Slugging With Retinol – Is It a Bad Idea? Expert Advice!

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Beauty hacks come and go in this fast-paced online world of viral videos, but there’s one in particular that doesn’t look like it is going to disappear any time soon. 

That’s because the latest K-Beauty trend, known as slugging, has the ability to leave your skin not only feeling plump, fresh, and dewy. But is slugging good for your skin if you also use retinol, Tretinoin, or any of the other retinoids?

In this article, I’ll take a close look at slugging with retinol.

I’ve surveyed the experts and they’ve warned that if you’re using retinol or Tret, you should not be slugging at the same time.

I’ll explain in detail below.


Meet the Experts

What is Slugging?

#Slugging has taken the world by storm over the last few years, with over 800 million views on TikTok alone. The process is simple, and in many cases, dermatologists approve.

As Dr. Alpana Mohta explains slugging involves, “applying a thick layer of petroleum jelly or a similar occlusive product to the face before sleep, and is becoming more popular.” Petroleum jelly like Vaseline, or Aquaphor is applied before bed and washed off thoroughly in the morning.

Slugging creates a barrier on the skin to lock in moisture and protect it from the environment.”

Is Slugging OK for all Skin Types?

The majority of dermatologists agree that slugging is suitable to do for most skin types, unless you are suffering from cystic acne, or have a history of oily skin with pores that clog easily.

Dr. Mhota warns those with oily or combination skin not to slug their skin. As she says, “While slugging might work for dry or dehydrated skin, it’s a complete no-no for people with oily to combination skin, as slugging can lead to negative reactions or breakouts. If you notice any irritation or clogged pores, it may be best to stick to a more traditional moisturizing routine.”

While slugging might work for dry or dehydrated skin, it’s a complete no-no for people with oily to combination skin

Dr. Alpana Mhota

Slugging can interfere with other skincare products that many of us use, including Retinol, Retin-A Tretinoin, and other Retinoids.

Slugging With Retinol

Slugging isn’t a beauty hack that you should be doing every night if you’re already using retinol. That’s because it is possible that you will increase the risk of further irritation, especially if your skin is peeling.

This is why dermatologists encourage sluggers to avoid slugging while using retinol. As Dr. Elizabeth Hawkes states, “Applying [petroleum jelly] over potentially irritating ingredients like retinol or
hydroxy acids could lead to irritation.”

Dr. Enrizza Factor agrees that we should skip the slugging while using Tret or peels. She explains that “Although petroleum jelly products are non-comedogenic, they can trap bacteria and dead skin cells worsening acne. Never slug when using active ingredients such as retinoids, salicylic, glycolic, or lactic acids.”

The reason is that skin care products that include retinol and other retinoids, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or AHAs/BHAs could make these active ingredients become even more potent if you use them with slugging.

They’re not designed to be sealed against your skin with a jelly barrier all night long!

And absorbing them more potently into your skin could lead to developing irritation, inflammation, or even breakouts.

Never slug when using active ingredients such as retinoids, salicylic, glycolic, or lactic acids.

Dr. Enrizza Factor

Slugging and Breakouts

There’s confusion when it comes to petroleum jelly and breakouts. Petroleum jelly is non-comedogenic, so it shouldn’t cause breakouts.


Not exactly. Petroleum jelly itself is non-comedogenic, but the barrier it creates can interfere with other skincare products, and the natural oils and dead skin cells on your skin. They can’t easily shed through the barrier created by the petroleum jelly. They can end up clogging your pores and leading to acne.

Dr. Mhota says to keep an eye on our skin. “If you notice any irritation or clogged pores, it may be best to stick to a more traditional moisturizing routine.”

Slugging with petroleum jelly basically adds a protective layer to the surface of your skin to seal in moisture, as well as protect it from environmental elements. 

This makes it an effective solution if your skin is in need of hydration. Slugging can also work to repair skin damage, such as acne scarring. Click to view our article, Is Slugging Good For Acne?

What About Tret? Can You Slug Over Tretinoin?

Tretinoin is a prescription-strength retinoid and is more potent than the standard retinol like Olay Regenerist we all use. If you’ve got a prescription for tretinoin, you should certainly speak with your physician before slugging.

You’ll need to be even more careful with Tret than you would be with other retinol products.

This means that if you have only just started using tretinoin, then it is suggested that you need to steer clear of doing any slugging until your skin gets used to your prescription and until your dermatologist says it’s ok. 

After a few weeks, or when your skin settles down completely, you can potentially slug your skin on the nights that you’re not using your tretinoin. Just to make sure that it works on your skin.

The Power of Tretinoin and Slugging Together

You’ll be pleased to know though, that some Reddit users have reported that slugging makes their tretinoin work on a whole new level. This is especially true when it’s done using Aquaphor, which also contains pro-vitamin B5, glycerin, bisabolol, and lanolin alcohol, along with petrolatum.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment, Advanced Therapy Skin Protectant, Dry Skin Body Moisturizer, Multi-Purpose Healing Ointment, For Dry, Cracked Skin & Minor Cuts & Burns, 14 Oz Jar
  • ONE ESSENTIAL SOLUTION: Aquaphor is one...
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However, you should still be aware that doing so does come at a risk. So, you should only consider slugging after using tretinoin if your skin has settled down, you don’t have any issues with peeling skin, and your skin is really dry, and it’s in real need of a moisture boost. 

And you should speak to your doctor before starting the Tret/Slugging cycle.

You should also make sure that your tretinoin has been fully absorbed before you start slugging. To be on the safe side, it would probably be best to wait at least 30 to 45 minutes after your tretinoin application before you apply your slugging layer.

In addition, you should not be slugging very often if you’re going down this path.

Lasting Finish

Skin slugging has become an extremely popular beauty hack for a reason. That’s because using petroleum jelly as a skin soother and protector isn’t anything new — in fact, your grandma probably did some slugging at some point when she was younger (it just wasn’t called that).

But if you are looking to try slugging and use retinol, you’ll have to be cautious. Don’t slug on the same day you use retinol, and wash your face thoroughly after slugging. Talk to your doctor if you want to try slugging with Tretinoin or any more powerful retinoids.

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).