The Science Behind the Skin Cycling Trend

Skin Cycling: Yeah or Nah?

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By now you’ve probably heard about the viral skin cycling trend that’s reached around 3.5 billion views on TikTok. If you haven’t, here’s the deal. It’s basically a four-night skin care regimen where you alternate the skin care ingredients and products you’re using. It was created by dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe to simplify your routine, potentially reduce inflammation, and maximize results. But does it really do this? The short answer is: Yes, it can! The long answer is: but, it’s not for everyone. Let’s dive in.

So, how do you do the skin cycling method? The official skin cycling method recommends one night for exfoliating, one night for retinoids, and two nights for recovery, using hydrating and soothing products. Keep reading for the detailed steps for trying the skin cycling method. 

[SEE ALSO: The Best Skin Care Tips for Melanin Rich Skin]

How to Do the Skin Cycling Method

Night One: Exfoliation 

Your skin’s natural exfoliating process can be slowed down due to aging, environmental stressors, and your lifestyle. When this happens, your skin can build up dead cells which can cause clogged pores, blemishes, and roughness. The good news is that you can prevent all these issues by using chemical exfoliators. Once the chemical exfoliators help slough off those old cells, your skin can benefit from a brighter and smoother texture as well as the improved appearance of age spots and of fine lines and wrinkles.

Night Two: Retinoids

Retinoids are commonly known as anti-aging molecules. They work by penetrating the skin and getting into the keratinocytes and fibroblasts, which are the cells located at the upper layers of the skin. Once inside the cells, retinoids bind to specific receptors as a way to “communicate” with them and initiate some cellular processes. These processes include an acceleration of cell turnover, stimulation of collagen production, and hyaluronic acid deposition.  As a result, retinoids help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and achieve younger-looking skin.

[READ MORE: Three Things to Know Before Buying a Retinoid Serum]

Nights Three & Four: Recovery

Because chemical exfoliators and retinoids are efficient skin care ingredients, they can sometimes be irritating. This varies depending on the concentration and the condition of your skin. Thus, the skin cycling method recommends two days of moisturizers and soothing ingredients to let your skin rest and recover. 

The Pros and Cons of Skin Cycling 

The combination of active ingredients used in the skin cycling method can help improve skin texture and, overall, reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and blemishes. Moreover, it can work for you if you are new to using active ingredients like retinoids and exfoliants or have sensitive skin. The nights when you only use hydrating products will allow your skin to adapt to new treatments and reduce the risk of irritation. 

However, skin cycling isn’t the best approach for all skin types. For instance, most retinoid products are intended to be used daily, so if your skin can tolerate using it more regularly by only applying it every fourth night, you may be missing out on some of its full benefits or it may take longer to see results. When it comes to exfoliation, not everybody needs to use an exfoliant, especially if you’ve already included a retinoid that helps with texture and clogged pores. Lastly, there are skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and hyperpigmentation that will see more benefits from other active ingredients than just hydrating your skin with a moisturizer on nights three and four.

The Bottom Line

Although skin cycling is a good way to start including active ingredients in your skin care routine, it is not the best option for every skin type. If you’ve never used retinoids or chemical exfoliants or if you have very sensitive skin, you may want to give it a try. But if you already have a skin care routine that works for you, don’t change it for this trend. Remember that skin care is not limited to just exfoliants and retinoids.