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Everything to Know About the Skin Cycling Trend

The routine completely changed my complexion.

One of the things I love most about social media is all the instant access to expert advice. From parenting insight to styling tips, there’s always something available that claims to make your life a little better. Of course, it’s your own decision as to what—if any—advice you opt to follow, which is how I happened to try skin cycling.

What is skin cycling?

Created by TikTok-famous dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, this method of mastering skincare is meant to be simple and effective. 

How does skin cycling work? 

Basically, you switch up your skincare routine in a four-day rotation, starting with exfoliation night, then a retinoid night, followed by two nights in a row of “recovery.” The recovery nights are focused on hydration and barrier repair.

“It’s amazing how your skin is able to naturally care for itself,” says licensed aesthetician Hope Dworaczyk Smith, CEO and founder of MUTHA. “Skin cycling is a regimen that uses different products day-to-day that help mimic skin’s natural process— exfoliate, repair, repeat.”

Does skin cycling really work?

I decided to try it, and after just a couple of weeks, I noticed my skin was smoother and more hydrated, my pores appeared smaller, and my skin tone was more even. And it took less effort than my previous skincare routine. Plus, I learned from Bowe that I was doing too much to my skin. I used toner nearly every night and retinol more regularly, probably over-exfoliating my skin. In addition, I was so focused on preventing fine lines and blemishes that I was drying out my skin, leading to more breakouts and dryness.

What products should I use for skin cycling?

Well, as mentioned above, the routine is simple and universal. What changes are the products you’ll use.

“To choose the best products for your skin, it’s important to examine your skin’s needs based on physical appearance,” says Smith. “For example, dry skin might appear flaky or accentuate fine lines so hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides are the most beneficial to help balance skin. Don’t forget to check in with how your skin feels— its needs change daily based on internal and external factors like climate and lifestyle.”

And while it’s a good idea to visit an aesthetician for an expert opinion, we’ve suggested some products to get you started that fit perfectly into Bowe’s skin cycling system.

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Every Night: Cleanse with Turmeric Glow Foaming Cleanser ($42)

All good skincare routines must begin with a gentle cleanser that will leave your skin feeling radiant and squeaky clean to prepare for the products to follow. Remember: consistency is vital. KORA Organics’ Turmeric Glow Foaming Cleanser is formulated with turmeric, noni, aloe and saccharide isomerate to deeply cleanse, remove impurities and brighten your skin without causing dryness or irritation.

Night 1: Exfoliate with Kinship Self Smooth 10% Glycolic Resurfacing Serum ($28)

Kinship’s new Self Smooth 10% Glycolic Resurfacing Serum has launched at the perfect time – this product will be the first step in your new skin cycling routine. The lightweight, milky-pink serum smells like strawberry kombucha and has a thin, fluid-like texture and slightly tacky finish. The serum is formulated with 10% Glycolic acid, strawberry extract, oat extract and kinbiome to exfoliate and brighten the skin without stripping it of moisture.

Night 2: Apply a Retinol with Collagen Intensive Phyto-Retinol Resurfacing Mask ($120)

Find a retinoid that works! This new mask from VENN Skincare is a gentle way to incorporate a retinoid into your skincare routine without causing irritation or increased sensitivity. Formulated with 0.5% Bakuchiol, a plant-derived alternative to retinol, this mask targets the fine lines, uneven skin tone and enlarged pores. Using this mask on Day 2 of your skin cycling regimen will visibly improve skin texture for a healthier and rejuvenated appearance.

Nights 3 and 4: Hydrate with Agua Fresca Thirst-Quenching Gel-Crème Moisturizer ($45)

The last two nights of the cycle consist of hydrating products focused on repairing the skin barrier and locking in your naturally produced oils. DEZIi Skin’s Agua Fresca Moisturizer is the quintessential fragrance-free product to give your skin exactly what it needs – niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, fruit antioxidants and ceramides to deliver immediate and long-lasting hydration.

Night 4: Moisturize with Noni Glow Face Oil ($69)

The last night before you start the journey all over again, give your face some extra love with KORA Organics’ best-selling Noni Glow Face Oil. It’s formulated with certified organic noni extract, rosehip oil, pomegranate oil and sea buckthorn oil to ensure the skin barrier is ready for another cycle of exfoliation. Deeply moisturizing and soothing, this oil wraps up your skin cycle in a gorgeous little bow.