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The skin cycling trend – what is it and should you try it?

Everyone seems to be obsessed with skin cycling, the latest skincare trend – dermatologists included! Which makes sense, really, since Dr. Whitney Bowe, a certified dermatologist from New York City, is the one credited for introducing the concept to TikTok and, subsequently, the world. 

So what is skin cycling? It is a four-part nightly skincare routine that alternates between using active ingredients and letting the skin rest. Dr. Bowe explains: “It’s a four-night cycling schedule: exfoliation night, retinoid night, recovery night, recovery night, repeat. You will get the most out of the active ingredients in your skin-care products while minimizing irritation by building in those needed recovery nights.”

Night 1 – Exfoliation

Night one is all about exfoliation. Apply a chemical exfoliant – like glycolic, lactic, or salicylic acid – to the skin. One such product is The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, but you could try something else as well. Dr. Bowe is recommending an at-home, leave-on peel – gentle on the skin, it provides an even degree of exfoliation, making it the most effective solution. Exfoliation will not only rid the skin of dead cells, but it can improve its texture and help skincare ingredients get absorbed into the skin.

The exfoliation is to be followed by your trusted moisturizer. You should try products that contain hyaluronic acid, one of the top three building ingredients in your dermis and one of the most talked about active ingredients today. Beyond comparison when it comes to hydration, HA will make your skin look radiant and prevent the development of wrinkles, plus it has healing properties as well. One of our users’ favorite hydrating products*, for example, is Tatcha the Dewy Skin Cream, whose hydration effect is up to 50% better** when used with BOOST, compared with finger application alone – 81%*** of BOOST users felt the improved penetration of skincare products. If you hydrate, hydrate well. 

Night 2 – Retinoid

Night two begins with cleansing, followed by a tiny amount of retinol, be it in the form of a serum, moisturizer, or oil. Retinol is a type of retinoid, made from vitamin A. It does not remove dead skin cells; instead, its small molecules go deep beneath the epidermis (outer layer of skin), to your dermis. Once there, retinol will help neutralize free radicals and boost the production of elastin and collagen. The result will be a “plumping” effect and a reduced appearance of fine lines, dark spots, dark circles, and acne. For example, you could use La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum or The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane if you are on a budget.

A word of caution, though: retinol should be applied sparingly, since it requires tolerance on your skin’s part. Applying more than needed won’t give you faster results, but irritation. 

Night 3 & 4 – Recovery

Nights three and four are all about hydration and repair. You should start with a gentle cleansing, then pat your skin dry, and apply a similarly gentle moisturizer. Meaning, if your skin feels like it could use some extra hydration, go with the aforementioned hyaluronic acid serum. And that’s it. This part of the process gives your skin time to recover and ready itself for the next cycle. If you want to learn more about hydration and hyaluronic acid, check out our recent blog post, and see what products might work for you, when enhanced with BOOST device, of course. 

A word of caution, though: retinol should be applied sparingly, since it requires tolerance on your skin’s part. Applying more than needed won’t give you faster results, but irritation. 

So how does skin cycling really work?

People are usually skeptical of TikTok beauty trends, because they tend to be gimmicky, but skin cycling has amassed some 4 billion views already and was subsequently backed by dermatologists from all over, so we might be onto something real and useful here. The whole idea behind the concept is to balance out the two aforementioned effective but potentially aggressive ingredients. Many people tend to over-exfoliate or use harsh skincare products too often. To follow up the exfoliant and retinol with two nights of recovery seems like a no-brainer now, but it’s really quite an idea. Your skin is a sensitive – albeit beautiful – organ, and you should take good care of it. 

Should you try it?

The best way to make the decision is to consult your dermatologist, of course, because every person’s skin is different. For example, oily or combination skin is expected to benefit from retinol and exfoliants, but people with sensitive skin should be more cautious. Plus, diet, stress, sleep, menstrual cycle: all these factors are going to affect the way your skin feels and looks. They are also going to affect the decision making on what to use and when to make your skin better and healthier looking. Meanwhile, you should do the obvious: listen to your skin, protect it with SPF, and always – keep it well hydrated.

*Source: RÉDUIT database, 2022

**Source: In vivo skin hydration experiments, measured using a corneometer.

***Consumer Perceived Performance of RÉDUIT PEMF Powered Skincare Applicator Device, 45-50 Females, Age 40-65 years