Three TikTok skincare trends that have dominated the lives of beauty mavens and skincare enthusiasts worldwide in varying degrees of hysteria are skin slugging, skin cycling and, in 2023, skin flooding.
Are these trends new to skincare professionals? No, not really; in one way or another, they’ve been recommending versions of all three.
You may find that you’re already doing them, thanks to a committed skincare routine recommended by a skin care professional or dermatologist.
So let’s go beyond all the hype and take a closer look at these three TikTok skincare trends.
What is skin slugging?
The idea behind skin slugging is simple enough.
- Apply your usual serums and creams
- Followed by a layer of petroleum jelly, such as the brand Vaseline.
A skin care professional will refer to this method as occluding the skin.
A skin facialist will often occlude your skin at the end of a facial treatment, applying something like an alginate mask that, when set, turns into a rubbery mould that is gently removed after 10 – 20 minutes.
Environ skincare uses an Alginate masque as part of their signature facial treatment, and it doesn’t matter where you are in the world; this treatment is a gold standard for Environ Skincare salons and clinics.
How does skin slugging work, and what are the benefits for the skin?
Applying a layer of petroleum jelly or opting for a professional application of an occlusive mask reduces TEWL (transepidermal water loss), which is the process of water evaporation from the skin which can lead to dehydrated skin.
Occluding or “skin slugging” is beneficial when the skin has become either dehydrated, such as during cool winter months when heating tends to draw too much moisture out of the skin or when the skin is stressed and irritated due to the overuse of harsh products, or post-treatment and the skin needs restoration.
Do you need to do skin slugging?
Yes, it can help and is particularly beneficial during winter when the skin struggles to retain moisture, or after treatments like a chemical peel or skin needling to restore moisture balance and calm the skin.
For me, skin slugging is a good option as a quick fix, but the ultimate goal is always to repair and maintain the health of the skin barrier function.
Skin slugging tip.
If you try “skin slugging”, choosing an occlusive substance, like petroleum jelly, is a good option as it doesn’t penetrate the follicle reducing the risk of clogging and congested skin.
What is skin flooding?
If you’ve ever sat in the bath for too long, you know what happens when you flood your skin with water; yep, you’re a shrivelled prune, but I digress.
The premise behind skin flooding is to hydrate or flood the skin with moisture.
It sounds good, but essentially it’s not that different to skin slugging, but if you’ve seen it on TikTok, it will seem like a whole new skincare tip, leaving you to ponder how you could have missed it.
Fear not; there’s no need to embrace your FOMO urge just yet.
How does skin flooding work, and the benefits to your skin?
Let’s take a closer look at skin flooding.
- Apply a hydrating serum such as hyaluronic acid to damp skin.
- Followed by a hydrating mist.
- Apply an occlusive like a balm or gel.
When you drench your skin with moisture, as TikTok suggests, it will look and feel temporarily hydrated.
So if it’s temporary, then what’s the point? There’s probably no point unless your skin is chronically dehydrated, in which case you will briefly feel a sense of relief.
Do you need to do skin flooding?
Yes and no.
As I’ve just mentioned, skin flooding will provide temporary relief, and your skin will look better; however, until you take the necessary steps to restore your skin barrier function, you’ll always be searching for new ways to ease dehydration and spending more money on skincare products you may not need.
Skin flooding tip.
Skip it. If your skin is dehydrated, opt for slugging or introduce a facial oil into your skincare routine to support your skin’s barrier function.
What is skin cycling?
Skin cycling is a nightly routine where an exfoliant and retinoid are alternated through a 7-day skin cycle.
Skin cycling is a skincare tip from New York dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD and a clever way to help those new to active skincare ease themselves into the use of retinoids without causing red and irritated skin, which can be alarming. So skin cycling it is!
How does it work, and the benefits to the skin?
It’s a nightly routine.
- On night one, you exfoliate your skin with a liquid or cream exfoliant.
- On night two, you apply a retinoid to your face and neck.
- You rest your skin and rebuild the barrier on nights three and four.
The concept of this TikTok skincare trend is to prepare the skin with exfoliation and follow with your retinoid the following night and then two nights of recovery before starting over.
So while there are benefits to this skincare tip, there’s nothing new here, but renaming the process as skin cycling has some merit as it explains the concept quite well if you’re a newbie.
When a concentrated product such as retinoid is introduced into your skincare routine, your skin care professional should advise you to build up skin tolerance to avoid a retinoid reaction by applying said serum on alternating days.
