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Petroleum Jelly Meet Pillow – How My Bedding Braved 5 Nights of Slugging

Sleepopolis’ investigative unit (me) is looking into a popular internet skincare trend – slugging. Slugging is a practice in which you cover your skin, usually face and neck, in a petroleum jelly product. The hype surrounding this practice online includes claims of its skin-moisturizing capabilities and keeping you looking young. But how many people talk about what it does to their pillow?

I added slugging to my nightly routine for five nights to see how it would impact my sleep quality (and my pillowcase). For help, I turned to my fellow Sleepopolis writer and resident accessories expert, Amelia Jerden

What, Exactly, IS Slugging?

My initial reaction to slugging was, honestly, confusion. I see videos and claims everywhere of younger girls who show pictures of their grandmother today and explain how young she looks because she’s been slugging every night for 50 years. It mind-boggled me because I thought how could these women sleep? Aren’t they uncomfortable? Are their pillows getting ruined? 

I truly couldn’t fathom the dedication of applying Vaseline to my face every night and it honestly sounded unpleasant. But, as the trust-any-beauty-hack-online, oily-skinned, 22-year old I am, I obviously had to try it. I was excited but skeptical.

How to Add Slugging to Your Nightly Routine

I started out my slugging journey by preparing the environment I wanted to slug in – my bedroom. I washed my pillowcases and sheets, made the bed, and tidied up the room. Now, let’s get into the application process. Yours could look different, so don’t be alarmed!

  1. Grab your product. First, I grabbed my small tub of Vaseline. 
  2. Incorporate it into your routine. Cosmopolitan advises doing your usual skincare routine right before slugging and applying the jelly to a product-wet face, but I decided to go another route. Especially if you use pricy products, I would recommend doing it differently. I chose to do my skincare routine an hour or two before applying petroleum jelly to my face.
  3. Lather it on. With my hand, I then grabbed a scoop of jelly and slathered it on my face and neck. When I was done, I looked like the peanut butter baby, but definitely clearer and shinier.
  4. Hit the hay. I personally tried to start my slugging routine as close to actual bedtime as possible, since I’ve heard it can get on your hands, face, phone (basically, everything). So, get the TV bingeing and TikTok scrolling out of your system beforehand. I’ve also heard of people sleeping on towels to prevent pillow damage, but for the purpose of my experiment, I stuck with direct face-to-pillow contact.

A Sleep Writer’s 5 Nights of Slugging

I started my journey with a freshly cleaned, white pillow. Amelia recommends washing your sheets — including pillowcases — at least once a week to prevent the buildup of bacteria, fungi, and other allergens. 

She also notes that you can opt for a pillow protector as well. Like a mattress protector, a pillow protector will create an additional barrier to keep your pillow extra clean, in case any petroleum jelly seeps through your pillowcase. 

On night one, I applied a thick layer of the product to my face right before I laid down for bed. Once I got situated, I immediately realized I had applied too much. Vaseline was everywhere. My face repeatedly stuck to the pillow, causing me to toss and turn all night. 

Since it can be a little tricky to sleep while there’s petroleum jelly all over your face, Amelia recommends investing in blackout curtains that will keep light from even entering your room. These will especially help if you normally wear an eye mask at night. 

And when it comes to a sticky face, Amelia says to try a sleep cap. Putting your hair in a loose ponytail, bun, or braid, or wearing a headband or sleep cap will tuck your hair away and prevent it from sticking to your face while slugging.

The next morning, I woke up with a still-sticky face, new pimples, and some clear effects on my pillowcase. Numerous areas of what looks like little gray balls of lint. It’s almost as if the petroleum jelly captured any little blanket or hair particle and stuck it to my pillow, or little balls of the jelly had collected. Either way, I didn’t really notice any grease stains, which was a plus. 

I later realized that I had severely overapplied Vaseline to my face and neck – which made sleep almost impossible. So for the second night, instead of piling on the layers, I tried to remember that less is more. 

With my new application process, I found it easier to sleep. I noticed my face stuck to the pillow much less, and it made it easier to stay comfortable. I continued this the remaining nights, which turned out to create relatively the same results. Not only did my sleep improve with less product, but my pillow continued to look the same. 

If you’re still struggling to doze off, Amelia suggests trying a meditation app. If the feeling of petroleum jelly on your face is bothering you, a meditation app or sleep podcast could give you a distraction as you fall asleep.

After the final night, I noticed basically zero difference from the effects of the first night. It became very apparent to me that the more product you use, the more likely you are to see the impacts on your pillow.

Sleeping While Slugging

The biggest takeaway: When it comes to slugging, less is more. My advice is to stick to a comfortable amount to spread across your face – don’t be too generous. The lint balls and sticky areas of my pillow were generally minimal and weren’t the end of the world for me. My pillow wasn’t ruined in the slightest! 

Will I do this every night following this little experiment? Probably not. Will I do it occasionally? Maybe. I definitely think people are onto something here, so maybe the best bet for me is putting even less on different areas of my face or slugging just a couple of times a week.

So, what can you do if you’re worried about staining your pillow? Here are a few easy actions you can take before applying that petroleum jelly.

  • Use a pillow protector
  • Try an old pillowcase that you don’t care about as much
  • Place an old towel on top of your pillow
  • Avoid over-applying petroleum jelly to your face

Have you tried slugging in the past or want to try it now? Did slugging ruin your pillow or pillowcase? Send me a note on what you think about it all at [email protected].

Carley Prendergast

Carley Prendergast

I'm Carley and I'm a Certified Sleep Science Coach and Staff Writer here at Sleepopolis. I write news content and manage our newsletter. When I'm not writing, you can find me boating, spending time with my nephews, and geeking out on 2000's nostalgia.

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