Skin Cycling Is the TikTok Trend That Dermatologists Actually Approve Of

Skin cycling is the latest beauty trend to take over TikTok. With a cool 3.5 billion views on the hashtag, the skin cycling trend is far from being a weird and wacky method (as is often the case on the Gen-Z-led platform). In fact, it actually has legs according to a number of skin experts and dermatologists. But what is it, exactly?

The concept of skin cycling applies to a nighttime skincare routine, which involves using active ingredients only on certain days, and following them with ‘rest’ days,” explains Dr. Alexis Granite. “A four-day cycle is the most popular, which typically comprises using active ingredients for two nights of the week, followed by two nights of rest—and repeating.”

The idea is that adopting a skin cycling routine can help prevent the skin barrier from being compromised due to overuse of active ingredients—plus, it’s a great way to create a consistent and effective routine that helps the skin work optimally. The New York-based dermatologist behind the concept is Dr. Whitney Bowe, who shared her vision for the ultimate skin cycling routine on TikTok.

Night One: Exfoliation

You want to cleanse [the skin], pat dry, then put on an exfoliating product,” explains Dr. Bowe, who recommends using a leave-on product over something that’s wash-off, like a cleanser. Seek out chemical exfoliators, which contain ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs, instead of physical scrubs because they’re better for the skin barrier and more effective.

Night Two: Retinoid

On day two, apply a retinoid after cleansing. If you’re new to retinoids and skin cycling in general, begin by applying a hydrating cream to the sensitive areas of the face—under the eyes, around the corners of the nose, and on the marionette lines—to act as a buffer and prevent dryness and irritation. Then, apply your retinoid over the whole face, down the neck, and across the décolletage.

Nights Three and Four: Repair and Recovery

It’s time to look after the skin barrier and ensure the skin is adequately hydrated. Dr. Bowe recommends cleansing, leaving the skin damp, and then applying a serum that contains ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and/or niacinamide. Follow with a moisturizer: “Choose a formula that’s really nourishing which will support the skin barrier,” says Dr. Bowe. “If the skin is really dry, apply rosehip or squalane oil onto the cheeks.”

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