If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve heard about ‘skin cycling’ at least a couple of times already. Indeed, skin cycling has been rising in popularity these past several months. However, as responsible social media users, we know better not to trust and try every skincare trend we see on TikTok and Instagram–at least not before we seek out some information beforehand. Let’s be honest here, more often than not, trends do more harm than good. But what about skin cycling? What exactly is it and how can our skin benefit? Let’s find out more!
What is Skin Cycling?
Skin cycling is a skincare trend popularized by a board-certified dermatologist from New York, Dr. Whitney Bowe. Skin cycling consists of a four-night skincare routine that includes one night of exfoliation, one night of retinoid, and two nights of recovery. The method itself is not something new and revolutionary, however, it is an excellent and effective way to make the best use of our skincare products without compromising our skin barrier. It serves as a reminder of the importance of slowing down our skincare routine so we don’t over-exfoliate and damage our skin. By practicing skin cycling, we give our skin time to recover from potentially irritating ingredients (aka exfoliating acids and retinol). Similar to our muscles that need to recover after an intense workout, our skin needs time to recover too.
How to do it?
Night 1: Exfoliation Night
Welcome to the first night of our skin cycling routine! On exfoliation night, we will focus on sloughing off dead skin cells. Firstly, cleanse the face with a gentle face wash, then pat it dry. Next, use a chemical exfoliant like alpha- or beta-hydroxy acid. Then follow with a moisturizer as a final step to lock everything in.
Night 2: Retinoid Night
On the second night, incorporate retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) into the routine. Retinoids help to speed up cell turnover and stimulate collagen production. They can help fade hyperpigmentation and smoothen out visible signs of premature aging like fine lines and wrinkles, leaving us with a fresh, healthy complexion. Start out by cleansing the face, patting it dry, then applying retinoid over the entire face. Don’t forget to top it off with moisturizer afterwards to make sure that the skin is properly hydrated. (Tip: For retinoid beginners, start with caution from a low concentration. You can mix it with moisturizer or apply it over your moisturizer to minimize irritation.)
Nights 3 & 4: Recovery Nights
After two days of exposing our skin to potentially irritating ingredients, our skin deserves to take a breather. It’s time to pause the exfoliating acids and retinoids so we can give our skin a chance to recover. For the next two nights, our main goal is to hydrate and nourish the skin with ingredients that our skin barrier loves, such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, panthenol, allantoin, squalene, etc. Thus, our lineup consists of cleansing and applying hydrating serums/moisturizers, then off to bed we go!
Night 5: Repeat the Cycle
- Don’t forget to wear your sunscreen (SPF of at least 30 with broad spectrum protection) in the morning!
- Keep a skincare log/journal to make it easier for you to keep track and follow through with the routine.
- Now that you get the general idea of the purpose behind this method, you can tailor this routine according to your skin’s personal needs over time. Listen to your skin. You can adjust your recovery nights from two nights down to one if your skin tolerates retinoid well, or you can extend your recovery nights if you’re experiencing sensitivity or irritation. It’s all up to you!
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