Listen, I know I’m not alone when I say this: Cystic acne sucks. If you have (or have ever suffered from) cystic acne, you’d do or try just about anything to clear up the confidence-crippling breakouts: prescription medication like Accutane, topical treatments (i.e. salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide), and maybe even a dermatologist-administered cortisone shot. But it turns out, the cure to diminishing those swollen, inflamed, and never-come-to-a-head bumps might actually be an unexpected moisturizer most commonly found in the drugstore.
Over the past few years, the internet has become obsessed with spackling on petroleum jellies, such as Vaseline, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, and CeraVe Healing Ointment, to acne-prone skin in an effort to quickly clear deep-rooted flareups.
“Besides being smooth and less red my favorite thing about the Vaseline is that it keeps the skin so soft that whiteheads rise to the top of the skin and after a while can literally be wiped or washed off,” writes one Reddit user.
Adds another: “I have acne-prone, combo skin and use Vaseline every night over my glycolic acid and Cerave Night Cream, it makes my skin so so soft and not oily at all the next day. In fact, since I added the Vaseline step my skin has gotten less ‘oily’ I’d say, just stays hydrated and smooth.”
Sure, all of that sounds well and good, but is there actually any truth to the petroleum jelly hack? Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, seems to think so. “Applying Vaseline Petroleum Jelly to a deep, painful cyst may actually help maintain healthy skin barrier function, as the skin is inflamed,” he tells Allure.
Here’s how it works: By slathering on a heavy dose of jelly onto the skin as a final step in your nighttime skin-care routine, you’re essentially sealing in all of the potent products you applied beforehand, which, in turn, helps the skin heal itself (i.e. fewer future breakouts).
And if you’re concerned about applying a slimy, lubricated product to your face, don’t be, Zeichner reassures. “Cosmetic-grade petroleum should not make your face break out,” he explains. “However, it may leave your face feeling heavy and greasy if you are oily or acne-prone.” This is why, before you start spooning out jelly straight from the tub and slathering it onto your skin, we recommend patch-testing.
Most recently, this trick has appropriately been dubbed “slugging,” which, unsurprisingly, has taken off on TikTok, too (the #slugging tag has accumulated more than 4 million video views). There, other board-certified dermatologists like Pittsburgh’s Lindsey Zubritsky and the Florida-based Alexis Stephens hype up the trend for its ability to treat acne alongside other skin conditions like eczema.
Clearly, the internet was onto something when they discovered this unexpected hero acne fighter — what could it possibly turn us onto next?
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