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What is Skin Cycling?

Table of Contents

Skin Cycling Cover Image

Don’t worry, you don’t need to break out the exercise bike.

Skin cycling is a four-night skincare regimen meant to simplify your skincare routine. The term was coined by Dr Whitney Bowe, a New York City based dermatologist and has exploded in popularity due to its simplicity and effectiveness!

What’s so great about skin cycling?

I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are so skincare products out there with different active ingredients. These active ingredients are really effective at targeting specific issues, but some of shouldn’t be used together or used too often.

Instead of getting a chemistry degree to understand chemical reactions, it’s easier to follow a set routine. This makes it simple to

  1. Avoid mixing active ingredients that shouldn’t be mixed; and
  2. Avoid overusing active ingredients,

which can end up damaging the skin!

Oh sounds good! So what’s the routine?

Skin cycling is for your night time skincare routine.

Every night, cleanse and moisturise as normal. But over 4 nights, you use a different active ingredient.

Night 1: Use Chemical Exfoliators

Night 2: Use Retinoids

Night 3 : Repair

Night 4: Recover

After 4 nights, start the cycle again. Simple!

Night 1: Use Chemical Exfoliators

Use a chemical exfoliator to clear out pores and remove dead skin cells.

Chemical exfoliators are preferred over physical as they are more effective and gentler on the skin than a physical exfoliator or srub.

Choose the exofliating ingredient you are most comforatble with – AHA, BHA or PHA, or products with a mix of all of them!

But remember, chemical exfoliators can be harsh so it is best to just choose 1 product.

Some great chemical exfoliators include

Night 2: Use retinoids

Skin Cycling Night 2

Retinoids help increase skin cell turnover and boost collagen production.

They can also help treat mild acne, fade hyperpigmentation and scarring, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol, retinal and vitamin A are retinoids.

Remember that less is more, so a pea size (or for serums, a drop or two) is sufficient for the whole face.

Some people can be quite sensitive to retinoids, so do remember to patch test first and start with a small concentration to see how your skin reacts.

Some great retinoids include:

Night 3: Repair

Skin Cycling Night 3

Your skin’s been subject to some harsh chemicals over night 1 and 2, so it’s time to repair and restore the skin.

We want to concentrate on hydrating the skin, repairing the skin barrier and rebalancing the skin microbiome.

Seek out products that contain centella asiatica, snail mucin, green tea, ceramides, and peptides such as:

Night 4: Recover

Skin Cycling Night 4

The same idea as on night 3, we continue to recover the skin.

We aim to nourish and re-fortify the skin barrier, before starting the cycle all over again!

Remember, we still want to avoid harsh chemicals during this night as we are going to restart that again the next night.

Look out especially for skin-barrier fortifying and hydrating ingredients such as ginseng, peptides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid.

After night 4, just repeat the process again for the smoothest, best skin you’ve ever had!

Do I still need to use cleanser and moisturiser when skin cycling?

That’s a big YES!

Remember, that during skin cycling, you are cleansing and moisturising as normal. It is just the middle part of your routine that changes.

For cleansers, make sure that you are using a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin of its natural oils.

And for moisturisers, look out for those which are occlusive to lock in moisture and have skin-barrier friendly ingredients such as ceramides.

Is there anything else I need to know about skin cycling?

To really reap the rewards, make sure you always wear sunscreen during the day, as the chemical exfoliants can cause skin to be more sensitive to light.


And there you have it! To sum up, we’ve put together an example routine for you to use. Remember you can mix-and-match with your favourite products!

Skin Cycling Routine
Aqalili Azizan

Aqalili Azizan

Writer in the morning, content creator at night!

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