Slugging, in general, involves applying a jelly balm to create a slimy film over your pores until it resembles a mucus-like layer (so you look like a slug; get it?). That dewy barrier helps those with super-thirsty skin lock in hydration overnight—we have a full guide to slugging here, if you’d like an in-depth tutorial.
Since the technique became a TikTok sensation (despite its origins on Reddit’s Skincare Addiction thread around 2018), many users have taken this concept and applied it to other areas of beauty, like “hair slugging,” “body slugging,” and now, “nail slugging.” All “slugging” means in this context is sealing in moisture, so it makes sense why beauty fans want to use the same technique for their skin, hair, and nails. Is this a revolutionary idea? Not exactly—but if a cute moniker is what helps people focus on skin barrier support, we’re certainly game.
But back to nail slugging: This particular subtrend involves layering a highly occlusive moisturizer over a cuticle oil for extra protection. You might regularly massage an oil by itself into those nail beds, but think of nail slugging as an extra treatment for some serious frays. Your digits experience a lot of wear and tear on the daily (from frequent hand washing, household chores, etc.), so it’s worth giving them some TLC every once in a while.
“Slugging the nail cuticles can strengthen the nails and protect them from water damage,” notes skin care expert Charles Puza, M.D., in a TikTok video. Remember: Frequently soaking your nails in water can cause them to expand and contract, which can make them brittle and weak over time, so Puza recommends you “slug” your nails at least once a day and repeat after you wash your hands.
If slugging that often doesn’t sound realistic for your lifestyle (as someone who types on her computer all day long, greasy fingertips are not exactly conducive to my workday), you can also follow a nightly routine once you tuck yourself into bed. Keep a cuticle oil on your bedside table (this Nourishing Cuticle Oil Rollerball from Miniluxe is my current go-to), and slather on a thicker hand cream, like one of these luxe options. Come morning, your cuticles will appear way more comfortable and hydrated; even your nail plate itself may look more polished, since cuticle care is the bedrock of healthy, thriving tips.