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SLUGGING: Allergen or Not An Allergen?

Not An Allergen

Slugging

If using a very pure, allergen-free, non-acnegenic petrolatum-based product like Boo-Boo Balm, slugging is not a top skin allergen and could be wonderful for very dry or barrier-damaged skin.

This skincare trend went viral on social media fairly recently and was attributed to the Korean beauty universe but it has been a generations-long standard practice in Black communities.

Slugging entails covering your face with a thin layer of an occlusive ointment like petrolatum or other petrolatum-based moisturizer (alone or layered over another moisturizer-humectant-occlusive product like virgin coconut oil) to give skin an intensive moisturizing treatment that locks in water and helps the barrier layer heal.

Slugging might have similar benefits to moist wound healing. Moist wound healing is what it sounds like: keeping a skin injury in an optimally moist environment which is known to prevent tissue dehydration and cellular death, help the body break down damaged tissue naturally, promote the presence and flow of nutrients that encourage healing, reduce pain, repair the damaged barrier (which also prevents infection), allow epithelial cells to migrate better to repair the wounded area, and allow the skin to renew itself.

By keeping skin in a moist environment, slugging might be able to provide similar benefits, especially to skin with a damaged barrier layer such as very dry or over-treated skin, skin healing from topical steroid overuse, or skin with conditions like contact dermatitis, eczema (atopic dermatitis), or psoriasis.

Some guidelines when slugging:

  • Use a product that is free of top contact allergens like lanolin, beeswax, fragrance, dyes, parabens, phenoxyethanol, and preservatives. A moist environment might be great for wound healing but it can increase the likelihood of contact allergies or worsen existing ones.
  • To prevent irritation, do not “slug” over products with active ingredients like retinols or alpha hydroxy acids, or medications like topical steroids. At the very least check with your dermatologist because many hours of these actives in this “sealed” environment may not be ideal or could even be harmful.
  • A moist environment can also be ideal for microbes to flourish (Boo-Boo Balm’s monolaurin is your friend here!) so make sure to do it over cleansed skin.

If you are interested in slugging, here’s how:

  1. Cover your pillowcase with a white cotton or silk cloth that you don’t mind sticking to or getting some product on.
  2. Before bed, start by cleansing with a VMV cream cleanser or scrub. Do not thoroughly dry your skin.
  3. Massage Know-It-Oil or Oil’s Well virgin coconut oil over your face while it is still slightly damp from cleansing.
  4. Apply about a pea- or bean-sized amount of Boo-Boo Balm all over your face.
  5. When waking, go about your normal skincare routine.

If you have specific skin concerns, as always, discuss slugging with your dermatologist before trying it out!

If you have a history of sensitive skin…

don’t guess! Random trial and error can cause more damage. Ask your dermatologist about a patch test.

Subscribe to VMVinSKIN.com and our YouTube channel for more hypoallergenic tips and helpful “skinformation”!

To shop our selection of hypoallergenic products, visit vmvhypoallergenics.com. Need help? Ask us in the comments section below, or for more privacy (such as when asking us to customize recommendations for you based on your patch test results) contact us by email, or drop us a private message on Facebook.

For more:

Main References: 

Regularly published reports on the most common allergens by the North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (based on over 28,000 patch test results, combined), plus other studies. Remember, we are all individuals — just because an ingredient is not on the most common allergen lists does not mean you cannot be sensitive to it, or that it will not become an allergen. These references, being based on so many patch test results, are a good basis but it is always best to get a patch test yourself.

