What is “Skin Cycling” and how to do it

Skin Cycling is a new skincare trend you might’ve seen around the internet-o-sphere. It seems to have exploded out of nowhere and may seem easy to brush off as just another passing fad, but once you look into it, it actually makes a whole lot of sense - you may even already be doing it!


What is Skin Cycling?

Skin Cycling is a 4 day routine which basically alternates your active skincare products with your hydrating and skin barrier repair products, letting the skin recover and build resilience. Sound familiar? The idea is not exactly new, we’ve just never had a name or a ‘framework’ for it before! It is a term for something that many of you probably already do! 

A Skin Cycling Routine:

Skin Cycling usually follows this basic formula of 4 days, and then repeat:

Night 1: Exfoliate

Night 2: Retinol

Night 3: Hydration & skin barrier recovery

Night 4: Hydration & skin barrier recovery


What is so good about skin cycling?

It isn’t so much about pinpointing exactly what products to use, but how. Skin Cycling teaches you to schedule your skincare products effectively to get the best possible results, without irritation. Skin Cycling provides an easy routine-building method to follow that sets up good skincare habits; such as not using strong, active ingredients every single night and understanding that skin needs a break to rest and recover. What is so good about using this method of product scheduling, is that it limits overloading on active ingredients, and ensures your skin has a chance to build resilience and tolerance. 

Now Tik Tok viral, this 4-step framework was created by Dr Whitney Bowe, a New York City-based dermatologist, as a reaction to the over-abundance of complicated skincare routines and damaged skin barriers - in an attempt to make active ingredients more manageable for the skin.


Are you someone who has a habit of overdoing their skincare and wondering why you're not seeing results? Skin Cycling is a great way to teach yourself moderation, as more is not always better when dabbling with cosmeceutical skincare. It helps those of us who tend to get *overly excited* about new products to not get too carried away with applying them all at once, allowing our skin to be as healthy as possible and reap the benefits of our skincare. 




How to create a skin cycling routine

The easiest part is, you probably already have all, or almost all you need to start a skin cycling routine. The basics are: an exfoliant, a retinol / vitamin A product and then a couple of skin barrier-repairing, hydration products and you’re all set! Let's talk details:

how to create a skin cycling routine


Night 1: Exfoliate

There are many ways to exfoliate your skin be it either chemical, physical or enzymatic. You can also choose the type of products that delivers this exfoliant: toner, mask, peel, or a leave-on cream or serum. Read about chemical exfoliation in our Ultimate Guide to Skincare Acids. But for the purposes of a simple skin cycling routine, we’re going to suggest a leave-on exfoliant product such as the Resurfacing Active Moisture Cream, or the Resurfacing Facial Toning Mist with 8% Glycolic Acid.

How to exfoliate with the Resurfacing Active Moisture Cream

After cleansing, apply a layer of the moisture cream to the face avoiding the eye area.


How to exfoliate with the Resurfacing Toner

After cleansing, apply the toner onto a cotton pad, swipe over the skin avoiding eye area, and follow with a hydrating moisturiser.


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Why exfoliate?

Frequent, low strength exfoliation is fantastic for maintaining clear, healthy skin as build up is cleared away - reducing the chance of breakouts. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells, allowing retinoids and other actives to penetrate the skin more effectively.

Keep Reading: Exfoliating acids: Your ticket to radiant, glowy skin or The benefits of Glycolic, Salicylic & Lactobionic Acids

Night 2: Retinol

Skin Cycling was made for retinol, in fact, those who already use retinol are probably rolling their eyes at skin cycling as they definitely already do it. Retinol is a skincare ingredient well-known to be temperamental at times, and those who don’t use it wisely will soon find it has an ugly side. Therefore, until you have worked out just how resilient your skin is, and how it tolerates retinol, it should not be used on consecutive nights. But don’t be put off by this, the benefits of retinol are well-worth it. Retinol helps stimulate collagen and increase cell turnover, helps improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as blemishes and breakouts.

Shop retinol / vitamin a skincare.


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How to use retinol for skin cycling

After cleansing, apply your retinol serum or oil over the skin avoiding eye area, then follow with a hydrating moisturiser.


Why use retinol after exfoliation night?

The exfoliation helps prime the skin to make retinol even more effective. Exfoliation optimises the skin to receive the benefits of subsequent products the following day.

Keep Reading: how to use retinol and all the dos and don’ts involved.

Night 3 & 4: Hydration & recovery

Nights 3 & 4 is for hydration and giving the skin time to recover its resilience. Here is when we allow the skin to take a break from active ingredients and recover itself with the help of some skin barrier repair products. On days 3 & 4 use products with hydrating, soothing and healing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides, squalane. As well as skin-soothers such as allantoin or oat beta glucan, to nourish and support the skin barrier and minimise irritation. Head to our skin barrier repair products for all you need to know about skin barrier-supporting ingredients and where to find them.

Keep Reading: 9 Best Ingredients for your Skin Barrier

How to apply skin barrier repair products for skin cycling

Layer up with a hyaluronic acid serum - the Essentials Hydrating & Healing Serum is purpose-built for this task. Chocka-block full of hyaluronic acid, 8 different kinds in fact! Carefully chosen to hydrate and help heal the skin.


Then follow with either the Essentials Deep Hydration Moisture Cream or Hydrating Gel Cream, depending on your skin’s preference. Moisturisers containing ceramides, hyaluronic acid, panthenol, fatty acids, cholesterol and more skin barrier-loving ingredients needed to support the skin both before and after using potent skincare ingredients. Read more about these skin barrier repair heroes and find out why they are the Best Moisturisers for your Skin Barrier.


Optional to add in a hydrating face oil for maximum effect.


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Why do I need to take a break from active products?

More isn't always better when it comes to active products and skin needs a chance to rebuild itself after being "pushed" by the active skincare. Although acids & retinol help the skin, they can cause damage when overused. By giving your skin a couple of rest and recovery days, you ensure your skin barrier is strong, keeping the skin barrier healthy which, as we know, is vital for skin health

What skincare should I use in the morning if I am Skin Cycling?

During the day a simple cleanser, a gentle Vitamin C or Vitamin B product, plus a hydrating moisturiser and of course SPF is all you need to fulfil your AM Skin Cycling routine.


Who should use the Skin Cycling method?

As always with skincare, one size does not fit all, so it is important to approach any new routine with an open mind. Sensitised skin should avoid using strong ingredients such as acids and retinols, so attend to your skin issues before starting this routine. Other skin types or concerns need to also consider whether this routine works for their skin goals.

It is, however, a great method to follow for beginners to active or cosmeceutical skincare, or people who tend to overdo their skincare and wonder why they are not seeing results. There is definitely more than one story of someone getting a little too excited about their new skincare products and not allowing their skin to build tolerance before applying daily - ending in red, itchy dry skin.


Skin cycling acknowledges that your skin needs time to recover in between powerful active ingredients, encouraging the realisation that those recovery nights are just as effective as the active nights in achieving healthy skin.

Keep Reading: A routine to support your Skin Barrier

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