Chances are you’ve heard of “slugging” your skin care, aka layering a thick, balm-like product such as petroleum jelly over your skin-care products at night for an extra layer of hydration and to seal all your products in, but have you heard about nail slugging? It’s all the rage on TikTok — but is loading up your nails with layers of oils and balms before bed a good thing or just an extra step you don’t really need?
Nail slugging has found popularity on TikTok with those looking to grow stronger, healthier nails in place of their dry, brittle, often-splitting nails (relatable). In the #nailslugging videos, users apply a cuticle oil like CND’s popular Solar Oil to their nail beds and rub it in then apply a thicker moisturizer atop the oil — something like Vaseline or Aquaphor.
The method is (mostly) pro-approved — perhaps with a tweak or two. “I always joke that my hands have a more elaborate skin-care routine than my face, especially since I use my own hands for nail content,” says nail artist Brittney Boyce. “I also always tell my friends and clients to keep cuticle oil and hand cream everywhere — the bathroom, next to their computer, on their nightstand — as it is so crucial to keep the cuticles and other skin surrounding your nails soft and supple.”
According to Boyce, slugging your nails is a smart addition to your nail-care routine. “[Cuticles] are crucial for overall nail health, as their function is to keep dirt and bacteria from getting into the nail bed and [potentially causing] an infection,” she explains. “When cuticles are dry, they’re prone to splitting and cracking, which compromises that protective barrier and increases the chance of infections. That’s also why it’s important to only nip hang nails and excess dead skin.”
Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut, concurs. “That tiny piece of skin has a big job; they protect the skin under your nails,” she explains. “Unhealthy cuticles can lead to infection with bacteria or yeast along with other inflammation such as redness or puffiness.”
To her, nail slugging is a “derm’s derm come true” and Gohara says she does it herself. “We use occlusives like Vaseline to help heal, to moisturize, to glisten, to plump. It does it all — a panacea to our skin barrier in many ways.” [Gohara is a paid partner of Unilever, the parent company of Vaseline.] Gohara recommends sticking to unscented products and purified mineral oils.
Boyce, on the other hand, recommends skipping the petroleum jelly in favor of hand cream. “The slugging part with petroleum jelly isn’t something I would do on a daily basis, only because petroleum jelly is very occlusive and doesn’t really absorb into the skin,” she shares. “It leaves a slightly sticky and tacky texture. I’d rather use an oil or cream that absorbs into my skin and doesn’t get all over my phone.”
As for product faves, Boyce likes Orly Breathable Cuticle Oil, JinSoon Ex-Tract Honeysuckle + Primrose Cuticle Oil, Barefoot Scientist Inner Strength Nail and Cuticle Renewal Drops, and Dior’s Huile Abricot cuticle cream. For hand creams, she’s a fan of KP Away Lipid Repair Emollient and Nécessaire’s Hand Cream. Boyce applies cuticle oil and cream about five to six times per day but adds that you should be sure to apply oil after you do your nails because anything too oily can affect polish, gel, and even press-ons.
In short, slugging your nails with an oil and a thick occlusive gives your cuticles the TLC they deserve. “Cuticles take a beating, a bigger beating than the rest of the skin in many ways, particularly with all of the cleansing, sanitizing, biting, picking, manicuring, working, and anything else we do to our hands,” Gohara explains. “Adding an occlusive — and a lot of it — helps the cuticle skin by protecting it and giving it a chance to heal its way to health.” And as we all know, happy cuticles usually mean happy nails as well.
OK, TikTok, we’ll give you this one.