  1. DeKoven JG, Warshaw EM, Reeder MJ, Atwater AR, Silverberg JI, Belsito DV, Sasseville D, Zug KA, Taylor JS, Pratt MD, Maibach HI, Fowler JF Jr, Adler BL, Houle MC, Mowad CM, Botto N, Yu J, Dunnick CA. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results: 2019-2020. Dermatitis. 2023 Mar-Apr;34(2):90-104. doi: 10.1089/derm.2022.29017.jdk. Epub 2023 Jan 19. PMID: 36917520.
  2. Uter W, Wilkinson SM, Aerts O, Bauer A, Borrego L, Brans R, Buhl T, Dickel H, Dugonik A, Filon FL, Garcìa PM, Giménez-Arnau A, Patruno C, Pesonen M, Pónyai G, Rustemeyer T, Schubert S, Schuttelaar MA, Simon D, Stingeni L, Valiukevičienė S, Weisshaar E, Werfel T, Gonçalo M; ESSCA and EBS ESCD working groups, and the GEIDAC. Patch test results with the European baseline series, 2019/20-Joint European results of the ESSCA and the EBS working groups of the ESCD, and the GEIDAC. Contact Dermatitis. 2022 Oct;87(4):343-355. doi: 10.1111/cod.14170. Epub 2022 Jun 24. PMID: 35678309. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35678309/
  3. DeKoven JG, Silverberg JI, Warshaw EM, Atwater AR, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results: 2017-2018. Dermatitis. 2021 Mar-Apr 01;32(2):111-123.
  4. DeKoven JG, Warshaw EM, Zug KA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results: 2015-2016. Dermatitis. 2018 Nov/Dec;29(6):297-309.
  5. DeKoven JG, Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group Patch Test Results 2013-2014. Dermatitis. 2017 Jan/Feb;28(1):33-46.
  6. Warshaw, E.M., Maibach, H.I., Taylor, J.S., et al. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012. Dermatitis. 2015; 26: 49-59.
  7. W Uter et al. The European Baseline Series in 10 European Countries, 2005/2006–Results of the European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies (ESSCA). Contact Dermatitis 61 (1), 31-38.7 2009.
  8. Wetter, DA et al. Results of patch testing to personal care product allergens in a standard series and a supplemental cosmetic series: An analysis of 945 patients from the Mayo Clinic Contact Dermatitis Group, 2000-2007. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Nov;63(5):789-98.
  9. Warshaw EM, Buonomo M, DeKoven JG, et al. Importance of Supplemental Patch Testing Beyond a Screening Series for Patients With Dermatitis: The North American Contact Dermatitis Group Experience. JAMA Dermatol. 2021 Dec 1;157(12):1456-1465.
  10. Verallo-Rowell VM. The validated hypoallergenic cosmetics rating system: its 30-year evolution and effect on the prevalence of cosmetic reactions. Dermatitis 2011 Apr; 22(2):80-97.
  11. Ruby Pawankar et al. World Health Organization. White Book on Allergy 2011-2012 Executive Summary.
  12. Misery L et al. Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist. Int J Dermatol. 2011 Aug;50(8):961-7.
  13. Warshaw EM1, Maibach HI, Taylor JS, Sasseville D, DeKoven JG, Zirwas MJ, Fransway AF, Mathias CG, Zug KA, DeLeo VA, Fowler JF Jr, Marks JG, Pratt MD, Storrs FJ, Belsito DV. North American contact dermatitis group patch test results: 2011-2012.Dermatitis. 2015 Jan-Feb;26(1):49-59.
  14. Warshaw, E et al. Allergic patch test reactions associated with cosmetics: Retrospective analysis of cross-sectional data from the North American Contact Dermatitis Group, 2001-2004. J AmAcadDermatol 2009;60:23-38.
  15. Foliaki S et al. Antibiotic use in infancy and symptoms of asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, and eczema in children 6 and 7 years old: International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood Phase III. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2009 Nov;124(5):982-9.
  16. Kei EF et al. Role of the gut microbiota in defining human health. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther. 2010 Apr; 8(4): 435–454.
  17. Thavagnanam S et al. A meta-analysis of the association between Caesarean section and childhood asthma. Clin Exp Allergy. 2008;38(4):629–633.
  18. Marks JG, Belsito DV, DeLeo VA, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch-test results, 1998 to 2000. Am J Contact Dermat. 2003;14(2):59-62.
  19. Warshaw EM, Belsito DV, Taylor JS, et al. North American Contact Dermatitis Group patch test results: 2009 to 2010. Dermatitis. 2013;24(2):50-99.
  20. Verallo-Rowell V. M, Katalbas S.S. & Pangasinan J. P. Natural (Mineral, Vegetable, Coconut, Essential) Oils and Contact Dermatitis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 16,51 (2016) . https://doi.org/10.1007/s11882-016-0630-9.
  21. Park G, Oh DS, Lee MG, Lee CE, Kim YU. 6-Shogaol, an active compound of ginger, alleviates allergic dermatitis-like skin lesions via cytokine inhibition by activating the Nrf2 pathway. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2016 Nov 1;310:51-59. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2016.08.019. Epub 2016 Aug 22. PMID: 27562088.
  22. de Groot AC. Monographs in Contact Allergy, Volume II – Fragrances and Essential Oils. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group; 2019.
  23. De Groot AC. Monographs in Contact Allergy Volume I. Non-Fragrance Allergens in Cosmetics (Part I and Part 2). Boca Raton, Fl, USA: CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group, 2018.
  24. Zhu TH, Suresh R, Warshaw E, et al. The Medical Necessity of Comprehensive Patch Testing. Dermatitis. 2018 May/Jun;29(3):107-111.

Want more great information on contact dermatitis? Check out the American Contact Dermatitis SocietyDermnet New Zealand, the Contact Dermatitis Institute, and your country’s contact dermatitis association.


DrVR LVB 8rDF Bertotto8106e 5May2014 20191023 e1705647730526

Laura is our “dew”-good CEO at VMV Hypoallergenics and eldest daughter of VMV’s founding dermatologist-dermatopathologist. She has two children, Madison and Gavin, and works at VMV with her family and VMV’s signature “skinfatuated, skintellectual, skingenious” team. In addition to saving the world’s skin, Laura is passionate about health, cultural theory, human rights, happiness, and spreading goodness (like a VMV cream)!

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