Should you add under-eye slugging to your skincare routine? What experts say

Skincare slugging has become popular in recent years thanks to the K-beauty community and TikTok, though it’s actually been used in the Afro-Caribbean community for decades (just without the weird name).

Slugging involves using an occlusive product like oil or wax – petroleum jelly i.e. Vaseline is often used – as the last step in your evening skincare routine. This acts as a barrier on your skin, sealing in hydration and preventing moisture loss, enhancing the effects of any products underneath, and supposedly leaving you with baby soft skin in the morning.

With 450million views on TikTok, the beauty world has gone crazy for it, but recently, people have been posting about under-eye slugging, where – you guessed it – you specifically target the eye area.

Some TikTok users are raving about it as an anti-aging technique, while others are posting in horror about the side effects – namely, the appearance of milia, or milk spots.

So, what’s the deal? Should you join the under-eye slugging hype, or stay far, far away?

What are the benefits of under-eye slugging?

‘The skin under our eyes is incredibly thin, and it’s here that many of us will start to see the first signs of ageing and permanent lines being formed,’ explains cosmetic surgeon and skincare expert, Dr Amir Sadri.

‘Slugging can therefore be helpful in keeping the skin looking youthful in this delicate area.

‘In terms of products to use, I would recommend a simple Vaseline or Aquaphor; the simpler the better.’

However, if you’re keen to try it, don’t expect overnight miracles.

‘It will take around four to six weeks to see the benefits of any skincare routine, including slugging,’ advises Harley Street dermatologist, Dr Jinah Yoo.

Is under-eye slugging suitable for everyone?

Before you rush to Boots for a giant pot of Vaseline, hold up – slugging around your eyes may not be for you, especially if you’re prone to milia (also known as milk spots).

‘When applied to delicate areas, like under the eyes, slugging has the propensity to cause milia,’ advises Dr Amir.

‘Milia are tiny, seed-like white bumps that appear when keratin gets trapped beneath the skin’s surface. Therefore, extra caution is required when layering occlusives such as Vaseline around your eyes.

‘If you’re getting them often, it’s worth reevaluating your skincare routine to look for less heavy products, and reducing your slugging routine, or pausing it indefinitely.’

You should also proceed with caution if you have oily or sensitive skin.

‘For some, slugging may lead to irritation and breakouts,’ advises Dr Jinah.

‘As we sleep, the skin repairs and renews itself in a process called cell mitosis. By layering excess product on the skin, you risk oils and bacteria becoming trapped in the pores, which can lead to acne.’

How to do under-eye slugging safely

Still keen to get your slug on? Make sure you do it without irritating your precious peepers, by not applying product too close to your eyes.

‘From a safety perspective, it’s important to use products that are safe for use around the eye area,’ advises Nicola Alexander, optometrist and founder of eye brand, Peep Club.

‘Your meibomian glands are the tiny little “toothpaste tube” oil glands that line your upper and lower eye lids, producing oil that comes out through tiny openings in the upper and lower water line.

‘There is research that shows that products (such as petroleum jelly) used in or close to the waterline can block these tiny openings, which means that the oil layer of your tear film can’t be produced.

‘Just like your skin barrier, this oil layer is a protective shield for your eyes – without it, eyes can become dry and susceptible to allergies and infection.’

Nicola advises using products that work well together, and that you’ve used before: ‘You should absolutely have used all the products individually for at least two weeks before combining them – slugging can make actives in the products even more potent, as they’re being locked into the skin by an occlusive top layer.’

Dr Amir warns not to use active ingredients, such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), or retinols/retinoids before slugging at night, to decrease risk of irritation.

Is there an effective alternative to slugging?

Oily skin or prone to milia? Fear not, my friend, for slugging’s not your only road to radiant skin.

‘The main benefits of slugging or keeping the under-eye area moisturised are to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and keep the skin plump for a more youthful appearance,’ explains Dr Jinah.

‘This can also be achieved by using topical retinoids, moisturisers, and humectant ingredients such as hyaluronic acid.’

Luckily, there are loads of eye creams on the market that contain hyaluronic acid or sodium hyaluronate (a salt derivative of hyaluronic acid, which penetrates deeper into the skin) – try Dr Organic Reishi Mushroom Hydrating Eye Serum (£12.99 for 15ml), CeraVe Eye Repair Cream (£13 for 14ml from FeelUnique) or Neal’s Yard Frankincense Intense Lift Eye Cream (£58 for 15ml).

If you’re after retinol, there are options for all budgets, including Pixi Retinol Eye Cream (£18.33 for 25ml), Charlotte Tilbury Magic Eye Rescue Cream (£45 for 15ml) and Dr Dennis Gross Triple Correction Eye Serum (£70 for 15ml at Cult Beauty).

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