Why Do Fighters Use Vaseline?

Watching popular combat sports events, you can often see the cutman applying vaseline to the fighters’ faces before and during the match in between the rounds. But why do fighters use vaseline, and what are the benefits?

Vaseline is a jelly-like substance that makes the skin slippery and elastic. This decreases the friction between the skin and the leather glove and prevents the skin from tearing upon impact and opening a cut. Instead, the strike would likely “slide off” the slippery skin without causing much damage.

Even if the strike opens the cut, vaseline can be applied to open wounds to stop the bleeding. Do you want to know whether the fighters can apply vaseline to other body areas? Why do they use it during the weight cut and put it in their nose?

What Is Vaseline?

Vaseline is a petroleum jelly discovered in 1859 by Robert Augustus Chesebrough. Its structure combines mineral oils and rod waxes, forming a solid jelly-like substance.

In 1859, Chesebrough was in the small town of Titusville, Pennsylvania. He noticed oil workers using this jelly-like substance to heal burnt skin and open wounds, where “Vaseline” originates.

Besides healing skin scrapes and burns, Vaseline is also applied to open wounds to stop the bleeding. People also use it as lube for stuck objects, such as when the ring is stuck on your finger.

How Vaseline Stops Facial Cuts and Lacerations?

Regarding cuts and lacerations, the human face is the most sensitive body area, notably around the eyes, cheekbones, and eyebrows. First, the skin is much “thinner” than other body areas because less fat and muscle mass make it elastic.

Next, if you combine this with the sharp and protruding edges of our orbital bones, for example, you get a part of the body prone to injuries like cuts and lacerations.

When a lather glove impacts the face, the dry skin is stretched tighter, and due to direct contact with the sharp bone, it would likely tear the skin under pressure.

Vaseline is a lubricant, and when applied to the face, it reduces friction and makes the skin slippery and elastic. Instead of tearing upon impact, vaseline enables the skin to absorb pressure and be stretched more than when it is dry. 

Why Do Fighters Use Vaseline Before A Fight?

Why Do Fighters Use Vaseline Before A Fight

Fighters use Vaseline to prevent cuts, lacerations, and bleeding caused by the leather glove impacts the dry skin. A cutman first applies the Vaseline right before the fight.

During the match, the cutman will add more vaseline between the rounds to treat injuries or add extra protection. They primarily focus on the areas around fighters’ eyes, eyebrows, cheekbones, and lips.

Here is a detailed explanation of why fighters put Vaseline on their faces and how this impacts the fight.

Protects the face from lacerations and cuts

In combat sports such as boxing, kickboxing, and MMA, fighters wear padded gloves made out of leather. Due to high friction, a punch carrying a force may tear the skin upon impacting the dry skin and open the cut.

However, applying vaseline to the face makes the skin “slippery,” which reduces friction and, in some cases, causes the punch to “slide off” the head. This significantly reduces the chance of injuries such as deep cuts.

It is an effective method of stopping bleeding

Vaseline reduces the chance of skin tearing, but it does not stop it. In combat sports, deep cuts and open wounds are the most common injuries.

But even when the injury does happen, Vaseline can still help. When a cut is too big, and the blood is pouring out, Vaseline alone is not enough to stop it.

The cutman would initially use a mix of coagulant and adrenaline chloride to stop the bleeding. Then, they would apply Vaseline around the cut to add extra protection.

Vaseline makes the skin more elastic

Applying Vaseline makes the skin more elastic and allows it to stretch more. This is crucial as more elastic skin further reduces friction and prevents potential injuries. Instead of instantly tearing off, the skin covered in Vaseline would stretch upon receiving a hard punch and remain intact in many cases.

It prevents premature doctor stoppages

No one likes a ringside doctor ending the fight too early due to severe facial injuries like open cuts. It is in the best interest of the promotions, spectators, and fighters to prevent these scenarios.

Deep cuts and bleeding do not represent a life-threatening injury. But from the doctors’ point of view, it does require special treatment backstage or in the hospital.

