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Why Do Fighters Apply Vaseline On Their Face Before A Fight

Vaseline being applied to a fighters face.

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Whenever you watch a boxing or MMA fight you will notice a transparent, jelly-like substance being applied to the face of the fighter by a cutman. Well, that substance is called vaseline and it is used throughout the world of combat sports. But why do fighters apply vaseline on their face before a fight?

There are several reasons why vaseline is applied to the face of a fighter before a fight. But the main reason is to minimise friction from punches to the facial area. As the jelly is applied to all the areas of the face most likely to get cut by a punch.

What Is Vaseline

Vaseline is the substance used universally by fighters around the world during fights, but what exactly is it? Well, Vaseline is a combination of petroleum jelly that is then mixed with oils and waxes.

This combination of substances creates petroleum jelly which is perfectly suited to the job. Sealing and making the skin slippery to help of preventing cuts and blood flow during sanctioned fights.

Why Apply Vaseline To A Fighters Face

In most fights, the face is the focal point for attack. Whether it’s punches in boxing, elbows and kicks in MMA. The head and especially the face area take a large percentage of the damage.

And as the face has several areas of relatively thin skin. That cover often quite pronounced bones around the eyes and cheekbones. This means that these are the most likely areas to get cut during the fight.

So by applying a substance like Vaseline to the face. With its combination of oils and waxes. This creates a barrier on the skin which helps to both seal the skin as well as make the area slippery. So that when a punch lands it will help deflect the glove off of the skin.

Which without the petroleum jelly would have friction with the glove. And as a result, is more likely for the skin to tear on impact. The result of this can lead to the fight being stopped and the fighter losing.

Two British bare knuckle fighters in the ring.
Two British bare-knuckle boxers in the ring.

And between rounds, if a fighter does receive a cut, then vaseline will be applied to the area by the cutman using their finger. But vaseline on its own is not enough to stop heavy bleeding. So the cutman will also use some coagulant to help restrict the blood vessels and stem the blood flow.

So a coagulant such as adrenaline chloride is applied using a cotton swab. Is then used in conjunction with vaseline. To help both stop the blood and at the same time seal the wound.

What Do Cutmen Use

Along with Vaseline, a cutman will have some other essential tools in their bag to help prevent bleeding and swelling. These consist of:

  • A water bottle (keeping clothes cool and damp)
  • Adrenaline Chloride 1:1000 (sealing cuts)
  • Cotton swabs (for applying the coagulant)
  • Enswells (small metal plates that have been iced)
  • Sandwich bags (used for holding the ice)
  • Vaseline (makes skin slippery and aids the sealing cuts)

So all of the above are used in combination with Vaseline to help prevent or minimise damage to a fighter during a fight. The cotton swabs are used to apply the adrenaline chloride, combined with vaseline to seal the wound. And ice along with enswells to bring down the swelling.

Wrong Application Of Vaseline

MMA is different from boxing in that it includes grappling. And this aspect of fighting involves using the leverage of an opponent’s limbs and body in order to achieve a submission victory.

What we have seen in instances in the sport is that when vaseline is being applied to the face. Cornermen have also applied additional vaseline to other parts of the body. Making it much harder for the opponents to grab a limb and achieve a submission.

And so, for this reason, there are very strict rules around what is known as greasing in MMA. Or the illegal application of Vaseline to any part of the body other than the face during a fight.

In Conclusion

So I think you can now see the very obvious reason for vaseline being a staple in combat sports. No other substance achieves the same results as it does during boxing or MMA fights. And so for this reason, it has continued to be the product of choice for cutmen around the world.

So until a product is invented that fulfils all the same qualities as that Vaseline. It will continue to be the world’s number-one-selling petroleum jelly. With $49,000,000 worth of exports around the world from the US. Its reign looks set to continue for many more years to come.