Start a Skin Cycling Routine

February 2024 - Health & Wellness

When dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD first shared the concept of ‘skin cycling’ on TikTok, unlike some trends born on social media, the beauty industry immediately took note. Rooted in dermatology, skin cycling is a routine that cycles between nights when actives are used for deep exfoliation and renewal, and nights when nourishing creams and serums let the skin rest and repair.

Instead of layering on everything and anything in the cabinet every night, skin cycling is a more thoughtful, simple and personal approach. And when you’re using high end skincare—such as natural oils with tiny molecules that absorb deeply and leave your skin glowy—less is often more. So, how do you get started with skin cycling so all your skincare can do its best work?

How it Works
Low and slow is the best way to introduce new skincare with active ingredients, especially if your skin needs some extra TLC.

Cycling is also a great way to customize your routine with products that suit your skin type and skin needs. If you have sensitive skin or you’re healing irritated skin, you can repeat rest and repair nights as needed.

The Cycle
The most popular skin cycling routine is a four-night cycle: exfoliate, retinoid, recover, recover. If you’re new to using powerful actives like leave-on exfoliant cleansers or retinoids, some dermatologists recommend starting by picking one, and a four-night cycle that looks like this: exfoliate, recover, recover, recover. After two or three weeks, if your skin is reacting well, then introduce the retinoid, for example, and the popular four-night cycle.

Night One – Exfoliate
The most vibrant complexions always have one thing in common: exfoliation. This is what rids the skin of dead, dull cells—and makes it possible for skincare ingredients to absorb effectively and strengthen the skin barrier.

Select a product based on your age and skin type. Generally, if you have oily or younger skin, a citrus and sugar-based exfoliant cleanser will suit your skin best. If you are over 40 or prone to dry skin, look for a product that contains flower extracts and natural oils.

Night Two – Retinoids & Bakuchiol
Retinoids, such as the renowned retinol and other alternatives like retinal and bakuchiol, are powerful vitamin A derivatives that work wonders for your skin. Bakuchiol is nature’s retinol and is much more gentle on the skin than retinol. They unclog pores, enhance skin tone and texture, and plump fine lines and wrinkles. While using retinoids daily is a common practice, it may be too intense for some, resulting in irritation, purging or peeling. This is why they are recommended to be used in a cycling routine.

Nights Three and Four – Hydrate & Repair
Give your skin the well-deserved break it needs to rejuvenate. Concentrate on hydrating and nourishing your skin microbiome while repairing that protective barrier. During these recovery nights, opt for creams rich in essentials such as peptides, hyaluronic acid and decadent oils. Set aside products with acids and retinols for other nights.

You’ll start the whole cycle over again. Assess how skin cycling is making your skin feel, and adjust as needed. 

Article was published in The Good Life magazine.

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