vaseline on face

vaseline on faceSource: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

The beauty and skincare community has an affinity for inventing, nicknaming, and going all-in on funky trends. You’ve probably heard about strobing, glass skin, and baking, but how familiar are you with the concept of slugging? No, we’re not talking about applying snail secretions to your face (also totally a thing), but rather the act of smearing Vaseline all over your face and body with the goal of hydrating, healing, and preventing wrinkles. In other words: morphing into a human-version of a slimy slug.

It sounds gross, but Vaseline – aka petroleum jelly – has been a household skincare hero for decades. In fact, we’d bet that if you asked your grandmother about using either straight Vaseline (or a moisturizer that contains it, such as Crème de la Mer, $325 or  Rosebud Salve, $7) she’d swear by its miracle properties. Eager to learn more about using Vaseline as a moisturizer, we reached out to a top dermatologist who gave us the DL on what Vaseline is and whether or not it’s good for your face – especially if you have acne, eczema, or really dry skin.

vaseline on face

Okay, So What is Vaseline Moisturizer and How is it Made?

“Also called petrolatum or petroleum jelly, Vaseline is a soft mixture of natural waxes and mineral oils called hydrocarbons. It’s obtained by purifying petroleum to modify the color and remove odors and contaminants,” says Dr. David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and the CEO and founder of Curology.

The petroleum jelly inception story is a wild one. It was discovered by oil rig workers in the mid 1800s who noticed some greasy stuff gunking up their rigs. Though it hindered their workflow, the workers noticed that when they applied the unpurified petroleum jelly to their skin it miraculously helped moisturize, soften, and heal.

Long story short, a chemist named Robert Chesebrough seized the opportunity to make some serious bread on this newfangled “wonder jelly” and developed a triple-purified version that’d later become Vaseline.

Is Vaseline Good For Your Skin When Used as a Moisturizer?

It’s not hard to find anecdotal stories about how amazing Vaseline is as a moisturizer – and it’s not just an old-timey beauty hack that people like Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly swore by. Vaseline persists a modern-day skincare trend a la slugging.

One Reddit user from r/AsianBeauty writes, “It works. It works so well…There was an immediate difference from the first morning! I woke up with much softer and bouncier skin, and it helped my skin recover faster from irritation/redness.” Another person from r/SkincareAddiction states, “I did this for the first time last night and I’m already loving what it does for my skin! Yesterday my skin was dehydrated, really oily, tight, flaking, peeling all over… Today? Plump, much happier-looking and feeling skin, with just a bit of flaking left. I’m totally gonna slug it up again tonight!”

The slug life is real, you guys. But beyond the first-person stories exclaiming magically bouncy skin, the FDA has given Vaseline the all-clear as a moisturizer, as well.

Dr. Lortscher tells us, “The Unitd States FDA approves of the use of petrolatum as an over-the-counter skin protectant that can seal in moisture to help dry skin. It’s also useful in healing superficial scrapes and wounds as well as irritated skin.”

He agrees with the user claims we included above, stating that using Vaseline on your face as a moisturizer can give you crazy soft skin and notable hydration.

Which Skin Types Should and Shouldn’t  Use Vaseline on their Face?

As with any sort of skincare product, Vaseline and petroleum jelly in general is not a one-size fits all deal.

“Because it’s an occlusive product – [which means that it creates a seal over the skin to retain moisture] – pure petrolatum is heavy and can feel greasy on oily and acne-prone skin. That said, it has not been shown to clog pores so it’s generally fine to use,” says Dr. Lortscher. In other words, it may not feel the best on your skin, but it won’t directly lead to breakouts since it’s non-comedogenic. He adds, “In rare cases, petrolatum may trigger an allergic reaction in some people, [so a spot test is recommended.]”

People that do benefit from using Vaseline on their face as a moisturizer are those with normal skin, dry skin, irritated or inflamed skin, small wounds, and those dealing with eczema.

“The protective properties [of petroleum jelly] help soothe the skin, especially dry patches and other areas recovering from irritation,” says Dr. Lortscher. “Vaseline can also serve as a great body moisturizer to manage eczema-prone skin. The heavier consistency provides a hydrating barrier for dry, irritated skin. Additionally, Vaseline can be a great option for wound care, as long as you’re not allergic to petrolatum. Research shows it helps the healing process and reduces the chances of scabbing and scarring.”

How to Use Vaseline (or Petroleum Jelly) on Your Face 

If you’re ready to try out slugging yourself, it’s pretty straight forward. Dr. Lortscher recommends applying a thin layer of Vaseline to your skin fresh out of the shower – while your skin is still damp – to help seal in all that moisture. Another option is to use all your favorite skincare products first and then use Vaseline as the final step in your regimen.

As for shopping, good old Vaseline Healing Jelly, $4, is great place to start since it’s inexpensive and triple purified. However, if straight-up petroleum jelly is a bit too heavy for your skin, opt for dermatologist-beloved Aquaphor products. Anyone feeling particularly bougie can spring for the Crème de la Mer, $325, or you can just buy the dupe (Nivea Crème, $10) and reap the skincare rewards while keeping your bank account intact. Happy slugging!