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Got dry cuticles? This viral, dermatologist-approved skin care hack can help

We asked dermatologists to break down the nail care routine and the benefits of a healthy cuticle.
Woman touching her nails
Henry Arden / Getty Images

It seems this year has already brought a lot of beauty trends, but none have been as viral as slugging. Taking over social media, it's become a go-to for those seeking to get the most from their products and achieve a naturally dewy complexion. In fact, when you search #slugging on TikTok, the hashtag is now up to over 1 billion views.

In case you haven't heard of the Korean beauty sensation yet, slugging is when you use a heavy emollient, like Vaseline, in your evening skin care routine to seal in moisture, preventing it from escaping through the night. People have been using it as a final-step moisturizer, eye cream and even applying the trend to hair care.

What is nail slugging? | What are the benefits of nail slugging? | Why is the cuticle important to nail health? | Who should try nail slugging? | Best products to try for nail slugging | How we chose | Meet our experts

Best products for nail slugging

What is nail slugging?

The latest viral 'slugging' trend to take over TikTok is nail slugging. And if you ask us, TikTok is on to something with this trend, especially as we enter the hotter and drier months. Similar to its sister slugging trends, nail slugging involves applying a thick emollient directly onto your cuticles, then gently massaging it in. The end result is hopefully growing and maintaining healthier and stronger nails.

To help break down nail slugging, Shop TODAY spoke to two board-certified dermatologists to help explain the benefits of nail slugging and how it can help combat brittle nails.

What are the benefits of nail slugging?

If you're one of those people who tend to experience dry hands and nail breakage, this might be the social trend you want to try. Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, says nail slugging can help protect and restore the cuticle.

"It's important to keep the skin around the nails well-moisturized to optimize the skin barrier function so that bacteria and other pathogens are less likely to penetrate and cause infection," says King.

Dr. Angela Lamb, a board-certified dermatologist and director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice in New York City agrees that using petroleum jelly on your cuticles has its benefits. "During the winter, our cuticles get dried out like every other part of our skin. A thick emollient traps in moisture and prevents evaporation of water across the skin surface," says Lamb.

Why is the cuticle important to nail health?

You may be wondering what role the cuticle plays and why it's so important to keep this area of the skin well-maintained. King explains that the cuticle's role is vital to overall nail health.

"The cuticles help to seal the transition zone between the skin and the nails. This barrier helps to keep out microbes and irritants, and helps to seal in moisture," she says. Consider it the soil to your nails — you want it to be healthy, too.

Who should try nail slugging?

Dermatologists across the board agree that everyone can benefit. Whether it's around or on the nails, King and Lamb say some people are more prone to dry nails than others.

"Particularly people who wash their hands often during the day for their profession or use hand sanitizers. Think healthcare workers and educators. They are the most vulnerable," says Lamb. She also mentions those who use nail polish removers or get frequent manicures may experience more peeling and nail breakage.

And if you noticed more flaking and dryness on and around your nails during the winter — there's a reason! Our nails go through the same winter woes as our hair, face and body, if not a little more. "Hands are constantly exposed to the elements, so winter, with its cold temperatures, low humidity and brisk winds, as well as dry indoor heating, can really dry out the hands and nails. More moisture is lost from the skin when the environment is dry," says King.

While nail slugging may be promoting stronger nails and healthy habits, dermatologists also suggest using a good hand cream, oils and wearing gloves to limit nail trauma and protect them from other environmental stressors.

Best products to try for nail slugging

Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly

If you're familiar with the various slugging trends, then you'll know that Vaseline is the go-to pick by sluggers and dermatologists. According to the brand, it is fragrance-free and made of 100 percent pure petroleum jelly. "It's a perfect choice for those with sensitive skin or possible allergies to common skincare ingredients found in other occlusives," says King.

Dove Body Love Intense Care Hand Cream

If you're looking for an all-around good hand cream, both Lamb and King love this intense care cream by Dove. "[A] rich moisturizing formula that does not leave greasiness or an oily residue behind and it contains the ideal combination of humectants, emollients and occlusives. Their studies show that it provides moisturizing benefits for 48 hours," says King.

Cuccio Naturale Revitalizing Cuticle Oil

People on TikTok are not just using petroleum jelly for nail slugging but are also leaning on their favorite cuticle oils. With over 95,000 Amazon five-star ratings, the brand says this formula is infused with natural ingredients and will provide stronger nails by healing dry and peeling cuticles.

Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment

Aquaphor is another popular pick that can be seen being used on social media. This dermatologist-recommended ointment is also made of petroleum jelly, and the brand notes it will protect the skin from drying and cracking.

Bliss Kiss Nail Oil Cuticle Pen

Coming in an easy-to-apply brush pen, this jojoba-infused cuticle oil claims to be "liquid gold" and reviewers agree. One Amazon verified reviewer wrote, "I struggle with really dry fingers/cuticles resulting in constant painful hang nails, this product is a new holy grail for my purse! I apply throughout the day and I’m going on two-and-a-half weeks of consistent use and I see a HUGE difference in my nails and skin!"

CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream

Another option for an intense moisturizing hand cream comes from the dermatologist-recommended brand Cerave. According to the brand, this non-greasy formula will help restore the skin's natural moisture barrier and relieve dry, cracked and chafing skin.

Sally Hansen Nail Rehab Oil Cuticle Balm

According to the brand, this oil "strengthens the bonds between your cuticle and nail bed," thanks to a blended formula made up of skin-friendly ingredients like aloe vera, safflower oil and vitamin E.

L’Occitane Hand Cream Trio

Lamb also loves L’Occitane hand creams but warns that they’re high in fragrance. According to the brand, this trio is ideal for dry skin and provides moisturizing benefits since it contains 20 percent shea butter.

How we chose

We chose products that were recommended by board-certified dermatologists, along with other highly rated options that were developed with specific ingredients to help moisturize skin.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Hadley King is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. At the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, she's a clinical instructor of dermatology.
  • Dr. Angela Lamb, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, is the director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice at Mount Sinai.