The term "skin cycling" has been making the rounds in the online skincare world, particularly on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. You may have seen your friends or favorite influencers using the hashtag #skincycling when discussing their skincare routines.
There have been almost 3.5 billion total views on TikTok for content relating to "skin cycling," with the hashtag "#skincycling" generating over 122.3 million. It's obvious that skin cycling is a hot topic, but what exactly is it, and could it be what your skincare routine needs?
An obsession with skincare is acceptable, but if you randomly apply the serum on top of your skin every night, you may be causing chronic, low-grade irritation. Increased sensitivity, acne, and premature aging are all possible outcomes.
Dr. Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, says that the most common skincare mistake is not allowing enough time for the skin's barrier to repair overnight. Dr. Bowe, who has practiced dermatology for over a decade and has seen thousands of patients, warns against overusing potent products like exfoliants and retinoids, which can cause skin irritation and inflammation.
To solve this problem, Dr. Bowe devised a procedure she calls "skin cycling." She notes that the idea of alternating between different nighttime skincare products had been developing in her practice for several years before her public introduction of the technique on social media.
After listening to her patients and observing how their skin reacted to different regimens, she realized the need to simplify her patients' skincare routines to achieve the best possible results. According to her, you can get stunning effects with just a few items and careful application.
Since its introduction on TikTok and Instagram, "skin cycling" has amassed over 15 million views on the corresponding hashtag. Dr. Bowe explains all you need to know about the recently popularized skincare method that has gone viral.1
Skin Cycling: What's It All About?
If you want to take your skincare routine to the next level, Dr. Bowe recommends balancing active and recovery evenings. Dr. Bowe first used the term "skin cycling" to describe this process. The active ingredients in skincare products will be more effective and cause less irritation if you use this strategy. Exfoliation night, retinoid night, recuperation night, and recovery night are the four evenings that make up the skin cycling regimen.
The principle is similar to other cycling routines you're already familiar with. According to Dr. Bowe, if you're trying to increase strength in a particular muscle group, such as your leg muscles, you shouldn't load those muscles with heavy weights daily since this could lead to injury rather than strength. Instead, you may focus on your upper body one day and your lower body the next, giving those muscle fibers time to mend and grow stronger between sessions. The same is true for your skin. Using exfoliating acids and retinoids daily will harm your skin's barrier.
The Four-Night Cycle
Here's how to do it, night by night:
Night 1: Exfoliation
To begin, cleanse and pat dry your skin. Exfoliate your skin by eliminating dead skin cells from the surface layer. According to Bowe, this step is critical because it helps your other products penetrate more deeply into the skin. After exfoliating, moisturize. Exfoliation, on the other hand, must be done with caution. Overdoing it can cause redness and irritation, according to the AAD. Bowe recommends chemical exfoliants, which are milder than physical scrubbing.
Night 2: Retinoids
Consider using retinoids to lessen the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives in prescription drugs like tretinoin and softer over-the-counter remedies like retinol. According to Harvard Health Publishing, retinoids are effective substances to incorporate into your skin cycling program. However, be warned that they can be irritating, especially when first introduced or if you have sensitive, reactive skin. To avoid irritation, be sure to rinse and pat dry before applying. Before taking the retinoid, people with sensitive skin should moisturize around sensitive regions, such as beneath the eyes and around the corners of the nose. Additionally, if your skin feels dry after using the retinoid, you can moisturize on top of it.
Night 3 and 4: Recovery
On days three and four, your skin will need time to heal, so give it your full attention during this time. Bowe suggests that on nights when your face is recovering, you should not use harsh exfoliants like acids or retinoids but products that feed your skin's flora and help it mend its protective barrier. Focus on adding moisture and hydration, and leave out anything that could cause irritation. After washing your face, it's OK to not completely dry your skin before applying moisturizer. Also, Bowe recommends using a serum containing hydration before your moisturizer.
Depending on your skin type, your dermatologist may recommend adjusting the frequency you use retinoids. Bowe suggests increasing your recovery nights with your dermatologist if you have sensitivity and irritation. However, if you are a seasoned user who has acclimated well to your retinoid, you may reduce the recovery phase to three nights.
What are The Advantages of Skin Cycling?
Dermatologists and skin care enthusiasts agree that skin cycling can positively affect your skin. Here are a few advantages you can reap.
1. Skin Cycling Can Help Repair Your Skin Barrier
Maintaining a good skin barrier is important for more than just looks. A review article from January 2018 in the Indian Journal of Medical Research explains how the skin barrier keeps out harmful pathogens, pollutants, and allergies. Acne, eczema, and atopic dermatitis, among others, can all have a compromised skin barrier as a contributing factor.
The skin barrier can be compromised and sensitivity and redness can be experienced if you over-exfoliate or use potent retinoids. Taking some time off every so often will help you avoid this. Recovery nights, during which the skin barrier is nourished, "can be a game changer for many of my patients," says Bowe.
2. Skin Cycling May Reduce Negative Product Side Effects
As Wattenberg explained, skin cycling is done to lessen the likelihood of experiencing any adverse reactions to the product's active ingredients. She advises layering retinol (which might cause discomfort) with moisturizer.
3. Skin Cycling Can Help Protect Skin Against Seasonal Issues
Bowe claims that recovery evenings become even more beneficial as the air dries out and cools down in the fall. Cold, windy, and dry weather can cause skin dryness and aggravate existing skin conditions like eczema. Skin cycling is a practice that involves regularly exposing and protecting the same area of skin to different temperatures and humidity levels.
You should realize that the idea of skin cycling has been around for a while if you're considering trying it. The idea that more skincare products don't necessarily mean healthier skin has increased in popularity in recent years. As Bowe described, skin cycling is a "less is more" strategy that yields positive results and provides a predictable routine consistent with common sense.