However, those that are prone to acne or pore impactions may want to choose their occlusive source carefully. If you’re unsure of which balm texture is right for your skin state, just ask your mentor for guidance. And if you don’t yet have a mentor, make sure to set up your skin profile so your mentor can help guide you.

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