What Is the Skin Cycling Trend?

Taking care of your skin can feel more and more arbitrary as products are continuously hitting the shelves, making you wonder what products will and won’t help your skin. Add to this, the issue of figuring out the method of application and how to go about using said products, and taking the best care of your skin can get a bit tricky to be sure.

However, skin cycling is a TikTok trend that has been growing in popularity and is worth a deeper look. It is a specific skin care regimen that is believed to transform skin through the process of letting the skin rest and cycling through various active ingredients throughout your skincare journey, on a specific four-day schedule.

Skin cycling is showing up more and more with the #skincycling tag on videos throughout TikTok reaching 224 million views. The term skin cycling is credited to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe who is said to have come up with the phrase.

However, the actual routine is far from new and has been a treatment protocol in the dermatology world for many years. This TikTok phenomenon is giving new life to a tried and true method and is a great way to help treat skin and give it the rest it needs.

Those of you who have lived with sensitive skin up to this point have likely known, at least in theory, about this application method. However, even if your skin is considered more normal or even dry or oily, according to the experts, all skin types can benefit from adopting a skin cycling routine.

What Is Skin Cycling?

Skin cycling is so named because it is a clinical approach to applying various products, creating an ongoing rotation for your face care routine. Generally, this means applying specific types of products with different active ingredients on your skin on different days, giving the skin time to rest and rejuvenate during the off days.

Then, the cycle starts again. The breakdown of what to do on which night is outlined in more detail below. As a preview though, skin cycling steps typically begin with a chemical exfoliant on day one, followed by the application of a retinoid-based product on day two.

Then, on days two and four, you use moisturizer and allow your skin to rest. Of course, each night’s treatment or skin care journey should begin with cleansing.

Graphic featuring a woman washing her face on the right and text on the left that reads, “Skin Cycling Basics: Nighttime-only routine; 4-night routine on repeat; Consistency is key”.

What Are the Benefits of Skin Cycling?

There are many reasons that skin cycling, though not by that name necessarily, has been utilized by dermatologists for many years, primarily because it can be highly beneficial for the skin.

Below we’ve made a list of just a few of the many reasons to give this particular TikTok trend a try. Keep in mind these are benefits you could experience, but each person will respond differently to various products:

  • Helps you keep your skin hydrated, especially if you have sensitive skin. As certain active ingredients can cause dryness and sensitivity if used daily. This can also help a damaged skin barrier that up until this point has simply not been cared for properly.
  • Helps with fine lines. Because the cycle is designed to utilize retinol and anti-aging products, this can help the skin adjust to these sometimes harsh products.
  • Can brighten your skin. This skincare regimen can help brighten your overall complexion as well as dark spots.
  • It’s good for a wide range of skin types and conditions as it’s generally tolerated well.

Are There Any Negative Side Effects?

While a skin cycling routine can be a great way to promote better skin for most people, you might find yourself in the small number of people for whom this isn’t the best routine for your skin. In addition, if you are on medication for skin conditions, such a highly-tuned routine might not work for your current treatment regimen.

Graphic featuring three women and text that reads, “Skin Cycling Isn’t for Everyone; For those with sensitive skin, exfoliants and retinoids at such frequent intervals could be irritating.”

If you’re unsure if skin cycling is a good idea for you, it’s a good idea to check with your dermatologist before trying this regimen. There is no set group of people who should avoid trying skin cycling. However, if you already have issues with sensitivity or are being treated actively by a dermatologist, perhaps for acne or other conditions, you might want to check to see if making this change in your skincare regimen.

That way, you can make sure you stay on track for your goals–and most importantly, rest assured that it’s safe with other products you’re currently using.

How to Skin Cycle

If you already wash your face every night, this skincare journey shouldn’t be hard to adopt. (If you aren’t, here’s your motivation to begin).

When combined with gentle cleansing and makeup removal, incorporating a skincare cycle is a great way to introduce targeted treatments to ensure your skin is getting the best mixture of exfoliants, nutrients, and moisturizers throughout the week.

Ready to get started? Let’s look at what skin cycling entails. Spoiler alert, it’s pretty simple.

Graphic depicting the steps of skin cycling with text that reads ”Night #1: Exfoliate *Take care not to overdo it; Night #2: Retinoids *Start small to your skin's reaction; Night #3: Recovery *Use gentle cleanser and hydrate; Night #4: Recovery *Use gentle cleanser and hydrate”.

Night 1

Begin by removing your makeup with gentle cleansing then patting dry.

The next part of your night one regimen is to apply an exfoliator. Usually, people will use a chemical exfoliator as they are more gentle on the skin. Exfoliation works by resurfacing the skin, and removing dead skin cells, which allows for better penetration of other products throughout the following days.

It’s important to note that you don’t want an exfoliator to be too harsh or abrasive, which can be the case with certain physical exfoliants. Exfoliating products should include acids like salicylic, malic, lactic, or glycolic acids.

Finish off night one by applying a favorite moisturizer.

Night 2

Moving on to night two. Again, make sure you’re starting with a dry, clean surface area. Then, apply a retinol product. Retinoid is a type of skin care product that has active ingredients formulated to counteract and prevent the signs of aging and is derived from vitamin A.

There are strong ingredients in retinols, so there is a chance that it can make some people’s skin irritated. However, skin cycling has been proven helpful to avoid these types of reactions by spacing out the application of retinoids.

Once your retinol product is applied and has had a chance to absorb into the skin, you’ll fiinish off the night with your moisturizer.

Night 3 & 4

Nights three and four are focused on letting your skin rest and recover, so you’ll follow the same routine. Keep in mind, you are giving your skin a break from active ingredients, so you want to use a gentle, soothing cleanser as well as a hydrating serum or moisturizer.

Woman sitting on her bed about to apply a moisturizer.

Choose your moisturizer based on your skin’s individual needs. In other words, if your skin tends to be dry, your rest and rejuvenation nights should likely include an intensive nourishing product or a hydrating cream. If your skin is oily, you can reduce your moisturizer to a light variety.

Keep in mind, you can always change things up if doing a skincare cycle doesn’t work for you or if your dermatologist recommends alterations to the schedule.

How Long Does It Take to See Results?

Generally speaking, it takes consistent skin care cycling for around a month and a half before you’ll start to see notable results. However, some people see some improvement within two full cycles, or about eight days.

Black woman looking at her skin in the bathroom mirror.

You may start noticing your skin become softer and more supple looking. However, progress will vary from person to person. Your skin’s starting point, your commitment to the routine, and the types of products you're using all play a role in how effective skin cycling is.

Typically, the longer you use the cycle regimen, the more difference it will make in your complexion overall. However, it’s worth noting again, that you may need to make adjustments based on your own skincare needs.

For example, you might need to add an additional rest day every other cycle. Or, you may need to switch up the products you’re using every few cycles. The key is listening to your body–and maybe your dermatologist if you’re unsure about what’s best for you.

Start Your Skin Cycling Journey

Skin cycling can be a great way to revamp your nightly skincare routine, but for some, it can be intimidating to switch things up.

With Colorescience, you know that the skincare treatments you’re using are made with safe, natural ingredients and are made to be gentle on your skin. Introduce one or several of our products into your skin cycling routine to see how they can help you revitalize your skin–and don’t forget to wear mineral sunscreen during the day for protection.

Shop now to find everything you need for healthy, beautiful skin.