Why Skin Cycling is Actually Good for Your Skin + 4 Common Pitfalls
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With all the ingredients in the market and beauty trends on social media, how can we build a consistent skincare routine? It can be hard to get a steady regimen but we all want glowing, glass-like skin!
Even if some of the products we use can be a bit irritating, like chemical exfoliants and retinoids, there is still a way to use them steadily!
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Not sure what chemical exfoliants are?
Check out this blog post.
This is how the social media skincare trend “skin cycling” has gone viral. But what is skin cycling? How can I incorporate it into my skincare routine? Who would it benefit the most? Continue reading to learn more.
In this article I will discuss:
- what is the skin cycling method?
- skin cycling schedule
- what are its benefits?
- how can I incorporate skin cycling into my skincare regimen?
- what products are used in skin cycling?
- common pitfalls of skin cycling
How & why to cycle your skincare products
What is skin cycling?
Skin cycling is a term that was coined by Dr. Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist.
It is a skincare method that is based on a 4-day skincare cycle to achieve maximum efficacy with minimal irritation.
The concept behind it is not new, dermatologists have always been saying to not overdo it with active ingredients as these ingredients take time and multiple applications to get your skin used to them.
Dermatologists always recommend applying these ingredients every third night and using a gentle ingredient in between until your skin can tolerate strong topicals every night.
The goal of retinoids is to help clarify your skin.
It is basically keeping your morning skincare routine consistent while rotating the possibly irritating ingredients at night, mixed with a period of recovery and rest (AKA lots of hydrating and moisturizing ingredients).
The recovery and rest period can be subjective and personalized according to each person’s own skin type and routine. However, it is very helpful for people with sensitive skin since the skin has time to recover and regenerate after using the active ingredients.
Skin cycling schedule
AM routine stays the same, and PM skin cycling routine looks like this:
Night 1: exfoliate
Night 2: retinol
Night 3: recovery
Night 4: recovery
This schedule is suitable for all skin types but you may need to tweak the cycle up or down according to your own optimal skincare routine.
For example, if you have overly sensitive and dry skin or rosacea, your skin might not tolerate the exfoliants and retinoids, therefore, you may want to cut down on these ingredients or add a third recovery night.
On the other hand, if you have oily or acne-prone skin, you may need to dial up the frequency of exfoliants and retinoids or reduce the recovery nights to one night instead of two.
Benefits of skin cycling
There are many benefits that come from adding this method to your regimen. The most important one is that your skin builds tolerance to active ingredients.
Chemical exfoliants and retinoids can cause skin sensitivity, irritation, and dehydration. By cycling them throughout the week, you help bring out the benefits of the ingredients in your skincare routine without irritating and dehydrating your skin.
Chemical ingredients can:
- brighten skin tone
- bring radiance to the skin
- boost collagen production
Recovery days are key to allowing your skin barrier to repair fully.
Chemical exfoliants get rid of any dead skin cells and will give you an immediate glow, this will increase the effectiveness of using retinoids the next night, it’s like working on a new sheet of skin.
How can I incorporate skin cycling into my skincare regimen?
Night 1: exfoliation
- Double-cleansing: LANEIGE – Cream Skin Milk Oil Cleanser and COSRX – Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
- Use chemical exfoliants (acids) on clean, dry skin: The Ordinary – Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution or The Ordinary – Salicylic Acid 2% Masque or SOME BY MI – AHA-BHA-PHA 30 Days Miracle Serum
- Apply a moisturizer: COSRX – Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream or Dr. Jart+ – Ceramidin Cream
Night 2: retinol
- Double-cleanse your skin
- Optional if you have sensitive skin or are new to retinol: apply a thin layer of fragrance-free moisturizer under your eyes, smile-line area, and below the mouth, this dilutes down the strength of the retinoid and allows your skin to adjust (known as the sandwich technique)
- Apply a pea-sized amount of retinoid by dabbing it onto the face, chest, and neck: IOPE – Retinol Expert 0.1% or The Ordinary – Retinol 1% in Squalane
- Apply a rich moisturizing cream
Night 3 & 4: recovery
- Use a gentle cleanser (or double-cleanse)
- Pat dry but keep the skin damp
- Apply a powerful humectant: The Ordinary – Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 or Haruharu WONDER – Black Rice Hyaluronic Anti-wrinkle Serum
- Moisturize immediately: COSRX – Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Cream
- Optional: pat an oil on your skin
Common pitfalls of skin cycling
- Sensitive and burning sensation on the eyelid area, around the mouth and nose, and neck
Solution: if you have sensitive skin, before using chemical exfoliants and retinoids, apply a thin layer of moisturizer on top of the sensitive areas to act as a barrier so that your skin can adjust, and avoid applying the active ingredients to those areas as well
- No improvement for oily acne-prone due to improper skin cycling
Solution: use a three-night cycle. Exfoliation night, retinoid night, recovery night, repeat. For exfoliation night, use a product with the ingredient salicylic acid. For the retinoid night, apply a higher percentage of retinol by seeing your dermatologist for a prescription strength product.
- Skin cycling for rosacea
Solution: for exfoliation night, use acids with a total concentration under 15%. For the retinoid night, use a gentle fragrance-free over-the-counter retinol or retinaldehyde. Add a third recovery night to make sure that your skin barrier has enough time to repair.
- Applying moisturizer immediately after the exfoliating product
Solution: you need to wait until the tingling sensation completely subsides before applying a moisturizer
The importance of maintaining an alternate skincare schedule
Skin cycling is a helpful concept when you want to have a consistent skincare routine in a busy and hectic schedule.
It is very useful for all skin types because you can tweak it as you like according to your skin type and tolerance. You get the best of both worlds, exfoliation, and hydration.
Even if you have sensitive skin, it does not mean that you can’t use really powerful chemical exfoliants and retinoids, it just means that you need to learn how to incorporate them properly into your skincare routine.
Of course, it goes without saying, SPF is absolutely crucial when using active ingredients in your skincare routine!
Will you start skin cycling? Let me know in the comments!
Let’s do this!