Skin cycling is a four day skincare regimen created by Dr. Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. The routine consists of four separate nights, which includes: an exfoliation night, retinol night, recovery, and a second recovery night ¹. The specific routine was created for the user to benefit from using an exfoliant and retinol, while simultaneously ensuring that inflammation is prevented by including two “recovery” nights for the skin.²
The first night of the routine includes exfoliating the skin. The user will begin by cleansing their skin with a cleanser of their choice. We recommend reaching for a gentle cleanser, such as the First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Cleanser, for a fragrance free option, or the Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, for users who experience acne and mild breakouts. Once the skin has been cleansed, the next step would be to go in with an exfoliating product. To ensure to not cause trauma to the skin, it is best to go in with a chemical exfoliant over a physical one, as harsh beads may disrupt the skin’s barrier, and cause minor cuts to the skin. The Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant Exfoliator, is a great option to go with. Once the skin has been cleansed and exfoliated, the skin will then need to be moisturized to ensure it is hydrated before going to bed. Depending on your skin type, you may go in with a cream or gel moisturizer. The Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Deep Hydration Moisturizer, is a great thick moisturizer to seal the hydration in for dry to normal skin types, or you can go in with the Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Balancing Gel Moisturizer, which is great for normal to oily skin types, for a lighter feel, while still ensuring to hydrate the skin.
The second night includes including a retinol into your routine. Now, retinol and retinoids are two different products, and for first time users, it is important to ensure you know what the difference is. Retinol is an over the counter product, with a lower concentration of retinoids, which can be readily available to you at your local beauty store, whereas retinoids are at a higher concentration, and are mostly available through a prescription. When adding this step into your routine, you want to ensure your skin is free of any dirt and makeup, and will first go in with a cleanser of your choice or the options listed above, and then go in with your choice of retinol. If you are a first time user for retinol, you may want to go in with a retinol that is between 0.25% – 0.5%, as it can be slightly harsh for the skin, and may cause adverse reactions, if the skin is not used to this type of treatment. It may be exciting to add a new product to your routine, although it is important that you are listening to your skin and including a product that is beneficial rather than detrimental, so starting off with a lower dosage is best. When applying the product itself, ensure you are going with a pea sized amount, go over your forehead, cheeks, and chin area, as well as bringing some product down your neck and chest. Some gentle retinols that can be included in your routine are the First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate, and the Drunk Elephant A-Gloei™ Retinol Oil. You want to ensure you are protecting your skin the next day by applying sunscreen, as retinol can cause sun sensitivity.
The next two nights consist of the recovery phase of the cycle. Once you have exfoliated and included the retinol into your routine, you want to ensure you are nourishing your skin. You may want to avoid any active ingredients during this phase, as not to irritate the skin. You may want to start off with a gentle cleanser to begin with, and include a hydrating serum to lock in further moisture. There are quite a couple of options available when selecting a serum, and these options may target different areas of concern, although, it is important to choose a serum that is hydrating your skin, so look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, shea butters, and oils. Some of our favorites include the Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum or the Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Hyaluronate Serum. When applying the serum, ensure that the skin is slightly damp to get the best effects of the product. Next, you will go in with a moisturizer of your choice, or the ones listed above. You can also include an oil to the moisturizer or apply separately for an extra boost of hydration and to seal all the products in. The Biossance 100% Sugarcane Squalane Oil, Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil, and Summer Friday Heavenly Sixteen All-In-One Face Oil are great options to add. For an extra step of TLC, you can also add in an overnight mask for a more plump face in the morning. The Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Face Mask with 10.5% Squalane, is a great overnight face mask, ensuring to lock in the hydration, and repair the skin’s moisture barrier.
So, is skin cycling for you? Although skin trends come and go, you want to ensure you are using products and routines that are unique to your skin type, as your skin may require different needs than others. The important thing to remember is that you want to utilize products that are custom to your needs. We always recommend reaching out to your dermatologist to address any concerns you may have.
¹ Allure “Skin Cycling: Finally, a TikTok Skin-Care Trend That’s Legit”. https://www.allure.com/story/what-is-skin-cycling-tiktok-trend
³ Everyday Health: “New to Retinol? A Complete Guide to the Skin-Care Ingredient”. https://www.everydayhealth.com/smart-skin/new-to-retinol-a-complete-guide-on-the-skin-care-ingredient/
The information found on Spa 6ix is not intended to be used as medical advice to treat any medical condition in yourself or others, including but not limited to the any patients that you are treating. All posts are to be treated as opinions. We highly recommend consulting your dermatologist before trying any new products or creating a routine to address any skin concerns. The reader of this site acknowledges that they are responsible for their own health decisions. All links provided are affiliate links.