What’s “Skin Cycling”? Everything You Need to Know About the Popular TikTok Skincare Trend

Skincare trends come and go, but this one may be a keeper!

October 13, 2022

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Studio shot of a beautiful young woman applying moisturizer to her face


Studio shot of a beautiful young woman applying moisturizer to her face

Photo by: LumiNola


A good skincare routine is essential nowadays, whether it’s super simple or a marathon of extravagant self-care. With that, new trends have popped up here and there, from face shaving to slugging. However, trying out so many new products and techniques can often take a toll on your complexion instead of improving it. That’s where "skin cycling" comes in.

The method, which was first coined by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe on TikTok, is meant to create a simple, structured routine for healthier skin. Here are the steps:

  1. Exfoliation Night
  2. Retinol Night
  3. Recovery Night
  4. Recovery Night

After the second recovery night, the cycle repeats.

The exfoliation night helps your retinol penetrate even better than usual on the next night. Then, the two recovery nights consist of basic, hydrating and nourishing products to moisturize and repair your skin barrier. This ensures that your skin will be strong enough to handle the next cycle of actives.

Dr. Bowe has also said that people with oily and acne-prone skin can choose to drop one of the recovery nights and use a three-night cycle — exfoliate, retinol, recover — instead. In addition, people who are very new to skincare in general can choose one active (either their chemical exfoliant OR retinoid, but not both) and follow a slightly different cycle — active, recover, recover, recover — to work up their tolerance. After three weeks, they can try their first recovery night (night two) for the other active.

For some of you, this routine may seem like old news, but it’s definitely helped many people, myself included, who are just starting to introduce actives into their routine or who have sensitive and reactive skin (me raising my hand high!) It also helps people create a more structured and simplified evening skincare routine, which is never a bad thing.

Most importantly, listen to your skin and if you need an extra recovery night, then add one in. If you've been doing this for a while and you're ready to move on to the three-night cycle, give it a try. And finally, If you’re already a skincare master and use retinoids and other actives nightly with no issues, then you can definitely stick to that too. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

If you’re ready to give skin cycling a shot, here are some products we recommend:





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