How to do skin cycling for your skin type and why it’s important

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If you’re on TikTok, you’ve probably heard of skin cycling, the latest viral beauty trend that calls for rotating products in your night care routine. Have you looked in your medicine cabinet and wondered how many exfoliating acids are too many? Have you compared ingredient labels, wondering if you should overlay their contents? If so, then this method is for you. The skin cycle allows you to replace the active ingredients in order to avoid excessive exfoliation and potential irritation.

“There’s so much confusion around how to layer active ingredients and how often to use potentially irritating products like exfoliating serums,” says Whitney Bowe, MD., the board-certified dermatologist who coined the term skin cycle. “Skin Cycle encourages you to use products strategically so they complement each other rather than adding more products on top of each other.”

The method promotes a “less is more” approach by simplifying your routine and promoting a strong skin barrier. Keep reading to learn more about the skin cycle, including how to customize it for your skin type and which products to use.

What is the skin cycle?

Skin Cycle encourages you to space out active ingredients in your routine to give your skin time to adapt and heal from any potential irritation. While Bowe was the one who gave the skin cycle its catchy viral name, many dermatologists have been using the method for decades, says Azadeh Chirazi, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist. “It simplifies the fundamentals of skincare into a four-day cycle that alternates between active ingredient nights and recovery nights,” she explains.

The four-day cycle starts with an exfoliation the first night. Bowe recommends using a leave-in product formulated with chemical acids because it’s more effective and gentler on the skin than physical scrubs. The second night you apply retinol, a powerful ingredient that stimulates cell renewal to reduce the signs of aging, dark spots and acne. Days three and four are recovery nights: Avoid active ingredients (exfoliators and retinols) and focus on nourishing and hydrating skin, says Shirazi. Use serums and creams that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin and/or ceramides. It is then time to repeat the cycle.

Bowe compares skin cycling to going to the gym. “If you’re trying to strengthen a particular muscle group, you don’t load those muscles every day with heavy weights because that leads to injury, not strength. The same goes for the skin,” he explains. she. “By cycling through active ingredients and incorporating recovery nights focused on repairing your skin barrier, Skin Cycle makes your products more effective and more effective for you.”

What are the benefits of the skin cycle?

People tend to think that more product steps, more exfoliation, and more treatments will lead to better results. However, overdoing it leads to sensitized skin that’s angry, irritated and dry, says Christina Lee Chung, MD, board-certified dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia. The skin cycle limits the risk of irritation; this gives the skin barrier time to rest and heal between active treatments, she says.

The skin cycle also offers flexibility and customization, adds Bowe. “If you experience tenderness and irritation, you can increase your recovery nights.” For those who tolerate the active ingredients well, replace a recovery night with a retinol or exfoliation night. You can modify the framework according to your skin’s needs, but the four-day cycle is a solid guideline that you can always refer to.

How to do skin cycling for your skin type

The good news is that anyone can skincycle, no matter their skin type or knowledge of skincare. If you’re establishing a routine, this method is a great starting point to help you understand how products affect your skin, Bowe says. (This helpful video Bowe has created is a great resource.) Or if you’re a skincare veteran but feel like your old routine isn’t giving you the best results, you might be pleasantly surprised at how the technique of skin cycle can improve your results.

Dry and mature skin

Dry skin types may need more recovery days than oily types. Instead of two recovery days, you might want to do three. Beware of ingredients that might strip the skin too much. “Easily irritated, dryness-prone, or mature skin types require products with lower concentrations of retinoids or chemical exfoliants,” says Chung. If you find even low levels of these ingredients too harsh, she suggests using niacinamide and vitamin C as alternatives.

Oily and acne-prone skin

While the skin cycle only requires one exfoliation per night, oily and acne-prone skin can be the exception to the rule, says Bowe. “If you use an exfoliating product every day without irritation, then you might be someone with oily, acne-prone skin,” she says. “I find that some of these patients benefit from a salicylic acid toner every morning (think: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Solution) to keep the oil at bay and can still cycle the skin at night using a stronger exfoliating acid blend. Bowe recommends a leave-in exfoliator that contains glycolic acid. Keep scrolling for our specific product recommendations.

About Sally Dominguez

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