It’s safe to say we all want supple, luminous skin. What’s less straightforward is the means to achieve it. Between the skincare trends
that dominate our social media feeds and the hottest “it” product endorsed by the latest celebrity, it can be difficult to know where to start—and how to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Whether you’re a skincare veteran or have just begun committing to a routine as we collectively trend away from heavy makeup, you may have heard skin cycling make its way into the conversation. You’re not alone: The trend has created a flood of interest since hitting TikTok and has drawn over 75.7 million views—and growing. But unlike the majority of skincare tips and products featured on social media, this one’s legitimate: It was created by acclaimed dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe—a New York doctor and research scientist who founded her eponymous company, Dr. Whitney Bowe Beauty.
Bowe’s deep dive into skin health has paid off. Skin cycling turns the concept of product consistency on its head—at least slightly—and introduces a fresher, more streamlined and sustainable approach to skincare regimens. Let’s explore.
Skin cycling basics
The best metaphor for thinking about skin cycling, Bowe asserts, is to consider the most effective way to get in shape. Focusing on a single muscle group or “trouble spot” day after day diminishes your efforts’ effectiveness and leaves your body both irritated and fatigued.
The same holds true for our skincare products
was once exclusively used by those whose dermatologists prescribed it, it’s now found in a plethora of over-the-counter products. The vitamin A derivative can do wonders for skin—from minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to encouraging collagen production—but used on a daily basis, particularly for people who spend time in the sun (we see you, athletes), can cause irritation... and the redness and drying that arrives with it. Ditto for anything we overload our skin
with, including other exfoliating ingredients.
Skin cycling was designed to mitigate this—and improve the efficacy of products. What’s more, our skin—just like our brains and bodies—needs time to recover. One skin cycling step puts your skin in prime position for the next, helping to ensure you see and feel the series’ full effects. Best part yet? It’s breathlessly simple and eliminates the multiple steps found in recent, overly elaborate skincare plans.
Before we get into each step, remember that Bowe recommends performing each step at night before you bundle down for rest.
From air pollution to that sugary mid-afternoon pick-me-up, your skin encounters a host of oxidative stressors throughout the day—free radicals that can accelerate the aging process and result in dryness, dullness and wrinkles.
At night, however, your skin goes into overdrive, working hard behind the scenes as you sleep
to combat these offenders, repair damage, and revitalize. The bonus here is that any form of self-care performed at night may inspire a better night’s rest.
Skin cycling day 1: Exfoliate
Exfoliating your skin is a proven method for removing dirt and impurities and fostering cell regeneration. It also strips your skin of its natural oils and may lead to dehydration, though, which is why Bowe suggests depending on it only every four days. In doing so, you’ll also prep your skin well for the absorption of products.
To this end, Bowe suggests kicking off your skin cycling with an exfoliating product—not a scrub of decades past but a liquid. After washing your face, use a product that’s rich in natural exfoliators, such as glycolic acid or lactic acid. Apply with a cotton ball and follow it up with a light moisturizer
This skin-brightening serum contains optimal levels of lactic acid and sodium hyaluronate, as well as complexion-saving natural ingredients like seaweed, peppermint, aloe vera, and chamomile. The result? You may wake up to a more radiant reflection.
Skin cycling day 2: Retinols
With your skin deeply cleansed and exfoliated, Bowe recommends dedicating your next evening to retinol products
. As we pointed out, retinoids can be a lifesaver but they also have drying and mildly irritating properties; used too often and you won’t be able to savor the visible effects of your efforts as you may be distracted by the redness of your complexion. If you have sensitive skin or don’t tolerate retinoids well, consider using a light moisturizer prior to applying retinol
. This creates a slight buffer between your skin and the powerful, antioxidant product.
This luxe, 100% vegan overnight cream contains “granactive retinoid,” which is less abrasive than traditional retinol. It’s also infused with “perfect texture”-promoting extras: mushroom, jasmine, lavender, and Vitamin E. Pacifica tops it all off with melatonin to help facilitate a more restful—and reparative—night’s sleep.Skin cycling days 3 and 4: Relax and recover
Too much of a good thing is the name of the game in the third and fourth days of Bowe’s proposed series. These nights are dedicated to giving your skin a break from the work it just performed with exfoliating and your retinoid treatment. Plus, your skin is in an ideal place for hydrating ingredients, which may penetrate more deeply at this stage of the cycling process.
Search for products that are focused on fixing your skin’s barrier and include skincare superstars like natural oils, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, shea butter and niacinamide—the latter, a form of vitamin B, has been shown to curb the appearance of wrinkles and boost skin elasticity
This nourishing s
is rich in niacinamide to stimulate a healthier, more vibrant complexion; it’s also permeated with zinc and hemp seed oil for an extra dose of hydration.
As for the next night? Restart the four-day process—and remember that nothing delivers gorgeous skin like a well-balanced, happy, and healthy lifestyle.