Your Simplified Guide to Skin Cycling
It’s not often you hear of a TikTok beauty trend that’s the brainchild of an actual dermatologist. Skin cycling is the latest skincare trend blowing up on TikTok, and it could be exactly what you need to fulfil your dream of dewy, luminous skin.
Coined by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, skin cycling is a practice that involves strategically using certain skincare products and active ingredients on certain nights in a bid to treat skin concerns without irritating your skin.
Here’s your guide to skin cycling, from what it is to what it can for your skin — and of course, how to actually do it.
WHAT IS SKIN CYCLING?
Skin cycling is a skincare method that involves using active ingredients such as retinol and chemical exfoliants in a specific order so that your skin can reap the benefits of each without experiencing redness, dryness, or irritation.
“Skin cycling helps people to read their skin and adjust their routine accordingly, by advising them how to use products in a strategic way to complement each other. That way the skin receives both treatment and recovery from it,” explains Dr. Vy Nguyen, an aesthetic doctor at Skin and Sanctuary.
BENEFITS OF SKIN CYCLING
The birth of skin cycling came after Dr. Bowe witnesses so many of her patients dealing with the unpleasant side effects of over-exfoliating or over-using harsh products. It turns out, less is MORE when it comes to skincare.
"You can use a nourishing moisturizer twice a day, but when you try to push the workhorses (the acids, the retinoids) you can actually do more harm than good — including damaging the skin barrier, experiencing low-grade chronic inflammation, increasing free radical damage, accelerating the aging process and worsening hyperpigmentation," Dr. Bowe told The Well.
By using these workhorses sparingly and incorporating recovery nights into your skincare routine, you significantly reduce your risk of all these skin complaints. In other words, skin cycling is a great way to enjoy all the benefits of those powerhouse actives without winding up red, dry, and sore.
IS SKIN CYCLING EFFECTIVE FOR ALL SKIN TYPES?
All skin types can benefit from skin cycling. Dry skin and sensitive skin especially will be able to safely harness the brightening and anti-aging powers of retinol and exfoliating acids. Best of all, skin cycling is completely customizable to each skin concern and need.
For instance, those with severely sensitive skin can increase the recovery days in their skin cycling routine to make the process a little gentler on the skin. Oily and acne-prone skin, likewise, can customize the routine by cutting out one recovery day in replacement of an additional treatment day.
You can easily adjust your routine, depending on your skin’s specific needs. It’s all about finding out what works best for you!
HOW TO SKIN CYCLE
Here’s your step-by-step guide to skin cycling.
Night #1: Exfoliate
On the first night of your skin cycle, use a gentle cleanser to wash away the day’s accumulation of dirt, oil, and dead skin. This way, you’ll be starting with a nice, fresh canvas on which your products can better penetrate.
Next, use an exfoliating cleanser, toner, or serum to lift dead skin cells on the surface of the skin and instantly brighten your complexion. In addition to its brightening effects, exfoliation also helps to improve product absorption.
The derms recommend using a chemical exfoliant rather than a physical exfoliant (scrub). Some of the best exfoliating acids include salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that cuts excess oil, clears pores, and prevents breakouts. Lactic and glycolic acid are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) that improve skin tone and texture while diminishing dark spots and discoloration.
One of our fave exfoliating products is Rainbow’s Glow Mask. It’s made with glycolic acid and bakuchiol to brighten, smooth, and even out skin tone.
Night #2: Apply a Retinol-Based Product
Again, start your routine with a gentle face wash to cleanse away oil and impurities. Then apply a retinol-based product like a serum or cream. Retinoids are clinically proven to boost collagen production, restore elasticity, and speed cellular turnover. They’re often found in anti-aging products thanks to their ability to soften fine lines, reverse sagging, and treat hyperpigmentation.
On retinoid night, make sure you start off with a product that has a low concentration of retinol. It’s always better to start slow with such potent ingredients to allow your skin to adjust and avoid side effects like dryness and flaking. To avoid the risk of retinol-related irritation altogether, opt for a retinol alternative like bakuchiol.
You’ll find bakuchiol in Rainbow’s Glow Serum. It’s a quick fix for instance radiance — powered by glycolic acid and bakuchiol.
Nights #3 & #4: Recover
After two nights of treating your skin with active ingredients, give it some time to recover. On these two nights, focus on upping skin’s hydration with a nourishing cream formulated with moisture-sealing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, glycerin, and squalane. It doesn’t only need to be creams. You use these two days to incorporate moisturizing masks, serums, and oils. Basically, you want to focus on replenishing lost moisture while giving skin chance to recover.
Work in the products from Rainbow’s Hydrate Bundle on recovery nights. It features a face mask and serum enriched with ultra-hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5, which work in tandem to soothe, heal, moisturize, and plump out creases.
Don’t Forget Sunscreen
During the day, always remember to apply SPF before leaving the house and re-apply every two hours after that. Pair your daily SPF with a vitamin C serum to maximize its UV-shielding effects. Even on dull days, sunscreen is a skincare essential that should NOT be skipped.
Ready to try this social media skincare trend yourself? Skin cycling is a derm-approved technique that’s suitable for all skin types. In a world where people are convinced more is more, skin cycling reminds us that less is actually more. Start slow, streamline, and see results!