In some cases, the cut could lead to more serious injuries, especially those close to the eyes. These are situations in which a doctor would step in and stop the match.

If using vaseline were to be banned from combat sports, these situations would happen in just about every match, and there would be more fights ending too early. The sport wouldn’t be the same.

Why Do Fighters Use Vaseline When Cutting Weight?

Why Do Fighters Use Vaseline When Cutting Weight

Fighters use Vaseline in the final stages of the weight-cutting process to eliminate excess water in their bodies and lose more weight. Vaseline has a higher melting point than the human body temperature, which means covering the body will hold the heat inside the body.

As a result, the body temperature will quickly build up. Naturally, the human body will respond by producing more sweat in an attempt to lower the temperature and cool down itself.

More sweat means more water coming out of the body, which translates to fighters losing more weight. The process effectively enables fighters to lose water and weight without losing muscle mass.

The process lasts up to an hour, after which the Vaseline is removed.

Why Do Boxers Put Vaseline In Their Nose?

Cutman put the Vaseline inside their nose or at the edge of their nostrils to try and stop the blood from flowing out. However, this may also block the airflow through the nose and force a boxer to breathe through their mouth.

But it will eventually create a clot, stop the blood from pouring out, and, depending on the damage, may allow you to breathe through the nose again.

You will have your breathing blocked when your nose gets busted up. Thus, the cutman will apply vaseline, or a mix of vaseline and adrenaline chlorine, to stop the bleeding until the clot gets formed and enable the airflow again.

Some trainers would apply it at the edge of the nostrils before the fight to help prevent bleeding ahead.

Can You Put Vaseline On Your Face Before A Street Fight?

Can You Put Vaseline On Your Face Before A Street Fight

Street fighting is not a regulated match, and there are no rules to stop you from using vaseline or any other substance to prevent injuries. The problem is that people don’t walk around with vaseline in the back of their pocket, nor will most street fighting scenarios give you time to prepare and apply vaseline.

In some other scenarios, you may use vaseline if you know you will get in a street fight. The best advice is not to use it at all and not to leave your home, as engaging in a planned street fight is stupid and dangerous.

But if you decide to go, using vaseline will likely lower your chance of suffering a severe cut. However, it does not offer the same protection as in a regulated match where fighters wear leather gloves. A bare-knuckle punch to the face carries a higher risk of skin tearing.

Either way, avoid physical violence and not get into a street fight.

Can Fighters Put Vaseline On Their Bodies?

In almost all combat sports, vaseline is applied only to the fighter’s face. Coaches and cutmen are not allowed to put the vaseline on fighters’ shoulders, arms, legs, chest, or any other body part apart from the head. There are two main reasons why this rule is in place.

First, the skin on your arms, legs, or shoulders is less sensitive and thin than on your face. These body areas include big muscles and a layer of fat below the skin.

It acts as a shock absorber that makes the skin elastic and enables it to stretch upon impact. This is why you rarely see deep cuts caused by a punch or a kick on the fighters’ bodies.

Further, applying vaseline to your arms or legs can improve your performance in a fight. This is an illegal act in MMA, for example. Since it is a lubricant, vaseline will make your arms and legs more slippery, which gives you a significant advantage during the grappling exchanges.

It makes it almost impossible for the opponent to secure a strong grip or to apply submissions like leglocks or armlocks.

One such incident happened in a match between George St. Pierre and BJ Penn at UFC 94. In between the rounds, GSP’s corner was seen rubbing his body with vaseline, which was a very controversial moment. However, the referee didn’t see this, so they got away with it.

Final Thoughts

Face injuries such as cuts and lacerations are among the most common injuries in sports like boxing or MMA. The main reason why fighters use vaseline is to prevent these injuries or to treat open wounds and stop the bleeding.

Without it, a fighter would likely suffer a cut after the first exchange and be compromised. The blood would start getting in their mouths and noses and maybe cause the ringside doctor to stop the match.

Vaseline plays a significant role as it makes the skin slippery and more elastic, which reduces friction and prevents these injuries. In the end, it often acts as a decisive factor between winning and losing.


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