What is Skin Cycling: A Complete Guide

You may have heard of Skin Cycling from Tiktok, or from one of your in-the-know friends. As it has recently taken the internet by storm. The best part is, it is not only approved by dermatologists, but has been proven by many to be a simplified and practical new approach to skincare. In April 2021, renowned board certified dermatologist, Whitney Bowe, MD, introduced the world to a game changing four day skincare regimen that quickly gained popularity on TikTok. It not only offers a variety of benefits, making it an appealing choice for many. But, its simplicity makes it easy to maintain a regular skin care routine. This approach is perfect for those looking to maintain healthy and glowing skin without feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re curious about trying skin cycling, I’ll break down what it entails and recommend some of my favorite skincare brands to get you started on your new skincare journey!

Also, for more skincare information and reviews, be sure to check out these posts as well: Best Medical Grade Skincare Brands and Why I Use Them, Revive Skincare Review, Body Care Routine for Glowing Skin.

What is Skin Cycling: A Complete Guide

What is Skin Cycling: A Complete Guide

What is Skin Cycling?

Skin cycling is a four-night regimen that alternates between using active ingredients like exfoliants and retinol and allowing the skin to rest. According to Dr. Bowe, this strategic routine maximizes the benefits of active ingredients while minimizing skin irritation. It involves two consecutive evenings of active products, followed by two nights of recovery. And then using only a simple moisturizer for the rest of the week. The goal is to simplify the skincare routine and optimize skin health.

When done correctly, skin cycling begins the week with two evenings of active ingredients, followed by two nights of rest. For the rest of the week, you only need a simple moisturizer until the cycle starts over.

How Does Skin Cycling Work?

Skin cycling is a concept thats goal is to balance the use of two potent ingredients, exfoliants, and retinol. By alternating between them and giving the skin two nights of recovery in between, it allows the skin to build tolerance and reduces the risk of overstimulation. Many dermatologists support this approach, as it allows for maximal results with minimal irritation. However, it’s essential to consider your specific skin type and sensitivity level. Starting with a gentle approach and gradually increasing intensity can be beneficial, and consulting with a dermatologist before incorporating new products is advised. If you’re not ready for full skin cycling, a simple routine of gentle cleansing, sunscreen, and vitamin C in the morning, with a weekly chemical exfoliant, can also be effective.

What Does a Skin Cycling Routine Look Like?

Night 1: Exfoliate

Night 1 of skin cycling involves exfoliating your skin using chemical exfoliators like salicylic acid, lactic acid, and AHAs/BHAs. Put away physical exfoliators and opt for pads or resurfacing treatments to gently sweep away dead skin cells, promoting healthy and glowing skin. Dr. Bowe recommends starting with a gentle at-home peel after cleansing and following with moisturizer.

Exfoliation not only removes dead cells but also improves skin texture and enhances the absorption of other skincare products. However, those with sensitive skin should be cautious when exfoliating, as physical exfoliants may lead to irritation or allergic reactions, especially when starting with exfoliants or retinoids.

Night 2: Apply Retinol

Night 2 of skin cycling involves applying retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient known for its fine line-smoothing properties. It’s essential to start slowly and build tolerance, as retinol can be strong and potentially irritating. New users can mix it with a moisturizer to reduce any discomfort and gradually increase usage. Properly used, retinol promotes skin cell turnover, leading to a more youthful and rejuvenated appearance. Dr. Bowe recommends applying a pea-sized amount of retinol after cleansing and layering it with moisturizer as the final step of your nighttime routine. Don’t forget to use sunscreen daily, as retinol can make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

Nights 3 & 4: Hydrate and Recover

Night 3 and 4 of skin cycling focus on hydration and recovery, without using any active ingredients. Night 3 and 4 begin with a gentle cleanser to wash away the day’s impurities, followed by a hyaluronic acid serum to boost hydration. Complete the routine with a moisturizer, and optionally, seal in the moisture with a face oil.

After two nights of active ingredients, it’s essential to give your skin a breather. Skin cycling allows for not one but two recovery nights. These nights are crucial for restoring and soothing the skin barrier, which can get compromised if overexposed to exfoliators and harsh scrubs. To soothe and nourish the skin, opt for reparative formulas that include ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and glycerin. After a gentle cleanse, apply a hydrating serum, followed by a moisturizer to lock everything in and support healthy skin hydration. Take these “rest days” seriously to promote skin recovery and overall well-being.

What are the Risks?

There are certain risks to skin cycling, particularly for those with sensitive or eczema-prone skin. Individuals in these categories may struggle to tolerate two active ingredients within one week initially. For such cases, its recomended to beginning the journey with just one active ingredient for a few weeks before adding the second one. Introducing new ingredients to your routine can trigger uncomfortable skin reactions, especially with retinol, which can be harsh. Starting retinol might lead to initial inflammation, irritation, or mild acne breakouts. Purging, characterized by red bumps or rashes, could also occur, typically within the first eight days after introducing a new product. However, over time, the skin should adapt and these effects should subside.

Should I Try Skin Cycling?

Should you give skin cycling a try? The appeal of the Skin Cycling trend lies in its manageable schedule suitable for skincare beginners and experienced enthusiasts alike, maintaining control for those who tend to get carried away with active ingredients. Ultimately, using effective skincare products is what truly matters. To determine the right ingredients for your unique skin, consult your dermatologist, and remember: slow and steady wins the race. Pushing exfoliants and retinoids too hard can harm your skin barrier. Whether you choose skin cycling or not, paying attention to your skin’s needs, using SPF protection, and keeping it hydrated are fundamental.

Where Do I Begin?

Starting skin cycling is as easy as going slow and steady. Especially if you’re new to skincare or have sensitive skin, begin by adding just one product a week. This gradual approach helps your skin get used to it. With only three or four products to use each week, skin cycling is a manageable routine. Whether you’re overwhelmed by beauty trends or unsure where to start with building a skincare regimen, skin cycling is a clear choice. It’s not just a trend – it’s a dedicated routine that can lead to healthy, glowing skin.

Shop Skin Care

Shop some of my favorite skincare products. From retinols to exfoliants and more, there is something for every step of the skin cycling routine.

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Guide to Skin Cycling

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