Call it what you will; alternating your active skincare reduces skin irritation.
So, do you need to partake in skin cycling?
Basically, skin cycling is a way to introduce retinoids and avoid a skin reaction.
Retinoids are prescribed as the gold standard for reducing lines and wrinkles patches of pigment and are an effective topical treatment for acne.
Introducing a retinoid can feel like walking through a minefield: use too much and risk a retinoid reaction. When this happens, you may need to stop altogether until your skin recovers.
For many, a retinoid reaction is enough to forever leave that retinoid tube in the bathroom cabinet!
Skin cycling would benefit those just starting with a retinoid, but if you’re familiar with active skincare, this skincare trend falls short, as once your skin tolerates a retinoid, you should be able to use it at a frequency that suits your skin.
But it’s personal and will always come down to trial and error and the overall condition of your skin. Once again, if your skin barrier is compromised, both exfoliation and retinoids may cause a skin reaction.
If you’d like to know more about preventing a retinoid reaction, you might like to read my article: How to avoid a retinol burn.
I have a different view on the use of vitamin A and one that is far less of a shock to the skin. Getting a daily dose of a low concentration of vitamin A is more beneficial to your skin than a hard hit a couple of times a week.
Vitamin A is an essential nutrient for the skin. I recommend gradually introducing vitamin A in the form of an ester, such as retinyl palmitate, to replace vitamin A lost every time you expose your skin to the environment.
I wrote a longer article on why I favour a vitamin A ester before other retinoids.
Here it is, Retinyl Palmitate: Protecting your skin every day.
Should you take TikTok skincare trends seriously?
Well, my answer is twofold. TikTok influencers want to grab your attention with basic skincare tips, and naming them in a novel way generally grabs attention, which is okay as long as the information is sound and makes a difference to the overall health of your skin.
But, as the Peter Allen song goes, everything old is new again.
This brings me to my second point. Your skin goal, and the number 1 skin trend for 2023 and beyond, is a robust, healthy skin barrier function.
As a skin therapist, I always aim to ensure you have a healthy skin barrier or, if it’s compromised, take the necessary steps to repair it.
Of course, it requires you to change your mind about a few things, but it will be worth it, and you’ll find you’re less inclined to jump on the TikTok beauty carousel unless, of course, you enjoy the ride. In which case, carry on!
How to achieve healthy skin barrier function?
If you protect your skin barrier, bouts of dehydration will be fewer, and your skin will always glow with good health.
My three top tips for healthy skin barrier function:
- Choose your cleanser wisely.
- Avoid harsh foaming cleansers and abrasive scrubs.
- Opt for mild lotions and cleansing oils.
Protect your skin against the environment.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen.
- If you’re living in extreme weather conditions, look for emollient moisturisers that occlude the skin without causing congestion.
- Buy a humidifier if you live in dry conditions or work in air-conditioned rooms.
Feed your skin with the essential nutrients.
- Vitamins A, C, E and B3 and essential fatty acids help in the formation of a robust and healthy skin barrier.
- Topically applied retinoids will naturally stimulate the hyaluronic acid in your dermis.
- You may need to include an essential fatty acid supplement in your daily routine.
My final thoughts on TikTok Skincare trends?
So what’s my final take on slugging, flooding and cycling?
In the short term, despite the gunk factor of putting petroleum jelly on your skin, skin slugging will give you more hydrated, softer and calmer skin.
Scientific studies have shown petroleum jelly dramatically reduces TEWL (trans epidermal water loss) compared to other occlusive oils.
In the end, working towards repairing your skin barrier with consistent active skin care is the key to healthy skin.
As for the skin-flooding skincare trend, I think I’d skip that altogether as if the skin is chronically dehydrated; fixing the barrier is my number one goal. Skin flooding seems like a TikTok skincare trend that encourages the purchase of unnecessary products, and I’ll never buy into that philosophy.
Skin cycling is an excellent way to help newbies get started and avoid going in too hard with concentrated active ingredients such as a retinoid.
For the rest of us, it’s always a trial and error until you find your sweet spot when using a retinoid.
All these TikTok skincare trends lead me back to your skin barrier and why your skin has become dehydrated. Let’s fix the problem instead of putting a bandaid on it, and you will have much better-hydrated skin no matter what your skin has to endure.
Well done, you made it to the end. I hope you found the information about skincare trends helpful and that it gives you a little perspective. If you did, you might like to scroll down and subscribe to my newsletter so you never miss an issue.
See you next time,