During my November visit to the Sloomoo Institute — a slime museum that opened in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood last October — I stood by waist-high vats of slime, dipping my fingers into a scented cloud like it was giving me a manicure. Around me, children shrieked, ran, picked their noses, and did all the other kid things that you might not expect to see at the IRL outpost for the biggest Instagram trend of the last decade. I felt almost stupid for thinking that, at 4:00 p.m. on a Wednesday, the museum would be full of startup yuppies and e-teens finding anxiety relief and taking Instagram photos like they did at the Museum of Ice Cream or the Egg House.
At the top of a new decade, slime is more than just a toy or an Instagram trend. It has the potential to be a fixture in trendy offices and bedside tables everywhere. But it has a long way to go: Slime sellers will tell you their customers on Etsy are mostly parents looking to feed the habits of their 8 to 12-year olds. But the people behind Instagram’s many slime accounts say that it’s teenagers and young adults who make up the bulk of slime’s online audience.
Sloomoo’s co-founder Karen Robinovitz remembers the gooey slime of her 1970s childhood and every decade’s slime toy since: from Floam to Gak to Silly Putty, they each had their own unique texture and singular use... and they were all quickly outgrown. Everything changed when Thai slime first popped up on Instagram in 2014. The cloudy pastel creations fit right in with Gen Z’s growing interest in ‘90s anime, vaporwave, and dreamy nostalgia. In 2016, when Selena Gomez ruled Instagram, people stopped focusing on their selfies and pivoted to “the grid.” And #VSCO (yes, that VSCO) was the app’s biggest community. In the background, the #slime community was growing into a robust group of “slimers” that slapped, squished, folded, stretched, and thwocked their artisanal creations for millions of Instagram users to enjoy.
Over the next couple of years, slime was the “aesthetically pleasing” reflection of whatever was vibing on Instagram before it became Gen Z’s digital lemonade stand. Teens turned these arts-and-crafts projects into booths at slime conventions and stores on Etsy. Fast forward to the present, and slime is now its very own museum.
Like the now-permanent Museum of Ice Cream, Sloomoo tickets come at just under $40. But for Robinovitz, Sloomoo is more than a place to create new Instagram content. Before Sloomoo, she helped create the first talent agency for social media stars. But a series of personal tragedies challenged her mental health and, “playing with slime brought me some joy that I didn’t think I’d ever feel again,” she tells Refinery29. She has a friend’s 10-year old daughter to thank for her introduction to slime, but she soon realized it was a movement with the potential to pierce into every age group.“I was talking to women who were experiencing, or had experienced the same soothing and healing properties that I experienced with slime,” she recalls.
The new, “elevated” slime of the 2010s can bend light like the rippling pools of a Hockney and it can sit in a tub on your desk like a stylish slab of Italian marble. It can feel like everything you’ve wanted a cloud to feel like. With this slime, you can sink your fingers into a vat of whipped cream or butter, watch the canyons your fingers make, then pull out perfectly clean hands. You can pick out a swirling strand of cotton candy and stretch it above your head. And it can smell like the sugary breakfast cereals that fueled our Saturday morning cartoon binges.
The kids visiting Sloomoo take to slime like it’s any other toy. For the zoomers online, it’s a fixture of Instagram’s ever-growing feed of brain tickles. But for the rest of the population, slime is packaged as something life-enhancing and therapeutic. Sloomoo’s main floor features an interactive demonstration of slime’s soothing properties where people can sit across an EEG machine and compete to see who can be more relaxed while using slime.
More magical than Sloomoo’s main floor, where you can massage, poke, prod, and even walk on slime, is the factory humming along in the basement. Rows of Elmer’s Glue stretched the length of half a city block. There were industrial-sized mixers, a hypnotic assortment of Demeter scents, and cosmetic-grade pigments. Tubs of slime with labels that read, “snow fizz,” “cloud butter,” and my personal favorite, “thick and glossy.” At this point, my hands smelled like Froot Loops and birthday cake – scents I’d never seek out on my own, but was happy to carry under my fingernails.
But it doesn’t stop at wellness slime. Today’s “elevated” slime references everything from Chanel and Gucci to Takashi Murakami and Yayoi Kusama. Robinovitz shows me Gucci and Loewe ads that feature slime. And then there are the celebrities: Drew Barrymore visited the week before I got there. Busy Phillips went with her kids, Cricket and Birdie, the following week. Steadily, the Sloomoo Institute has made appearances in Kerry Washington and Alice & Olivia designer Stacy Bendet’s Instagram accounts. Sure, these trips were mostly kid-centric, but these are some pretty chic kids.
Sloomoo also has a plan for the young adults who make up the bulk of slime’s Instagram following. It includes a whole slate of adult-centric programming, like Sip and Slime happy hours and CBD Slime nights, where the food and the slime are baptized with the cannabinoid. Robinovitz is eager to share stories about the slime phenomenon she’s slowly engineering: She tells me every conference room at the Calvin Klein offices has a tub of slime. It’s been a hit with her stylish friends and former fashion world colleagues.
If slime is a trend online and a potential wellness tool offline, the community that has grown around it straddles both worlds. This community is anyone who makes, buys, or otherwise enjoys slime. It’s anyone with a reason to attend a slime convention or slide into a slimer’s DM’s asking for a quote on an unlisted concoction. There is no barrier of entry, beyond access to Instagram. In the beginning, slimers communicated via their slime only: DM’ing each other, exchanging tips, and recipes.
Amy Standen, 48, is a slimer with an enviable head of silver-blonde hair. She oversees slime production at Sloomoo, admitting, “I’m quite a bit older than the average slimer.” She built her following of half-a-million on Instagram, first with tweens, then older teenagers, and finally the parents. “And I was even a little bit hesitant to show my hands, but I had to! I’m showing slime videos. And I got some comments like, “Oh, how old are you?”
It can be said that Instagram and the slime community grew up together. In 2018, Instagram used a slime video to introduce users to IGTV. Stories had already shifted the focus from pure aesthetics to narrative. The official Instagram account captioned its many slime shout-outs with personal anecdotes that told stories of creators that found hope, anxiety relief, or a creative outlet in slime. So the slime trend grew into a slime community. Standen says that, “now you’re buying from someone who you may know what they look like, what their voice sounds like, what kind of dog they have.”
“I think different generations think differently about slime when you first talk about it.” Amanda Tanner, 28, also a resident slimer, posted a slime video that made her bed vibrate through the night she got so many notifications. A million likes later, she makes slime for a living. “When I first mentioned slime to my mom she was like: ‘that’s what’s stuck to my ceiling! That’s why I have a stain on my couch!’ but then when they feel slime now, it’s been elevated.” Slime today is an internet trend, it’s a business, a community, and a wellness tool.
Online, generations X, Y, and Z live in harmony: making, buying, selling, and sharing slime. They all seem to bond over slime’s unifying message of whimsy and creativity. Offline, Sloomoo’s slime zealots are working hard to spread the joy, attempting the near impossible — to create a space as uninhibited as the internet.