What is nail slugging, and should you be doing it?

Woman dips finger in moisturizing cream

There was a time when getting a mani/pedi meant that a nail technician applied regular nail polish to your fingernails and toenails.

Not anymore. Over a decade ago, gel polish manicures took nail salons by storm. And since then, gel manicures, chrome manicures and acrylics are the norm, not the exception. These smooth, practically unbreakable applications are superior in many ways, starting with the fact that they last much longer. However one downside is that both acrylics and gel polish can make your nails dry and brittle in the long run.

So it’s not surprising that people are looking for ways to condition dry nails. Enter nail slugging, a beauty trend that has popped up seemingly everywhere, which of course means … on TikTok. Take a look as TikTok user maliayosuf demonstrates:

@maliayosuf Grow longer, stronger nails, works đź’Ż #nailslugging #naturalnail #diy ♬ original sound – maria!

What is nail slugging, exactly? Basically, it means coating your nail and cuticle with an occlusive substance like Vaseline, which creates a protective barrier and traps in moisture. As dermatologist and nail specialist Dr. Dana Stern told Real Simple, the practice is “an evolution of the popular Korean skin slugging trend” and “is a new way to hydrate and revive dry or damaged nails.”

Stern sees slugging as the final step in a three-step process to revive dry or damaged nails.

Step 1

Exfoliate the nail “to ensure that the moisture you’re trying to add back in can better penetrate,” she explains to Real Simple.

OPI ProSpa Exfoliating Cuticle Cream is $13 for a .9-ounce bottle on Amazon and has an average 4.5 out of 5 stars by reviewers.

Step 2

Coat the nail with hydrating cuticle oil.

Sally Hansen Moisturizing Instant Cuticle Remover Oil is $4.97 for a 1-ounce bottle at Walmart and has an average of 4.5 stars out of 986 reviews.

Step 3:

Cover the nail and cuticle with a thick coat of an occlusive ointment and allow it to remain there for 15 to 30 minutes. For best results, cover your ointment-slathered fingers in gloves overnight.

Here are three possible ointment options for the final step of slugging:

Aquaphor Healing Ointment Skin Protectant and Moisturizer for Dry and Cracked Skin ($11.17)

 

At Amazon, this ointment costs $11.17 for a 7-ounce tube, and 88% of its 28,457 reviewers gave it five stars. “I once read that BeyoncĂ© slathers herself in Aquaphor every night & it’s her secret — among other things — for her dewy glow & smooth & hydrated skin,” reviewer Lisa Marie wrote. “I love it & find it more effective than regular petroleum jelly because the lanolin gives it a little more moisture.”

Vaseline 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly ($1.77)

 

To coat her cuticles and nails, TikTok creator nailboo uses Vaseline, which is the most affordable option at just $1.77 at Walmart. In its review section, a customer named Rachacha referred to Vaseline as “an excellent barrier between the skin and the outside world.”

CeraVe Healing Ointment ($9.49)

A whopping 81% of 9,481 Amazon reviewers gave five stars to this ointment, which is $9.49 for a 3-ounce tube. “This is my new favorite and should be for everyone familiar with the technique called slugging,” wrote a reviewer called MW. Well, enough said!

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