Did you pile on products during the pandemic and make an angry mess of your skin? You’re not alone. Thankfully there’s a new viral beauty trend aimed at strategically using active ingredients while soothing irritation: skin cycling.
Influencers are raving about this gentle, pared-down approach to using active ingredients, displaying their glowing complexions as proof that it works. But are they for real, or is that just a filter? Read on to learn whether a skin cycling routine is right for you, and which products to use if you decide to try it.
What Is Skin Cycling?
Skin cycling is a nighttime skincare routine that follows a four-day pattern alternating between incorporating active ingredients and recovery. The term was coined by dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe to describe a concept many derms have been encouraging for years: a less-is-more approach to active ingredients.
Here’s how it works:
Night 1: Exfoliate
Night 2: Retinoid
Night 3: Recover
Night 4: Recover
In theory, a skin cycling routine minimizes irritation and maximizes results by strategically incorporating only one active ingredient at a time overnight. When you wake up in the morning, your AM routine stays the same.
Learn more about layering skincare.
Are There Specific Skin Cycling Products?
In her TikTok videos, Dr. Bowe recommends using chemical exfoliants such as alpha hydroxy acids to exfoliate on day one, the retinoid of your choice on day two, then using a restorative moisturizing routine on days three and four.
She also recommends using a glazed donut layering approach (sealing in your moisturizer with a facial oil) every night of your routine to lock in moisture and minimize irritation.
Does Skin Cycling Work?
“I love that Dr. Bowe put a name and a routine to a very simple skincare routine that people could follow that would not irritate the skin and focuses a lot on moisturizing, which I think is great and I think it’s going to benefit a lot of people,” says Doctorly’s Dr. Muneeb Shah. “But do you need to change your routine because you discovered skin cycling? No. I think it’s just like any other skincare routine.”
Dr. Shah says that skin cycling is a great approach for people who are new to retinoids or have sensitive skin. However, he warns that for people who are not experiencing irritation, using retinoids only every four days may not be enough.
“Every fourth day - especially if you have acne or you have something that you’re really trying to target - is probably too infrequent for most people to see benefits,” says Dr. Shah. “But I love it for someone who’s just starting to use skincare.”
Dr. Shah encourages those interested in skin cycling to customize their routine according to their skin type.
“Just follow the routine that works for you,” says Dr. Shah. “If you have sensitive skin, maybe you cut out the exfoliant step and you move in something else that’s maybe more hydrating or more nourishing to your skin barrier.”
Similarly, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can substitute a retinol alternative - such as our Squalane + Phyto Retinol Serum - for retinoids.
A Biossance Skin Cycling Routine
Ready to give it a go? Prep your skin with the cleanser of your choice, then follow this night-by-night skin cycling routine:
Night 1: Squalane + Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum
Night 2: Squalane + Retinol Night Serum
Night 3: Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum
Night 4: Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum
For best results, we recommend following each serum with our Squalane + Omega Repair Cream to deeply moisturize and soothe, then topping it off with a few drops of our 100% Squalane Oil to boost hydration and seal in moisture.
As a lifestyle writer and journalist, I’m excited to bring my passion for storytelling to Biossance as an Engagement Content Writer. Two things you should know about me: I have a deep love of the ocean (especially sharks) and I’m obsessed with clean beauty. My bathroom cabinet is literally overflowing with my many-layered sustainable skincare routine. This combo is what led me to buy my first bottle of Vitamin C Rose Oil. I was so impressed by the way it improved my skin that I wanted to shout this brand from the rooftops. Three years later, and here I am doing just that. I’m excited to be on this journey of clean beauty innovation with Biossance, and to share it with you here on the blog.