I Tried Five Aquaphor Alternatives and Discovered the Best Ones For Slugging
We put five skincare slugging methods to the test after receiving complimentary samples from select brands. Keep reading for a thorough comparison.
If I were a skincare product, I'd be a lipid-loaded moisturizer. Sure, serums can be sexy, eye creams are decadent little waifs, and cleansers know how to get jobs done—but moisturizers are the huggers. Applying a good cream or balm is like calling a friend to debrief or relaxing at home without shoes. Superlatives to the side, it's why I take slugging seriously, sealing my hydrating products in with occlusives like Aquaphor.
Born from K-beauty wisdom, slugging has taken over TikTok and our skincare routines. The concept is simply coating your face in a petrolatum-like product like Aquaphor or Vaseline, which helps prevent transepidermal water loss and keeps moisture in your skin. Aquaphor is the accessible, fan-favorite baseline for this, but you also have several other options if you're looking for a cosmetically grown-up version of this hero product.
Curious about which occlusive products you should try? Keep reading for my full thoughts on five different Aquaphor alternatives.
What Is Slugging?
"Slugging is the process of applying a physical barrier to the skin. The concept has been around for many years and has recently sparked renewed interest and popularity via social media," explains San Francisco-based skin therapist and pore-tender Isabelle McLeod. "The idea is to apply a petroleum-based product as an occlusive over your hydrating or specialty serums, trapping in those ingredients to drive them deeper into the skin, offering quicker absorbency and efficacy."
Slugging can be a dream for thirsty skin. "This tends to be more popular with drier skin types, in colder climates, or during winter when many of us are managing dryness," McLeod explains. "It's also a great option for those who travel often. You'll want to be cautious of using this approach over your retinoids and actives or if you're oily or acne-prone."
About My Skin
As a cold-weather-averse traveler with dry skin, slugging has helped my skin immensely. After one or two retinol snafus, slugging helped repair my barrier. It's the silent meditation retreat of skincare rituals, but at the cost of my silk pillowcase. Thus, I'm searching for an alternative that balances the slime factor: Think less Nickelodeon and more baby dolphin skin.
My skin barrier is fickle; a redness-prone, easily aggravated beast. Upon moving to San Francisco and losing the frizz-inducing humidity of Sydney, it became INFJ-level sensitive, so I've been in desperate need of an Evian-mainline (a.k.a. humectants). These days, pairing a good occlusive with a hydrating powerhouse is a non-negotiable for me.
Ahead, I put five potential Aquaphor alternatives to the plump-it-up test. Here's what I thought of each.
Futurewise Slug Balm (paired with the Futurewise Slugging System)
Feel Factor: Lush in the palm, glides onto skin, less tacky or polished than Aquaphor | Size: 1.76 fl.oz. | Rating: 8/10
Not just a solo slather, Futurewise is a game-changing slugging system. It combines an occlusive balm with cream and mist, and the trio is designed to stop transepidermal water loss (TEWL) in its tracks.
Post-cleanse, I apply the mist and moisturizer for a hydration boost, then seal it with the balm. I enjoy spritzing on the mist, which provides a proper kiss of hydration and isn't an aggressive (or spitting) spray. Next, the moisturizer offers a lush layer of lipids to boost my skin barrier, with a great texture on my pores—it's not too greasy, and I didn't experience any pilling.
The balm is the real star of this show. It's a dreamy, lightweight, plant-based answer to all my greasy wake-ups. This hero product is a great option for those new to slug life or prone to decision fatigue. While the complete system is linked below, if you already have a mist and moisturizer you love, you can also purchase the balm for $24.
Futurewise Slugging System ($70)
Dieux Skin Instant Angel (paired with CeraVe Healing Ointment)
Feel Factor: Fluffy, hydrating, and like a hug for your skin, sealed in with a waxy gel | Size: 1.59 fl.oz. | Rating: 8.5/10
This slugging duo is a power couple in the making. Dieux's Instant Angel moisturizer is a repeat sellout thanks to its barrier protection and rich lipids—fans say the product is true to its name and makes their cheeks look cherubic. Co-founder and CEO Charlotte Palermino has become popular on Instagram and TikTok for sharing no-nonsense expertise on slugging and countless other skincare topics, which made me excited to try this ceramide, squalane, and glycerin-packed moisturizer.
