Beauty in a Tik

TikTok’s ‘Nail Slugging’ Hack Transformed My Weak, Flaky Nails

Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
Slugging. It doesn't sound particularly sexy but if TikTok is anything to go by, the beauty hack is worth considering.
By now you've probably heard of the benefits of skincare slugging: the act of slathering your face in a thick layer of petroleum jelly before bed. The hope? To lock in as much moisture as possible overnight for soft, plump skin come morning. Then there's hair slugging, a similar technique using hair oils, not to mention hand slugging (layering hyaluronic acid serum, hand cream, and Vaseline to get rid of flaky, cracked skin).
As far as TikTok's beauty community is concerned, there aren't many things you can't slug. Now, it's nails. It makes total sense. Nail trends are huge right now, particularly press-onsgels, and acrylic styles in various colors and shapes. Without regular breaks and proper nail care, however, they do tend to leave nail beds brittle, and cuticles looking and feeling a little worse for wear.

What is nail slugging?

On TikTok recently, skin-care expert Dr. Charles MD made a case for slugging your nails as often as possible. "You've heard of slugging your skin," said Dr. Charles in the video, which has amassed almost 100k views, "but what about your nails? We all know acrylates [ingredients found in nail products] can damage nails. Slugging the nail cuticle can strengthen nails and protect them from water damage." In the video Dr. Charles uses what appears to be petroleum jelly to slug his nails. "It should be done daily," he continued, explaining that slugging makes nails stronger and less brittle.
It wasn't long before TikTok's nail obsessives took to the app to share how they slug their nails. TikToker @lovefreshpaint went viral for their take on nail slugging, which consists of a drop of CND Vinylux Solar Oil Essential Nail & Cuticle Conditioner massaged into nails and cuticles, followed by a dab of Eucerin Aquaphor Skin Repairing Balm. "I do this every night before bed," they told their TikTok followers. @mytrendynails also makes a case for nail slugging, using cuticle oil and a hand balm, and the results are strong, flake-free nails and skin.
My nails are in a bad way. I try my best to grow them long, but they end up peeling or splitting down the middle, though my diet is healthy and I take some supplements. Don't even get me started on my ragged cuticles, which I constantly pick. This hack seemed made for me — and it seems I'm not alone. 'Why do my nails peel/keep breaking/split?' have been commonly-searched queries in the past year, according to Google Trends.
My nails before nail slugging

My nails before nail slugging

What are the benefits of nail slugging?

Before trying this out, though, I wanted an expert take. So, I spoke to award-winning nail artist and technician Metta Francis, of Nails by Mets. My first question: Are there any real benefits to nail slugging?
"Using both cuticle oil and hand cream basically creates a super hydrating and moisturizing infusion that will absorb into the skin and nails to hydrate and relieve any dryness," confirmed Metta. "The oil helps lock in moisture from hand cream, so it actually makes more sense to mix the two: applying moisturizer first, a drop of oil, and then massaging both in together." You could even apply the moisturizer all over first and finish by layering the cuticle or nail oil, added Metta. "I always recommend my clients to oil their nails twice daily. And for anyone with really dehydrated and dry skin and cuticles, apply what I call a 'moisture bomb' of cream and cuticle oil twice a week."

My Results

I picked up Jessica Phenomen Oil Intensive Moisturizer, which has a handy dropper to make application easy. Massaging it into my nails for a few minutes felt like a nice self-care ritual. Once it had absorbed a little, I decided to keep to the traditional method of slugging and apply a dollop of Vaseline. As you might have expected, this got messy, but I rubbed in the combination until most of it had sunk in, then tissued off the excess so I could head to bed without leaving greasy fingerprints all over my pillowcase.
If you regularly read Beauty In A Tik, you'll know that I'll always tell you when a TikTok beauty hack isn't worth it. Take semi-permanent lip liner, for example, or using lube as makeup primer. But nail slugging is legit. Almost like magic, my dry cuticles disappeared immediately and the splits in my nails were much less noticeable. I'm no one-hit wonder, though. I've been nail slugging with cuticle oil and Vaseline for over a week now, introducing the TikTok-famous Eucerin balm, and I can report that my nails look so much better for it. They're literally glowing and I don't have any parched cuticles to pick.
My nails after nail slugging

Can I use any oil?

I followed TikTok's advice, but can you use any old oil and hand cream for this? "I recommend applying nail-specific oils," said Metta, "but facial oils, body oils, or even pure oils, such as almond or coconut oil, are better than nothing." Metta explained that nail-specific oils will have been tested on nails and boast the perfect blend to penetrate deeply into the nail, rather than sitting on the surface. "You also might want to avoid applying highly perfumed or creams containing exfoliating acids too often, to prevent any sensitivities from forming," she advised.
I'm lazy and probably wouldn't slug every day but I could definitely get into applying a few drops of cuticle oil before bed. "I can't stress how important cuticle and nail oil is to combat flaky nails and dry cuticles," said Metta. "Think of it as the conditioner for your nails, the same way you would condition your hair." Both are made of keratin, explained Metta, and if you miss this step, your nails and hair can become more brittle and prone to breaking or drying out.
Metta loves CND Rescue RXx, a keratin-based nail oil treatment that strengthens nails while providing hydration. "OPI Nail Envy is also a great paint-on nail-strengthening treatment," said Metta, "but cuticle or nail oil must also be applied to prevent nails from becoming too hard and brittle."

Are there any downsides to nail slugging?

I have naked nails most of the time, save for a little slick of nail polish, which I apply myself. But there might be some downsides to nail slugging if you get your nails done professionally. "If you're wearing gel polish or acrylics or nail enhancements and there's any sign of lifting — for example, at the base of the nail or at the tips — you want to avoid applying too much oil or cream," said Metta. Why? It can get trapped underneath, causing further lifting. That's not the only issue. "As a result, water can start to get trapped under lifted nail coatings," added Metta, "and if left for too long, can result in what I call 'greenies' — a bacteria growth on the nail."
The GelBottle Inc. brand ambassador, Alexandra Teleki, says there are no downsides of nail slugging. Aside from using cuticle oil and hand balm, she suggests avoiding any direct contact with harsh dishwashing liquids and things like bleach. "Using gloves while working with these products will make a huge difference to the appearance of the skin and the condition of the natural nails." Alexandra also suggests looking into BIAB nails, 'or builder in a bottle' gel nails, which act as a protection layer. "This nail technique also provides additional strength to natural nails so that they can grow out long and healthy."
Heather Du, founder of Fimpo, believes that supplements containing biotin also help to restore brittle nails. "Drink plenty of water, too, as a lack of fluid in the body can contribute to the flakiness of the nails," she added. And if you get your nails done all the time, Heather suggests taking a break every once in a while, even switching to to an alternative such as adhesive nail prints.
I have to admit that I'm not a fan of skin slugging as it irritates my hormonal, acne-prone skin. But nail slugging? I can totally get on board.
This story was originally published on Refinery29UK.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

More from Nails

R29 Original Series