Skin Cycling

Any beauty enthusiast who is active on social media will have come across the phrase “skin cycling”, racking up 3.5 billion views on TikTok alone, but should we all be buying into the hype? The short answer is, yes! Want to know more? Here, we break down the skincare trend coined by American dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe and answer all your burning questions about why we should all be dialling down our skincare routine for better-looking skin.

What is skin cycling?

Skin cycling is a night-time skincare routine which is encouraged over four nights to support your skin barrier and supposedly give you the best skin ever. It involves using active ingredients on two specific days followed by “rest days” (nights) and continuing in this pattern through the week. By following this consistently, your skin barrier is well protected and effective. It’s all about building in time for your skin to recover.

What are the benefits?

Over-exfoliating and using powerful retinoids may harm your skin barrier. By simplifying your routine with skin cycling, you’re potentially reducing inflammation from active ingredients. It encourages you to start slow and hydrate your skin in between, keeping your skin barrier strong and healthy.


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A post shared by Dr. Whitney Bowe (@drwhitneybowe)


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A post shared by Shani Darden (@shanidarden)

Are there any side effects?

None. In fact, if you’ve only started to include retinoids and other actives in your skincare regime, then your skin will thank you for the nights of recovery. You’ll be able to control any redness, purging or peeling and be able to identify if your skin is reactive to certain ingredients. A great try-and-test approach.

Who is it best for?

This is an ideal skincare approach for both newbies and anyone that uses hardcore skin ingredients regularly. There is no one-size-fits-all, but consistency is key to noticing a difference in your skin. It’s especially helpful for those that don’t give their skin enough time to recover in between steps to soak in the benefits. Whether you have dry or oily skin or tend to have acne or rosacea, skin cycling can dramatically improve your skin texture while giving the skin time to recuperate from a cocktail of ingredients.

Your Skin Cycling Routine

Night 1- Exfoliation

This is all about sloughing away dead skin and cleaning pores. First, cleanse with a gentle face wash and pat your skin dry. Follow with a leave-on chemical exfoliant, such as a serum that includes alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids. Contrary to belief, exfoliants shouldn’t cause painful burning or instant inflammation; if that happens to you, wash it off ASAP. (A bit of tingling is okay and nothing to worry about.) Lock everything in with a moisturizer before bed. Want to know what acids you should be using? Check out our AHA and BHA guide.

Night 2- Retinoids

Using retinoids will help speed up your skin cell turnover, giving you fresher, clearer-looking skin every time. Vitamin A-based skin products can help treat mild acne, fade hyperpigmentation and scarring, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s one of the most powerful ingredients to include in your skin cycling routine. And a big reason why your skin needs recovery days. It’s important to get clued up on your retinoid before trying them on your skin, Dr Sam Bunting explains. And remember, a pea-sized amount of product for your entire face is plenty.

Night 3 & 4- Repair & Recover

These nights are dedicated to recovering your skin and pressing reset. Simply cleanse your face and apply any hydrating serums or night creams without an active ingredient in sight! Look for fragrance-free products that contain skin-repairing add-ons like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides. They’ll pump hydration into your skin and boost moisture levels significantly.

Want more great tips on skin maintenance? Check out these golden rules for skin by London’s top facialists.

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