Vaseline on Under-Eye Bags? Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Weighs in on TikTok Trend (Exclusive)

Bianca Piazza - Author

Feb. 2 2024, Published 3:05 p.m. ET

Close-up photo of a woman holding her pointer finger up to her under-eye area
Source: iStock

One day, it's copper peptides; the next, it's snail mucin. Social media will have us slathering our faces in just about anything if it means achieving flawless, ageless, "glass" skin. TikTok is a particularly vast sea of questionable, innovative, and near-ancient skincare tips, tricks, and hacks. One of the "newest" of the bunch involves applying Vaseline to help with under-eye bags.

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Here at Green Matters, we've written extensively about the negative environmental impacts of petroleum-based products, as petroleum jelly is a crude oil derivative. According to the IEA, oil and gas production is connected to approximately 15 percent of global energy-related emissions.

Close-up photo of a finger digging into an open container of Vaseline
Source: iStock
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With this in mind, is it worth dousing ourselves — specifically our delicate under-eyes — in Robert Chesebrough's 1800s “rod wax” discovery?

We spoke to board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr. Jimmy C. Sung of Tribeca Aesthetics about the skincare benefits of Vaseline, its safety when used around the eyes, and the "re-release of a classic K-beauty hack."

TikTok users are applying Vaseline to the under-eye area. Can petroleum jelly replace an eye cream?

According to dermatologist Dr. Muneeb Shah of YouTube's Doctorly, "pure 100 percent petrolatum is the most effective occlusive moisturizer," as it prevents 99 percent of water loss during sleep.

While Vaseline shouldn't necessarily replace an eye cream, the doctor-turned-social media star frequently applies a gentle moisturizer under his eyes prior to a layer of Vaseline. Even Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney favors this trick, as shown in her Harper's Bazaar "Go To Bed With Me" video.

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However, Dr. Jimmy C. Sung explains via email that "the risk outweighs the benefits" when applying Vaseline to the under-eye area.

"Our eyelids are very delicate, being the thinnest skin of our body. Some people might develop small bumps known as milia when using petroleum-based products around the eyes," he tells Green Matters.

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As per a definition published by StatPearls, milia are "benign and transient subepidermal keratin cysts" that commonly appear on the face.

To clarify, Dr. Shah also warned those prone to developing milia to be cautious.

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Aside from its ability to seal in hydration, some apply petroleum jelly around the eyes in hopes it'll turn back the clock ten years. So, can Vaseline reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles? Dr. Sung kept his answer simple: "Petroleum jelly has no anti-aging properties."

Additionally, according to an All About Vision article reviewed by Dr. Gary Heiting, OD, there isn't any sound medical evidence that Vaseline can help the appearance of under-eye bags caused by natural aging.

Dr. Jimmy C. Sung talks about the resurgence of the Korean skincare hack known as "slugging."

Applying a layer of Vaseline atop moisturizers and serums is nothing new. In fact, according to dermatologist Dr. Nancy Samolitis, this "TikTok trend" has actually been a K-beauty practice for over a century.

"Petroleum jelly has long been used in Asia to improve skin hydration," Dr. Sung explains. "The practice is known as 'slugging' and uses petroleum jelly as part of the skincare routine to seal moisture in the skin."

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Dr. Sung goes on to tell us about the three caveats of slugging the face:

First, the skin must be squeaky clean before applying Vaseline, as "any products or substances on the face will penetrate the skin further when an occlusive, such as petroleum jelly, is placed above it." Next, he implores people to only use a petroleum jelly free of impurities. And finally, those with oily skin or clogged pores may want to skip slugging entirely.

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