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Viral TikTok Trend: What is Skin Cycling?


Many skincare trends have come and gone over the years.The latest viral Tiktok “skin cycling” trend is definitely here to stay. It resonates with a lot of people for a number of reasons. 

First, dermatologists stand behind its simplicity and easy-to-follow routine. Second, it may be trendy but it makes sense, particularly to those who aren’t seeing the greatest results with their current beauty routine. 

Once making the switch, it doesn’t take long to see an improvement in skin’s appearance and overall health. Many users report that the benefits of skin cycling are experienced almost right away or in mere weeks. 

Another reason why skin cycling has become such a popular buzz-phrase these days is because there’s a high degree of flexibility with this type of program. It can be customized based on skin type, sensitivity or condition. Essentially, skin cycling can be a very unique experience for each person.

What is Skin Cycling?

How does skin cycling work? The big idea is don’t use all your skincare products and active ingredients every day. According to celebrity Dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, you need to give your skin a chance to recover from strong active ingredients in order to experience the most benefit from them.

To understand the benefits of skin cycling, here’s what you need to know. Your skin cells operate on a 28-day cycle. They’re born, die and slough away every twenty eight days. 

By giving your skin a rest, 2-3 days a week during skin cycling, you’re allowing your cells to repair and regenerate without any impediments to this vital metabolic process. This results in a powerful boost to the active ingredients used during the in-between days. 

Here’s How to Skin Cycle

Skin cycling works on a 4-day schedule. Dr. Bowe, the woman who started the viral Tiktok “skin cycling” trend in 2021, explains that this routine mostly applies in the evening. Here’s how: Exfoliate on the first night. Use active ingredients on the second night. On night three and four stick to a simple routine that only includes cleansing, toning and moisturizing. 

All strong actives, like retinoids, acids or lightening agents, should be stopped as they can cause irritation when used too frequently. One exception is Vitamin-C which is a powerful daily antioxidant that can be used daily in lower concentrations.

Should I try skin cycling?

After reading about this latest trend and watching all the videos, you probably have a pretty good understanding of what is skin cycling. Now you may be wondering, how do I know if skin cycling works for my skin type?  Another question you may be asking is: “I have sensitive skin, should I try skin cycling?” 

The good news is most people can enjoy the benefits of skin cycling. It’s a skincare routine that applies to virtually every skin type, although it’s particularly useful for those dealing with specific conditions or using active ingredients. 

For example, try skin cycling if you have oily or acne prone skin and you’re using salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. It can also work if you’re treating pigmentation issues with Hydroquinone or Kojic acid. Anti-aging ingredients such as retinoids and higher percentage Vitamin-C antioxidant serums actually work best when used on alternate days.

How long should I skin cycle?

The typical cycle is four days. This seems to work well for most people but it’s not necessarily a rule that’s set in stone. If you have sensitive skin that’s easily irritated, try increasing your rest days from two to three per week. Then observe how your skin reacts and if you can tolerate the active ingredients better. 

Benefits of Skin Cycling Using Various Active Ingredients

Dr. Bowe recommends using a retinoid on the second night of the cycle; however, it doesn’t have to be a retinoid. You can do skin cycling your way and personalize your own experience based on the active ingredients you’re using. Here are some examples to give you a better idea of how skin cycling works using a customized approach:

Acne Breakouts, Oily, Congested Pores: How to Skin Cycle?

Day 1: Exfoliate with a ‘chemical’ exfoliant such as AHA, BHA or enzyme peel that dissolves dead skin cells and debris. Using a physical scrub is not recommended. Doing so can irritate your skin and possibly spread the acne infection if you have one.

Day 2: At night, use your medicated cleanser, lotion or cream containing a higher percentage of salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If you have prescription medication products, use those as prescribed.

Day 3-4: Day and night, use a gentle cleanser, toner and oil-free moisturizer for oily and acne prone skin.  

I Have Sensitive Skin: How Long Should I Skin Cycle?

Day 1: Exfoliate with a gentle ‘chemical’ exfoliant such as an enzyme peel or similar. As with acne-prone skin, avoid scrubbing your face as this can be too harsh for your complexion.

Day 2: At night, use the lowest percentage retinoid or Vitamin-C product. Apply it to your face, neck and hands. Wait a few minutes then follow with a gentle, hydrating moisturizer or lotion.

Day 3-5: Day and night, use a gentle cleanser, toner, redness relief serum, HA serum and moisturizer. Look for products that are unscented and don’t contain harsh chemicals.

I Have Wrinkles and Mature Skin: Should I Try Skin Cycling?

Day 1: Exfoliate with any kind of exfoliant, physical scrub, AHA/ BHA or enzyme peel. Nighttime use is preferred, followed by a hydrating toner, HA serum and moisturizer.

Day 2: At night apply your retinoid. If you’re just starting out, use the lower percentage (usually 0.025). As your skin becomes acclimated over the next 4-6 weeks, increase it to the next level up. (These will be 0.050 and 0.1). Always apply a hydrating moisturizer after to minimize peeling and dryness.

Day 3-4: Use a gentle cleanser, toner, HA serum and moisturizer. A low concentration Vitamin-C serum can be used if one was recommended to you. Choose a moisturizer that’s more nourishing and contains anti-aging ingredients such as peptides and Vitamin-C.

Hyperpigmentation: What Are the Benefits of Skin Cycling?

Day 1: Exfoliate with any kind of exfoliant, scrub or AHA/ BHA or enzyme peel. Nighttime is best, followed by a hydrating toner, HA serum and moisturizer.

Day 2: At night, apply your prescription strength hydroquinone serum or cream. Always follow with a lotion or moisturizer to protect and hydrate your skin.

Day 3-4: Use a gentle cleanser, toner, HA serum and moisturizer. A low concentration hydroquinone or Kojic acid product can be used daily at night if it’s not irritating to your skin.

Should I Try Skin Cycling? The Last Word

With the growing popularity and benefits of skin cycling, it has become evident that this trend is not going anywhere. In fact, many dermatologists will tell you it’s not new and that they’ve been recommending a routine similar to skin cycling for years. 

Whether you should try skin cycling is very personal and best decided between you and your dermatologist. One thing is for sure, however: Sometimes a simple approach is best when it comes to something as complex as your skin. Skin cycling is a low-risk endeavor that’s worth trying.

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