Skin Cycling for Beginners: 10 Tips and Products for Flawless Skin

Skin Care
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Skin Cycling for Beginners | 10 Tips and Products for Flawless Skin | What is skin cycling? What are the benefits? And how do I get started? In this post, we answer all of this - and more! Skin cycling is all about alternating the skincare products you use during your nighttime skincare routine to maximize the results of your fav anti-aging skincare products (think: exfoliators, acids, and retinoids) without causing skin irritation. Click to learn how to create your own skin cycling routine!

If you’re looking for an effective way to transform your skin, you need to know about skin cycling. Coined by dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe whose Tiktok on skin cycling for beginners has 2.6 million views, it’s a skincare regimen that’s shown remarkable results for many. While Tiktok trends aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be, this is one we can definitely get behind. Skin cycling ensures you’re benefiting your skin with important active ingredients like retinol, but also gives your skin a break to repair and recover. The result is your softest, clearest, most glowing skin. Read on to find out our best tips and products for skin cycling.

What Is ‘Skin Cycling’?

Skin cycling is a method of alternating between skincare products during your nighttime skincare routine, and taking “rest days” so that your skin can repair itself after using products with active ingredients. Skin cycling is thought to maximize results of active ingredients and minimize irritation for your softest, most glowing skin.

The most basic skin cycling routine takes four nights. This allows for two nights of treatment followed by two nights of recovery. The first night focuses on exfoliation, the second night features retinol and on the third and fourth nights, you focus on hydration and recovery, only using moisturizer and hydrating products.

Products like acids and retinoids are great resurfacers, but overuse of these products irritates and exacerbates the skin. This is why rest nights are so important and why skin cycling tends to work so well.

What Are the Benefits of Skin Cycling?

    • Helps repair your skin barrier
    • Reduces irritation symptoms, such as redness and peeling from retinol, particularly in people with sensitive skin
    • Skin brightening
    • Skin hydration and softness
    • Healthy glow and radiance to your skin
    • Improvement of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots
    • Clearer skin and less breakouts
  • Easy way to stay on top of your skincare routine

What Are the Downsides of Skin Cycling?

If you have sensitive or reactive skin you’ll need to start super slowly with retinol. Many people struggle with irritation when it comes to retinol, so it’s important to incorporate it in a controlled way. Start using it once per week and see how your skin reacts. Also make sure to use a low percent retinol (we talk more about that below!) and a protective sunscreen during the day. When you use retinol, it’s crucial to protect your skin from the sun’s rays, so use a sunscreen with at least SPF 50.

Skin Cycling for Beginners

Night 1: Exfoliation
After cleansing your face, pat it dry, then apply your exfoliator of choice. Starting with exfoliation on night one of your skin cycle gets rid of dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, giving it a healthy glow and preparing it to get the most of night two- retinol. When your skin is properly exfoliated, other products can penetrate more deeply and perform more effectively. Afterwards, apply a moisturizer to calm and hydrate your skin.

For exfoliation night, it’s best to use a chemical exfoliant such as lactic acid or glycolic acid. If you have acne-prone skin, one with salicylic acid like the Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Liquid Exfoliant is ideal. Exfoliating too frequently can lead to redness and irritation, which is why you should use it as part of your skin cycling routine. Also keep in mind that chemical exfoliants are much gentler than physical scrubs, so it’s best to stick to the former. The Dr.Dennis Gross Ultra Daily Gentle Daily Peel is great for sensitive skin, while the PCA Skin Resurfacing Serum is amazing for dry skin.

Night 2: Retinoids
Retinol is a super powerful ingredient – it boosts collagen and elastin production, and speeds up cell turnover to fight everything from aging to acne. It’s an important part of a good skincare routine, but as we note above, can cause irritation for sensitive or reactive skin, so it’s important to incorporate it slowly. If you’re new to retinol, try a product with a lower percentage concentration of retinol like the Shani Darden Retinol Reform. Other options for a good retinol are the Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream and the Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum.

Since your skin was exfoliated on night one, the retinol will penetrate deeper into your skin barrier. After removing your makeup and cleansing your skin, apply a small amount of your retinol cream. Leave it on your skin for 30 minutes, then apply moisturizer and leave it on your skin overnight. It can take up to three months for your skin to adapt to a retinoid, so if you notice some sensitivity, there’s no need to panic. However, if your skin becomes irritated or you notice a burning or itching sensation, discontinue use and consult a specialist as it may not be right for you.

Night 3 and 4: Recovery
Nights three and four are your recovery nights- it’s time to give your skin a break. You want to focus on nourishing your skin’s microbiome and repairing your skin barrier. Hold off on actives and exfoliants, and use a gentle moisturizer like the Paula’s Choice Water-Infusing Electrolyte Moisturizer. Hydration and moisture are key, so you can consider using a hydrating serum before your moisturizer as well. Just make sure to avoid any irritating ingredients. A barrier cream with ceramides, like the EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex is another excellent option to moisturize and repair your skin while sleeping.

If skin cycling has piqued your interest, use these tips and products and watch how your skin transforms.

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