Skin cycling is trending. So, what exactly is it?

Skin cycling is trending. So, what exactly is it?

Every now and then a skincare trend takes over our feeds and lately, it’s been skin cycling. It’s all over Instagram, it’s all over TikTok but what exactly is it?

Coined by New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, skin cycling is the practice of rotating the active ingredients you use in your nighttime skincare routine. The idea behind it is that by using actives like retinol or acid less frequently, our skin has a chance to rest, and we can dedicate part of our weekly routine to protecting our skin barrier.

If you’ve ever used retinol, you might remember how when you first started it, the advice was to use over moisturiser and then work up to using it directly on skin and then more frequently. The same philosophy applies here – to give skin a chance to get used to harsher or more intense products so we don’t break out or react negatively. This is particularly important if you have sensitive skin!

The skin cycling products you’ll need are:

An acid exfoliator: AHAs (e.g., Glycolic acid) and BHAs (e.g., Salicylic acid)

A retinol product



What the routine might look like:

The reason this is first is because when we use an acid exfoliator, we are softening and breaking down dead skin cells, excess sebum, and impurities from our skin. With those gone, it makes room for the younger skin underneath and ensures that when we apply serums and other products later in the week, we’re not just applying them onto dead skin.
Depending on how sensitive your skin is, you can either have a rest night (just cleanse and moisturise) or apply your retinol on night two. In the morning, take note of how your skin reacted. Is it red, flaky, or breaking out? If so, you will need to work up to more regular use and in the meantime, applying after moisturiser will lessen the product’s harshness.
No active ingredients tonight! Just cleanse and moisturise.
If you found that your skin tolerated the first night of retinol, then you can use it again on night four. If not, today is another rest day before you start again tomorrow, going back to night one.
The main idea behind skin cycling is to not overwhelm the skin and to slowly work out your tolerance for active ingredients, whilst building up a tolerance for them. So, take it easy and keep an eye on your skin and whether it’s easily irritated or whether it responds well to product.

If sensitive skin is a recurring challenge for your skincare routine, we recommend bakuchiol. A natural alternative to retinol, it’s much gentler and can be used in tandem with any of your other products (including acids), when pregnant, during the day, and on sensitive skin.