Layering a hydrating serum, a lipid-rich moisturizer, and the CeraVe Healing Ointment is heaven-sent. This "moisture sandwich," as Palermino would call it, is a just-right mix that locks down intense hydration. My resulting skin was particularly plump—the kind of healthy, glowy look that invites Zoom compliments.
Dieux Instant Angel ($45)
CeraVe Healing Ointment ($9)
iS Clinical Sheald Recovery Balm
Feel Factor: Ultra-rich and nourishing, ideal for when your skin really needs it | Size: 2 fl.oz. | Rating: 8/10
McLeod says this balm is her favorite: "The iS Clinical Sheald Recovery Balm is beautifully balanced with supporting ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants to meet your occlusive needs," she tells us. Naturally, I had to give it a whirl, and as promised, this turned up the plump factor. Made for post-procedure skin, its heavy-duty nourishment is unlike anything I've applied before.
Despite the price, a little goes a long way. I wake up with skin on the slimier side of what I've experienced with slugging, and it takes a heavy hand to wash off before AM skin prep. Still, this balm soothes and calms well beyond your Walgreens go-to, which my redness-prone skin needs weekly. This top-shelf pick works hard beyond the occlusion and is a great option if deep nourishment is your priority.
iS Clinical Sheald Recovery Balm ($75)
Cocokind One-for-All Balm
Feel Factor: Rich and balmy, but can get slightly grainy in certain climates due to the natural formula | Size: 1.7 fl.oz. | Rating: 7/10
A skincare brand I can shop as part of my Whole Foods run? Say less. Cocokind's nourishing vegan balm option is made for anyone who's petrolatum-averse but still intrigued by the slug life. I found this tube to need a little coaxing before the balm came out, but once applied, it smoothed dry spots stat. It went on nicely, but it didn't hold as much moisture in my skin as the other Aquaphor alternatives—though, I found it made the most healing impact on a cheek spot I'd been nursing.
Given the top-tier contenders, I would save the One-for-All Balm for desert-dry spots. And though I didn't get to review it (only so much face, friends), the brand also launched a ceramide balm for all your healing moisture needs.
Cocokind One-for-All Balm ($11)
Embryolisse Lait Crème Sensitive (paired with La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5)
Feel Factor: Hydrating, juicy, and buttery—can take a while to sink in and has a slight white cast | Size: 3.38 fl.oz. | Rating: 7.5/10
This Embryolisse tube is crinkled with love and is my go-to moisturizer to pair with Aquaphor. But TikTok has been raving about the La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5, so I had to test it. The balm's hero ingredient is panthenol (a.k.a. vitamin B5), a moisturizer that acts as both a humectant and an emollient. Upon application, I'm in slugging heaven: The texture isn't tacky but slick.
For those who avoid silicones, this product has dimethicone. My sensitive skin had no issues, but it's always a good idea to patch test when in doubt.
Embryolisse Lait-Crème Sensitive ($32)
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 ($18)
The Final Verdict
While Aquaphor is a popular product for a reason, there are many options for getting your slug on. Here's what stands out about a few of the favorites I tested above.
Best Slugging System: If you're new to slugging, you can't beat Futurewise for offering a complete system of products you can purchase in one go. The products balance lightweight hydration and lush nourishment and are super simple to use together.
Best Allover Barrier Repair: Packed with powerful hydration but with a light and fluffy feel, Dieux Skin's Instant Angel is ideal for everyday use. You'll be obsessed with the cherubic finish, an effect that only gets better when you lock it all in with the CeraVe Healing Ointment.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Starting with a gentle moisturizer is crucial if you're prone to irritation, and Embryolisse's Lait-Crème Sensitive fits the bill. The non-comedogenic formula is fragrance-free and nourishes skin with aloe vera, soy proteins, shea butter, and beeswax. La Roche Posay's Cicaplast Baume B5 is equally soothing and designed specifically to relieve dryness and irritation.