Another day, another TikTok trend that's all the rage. Many TikTok trends are gimmicks without any scientific backing. Or, in the case of the NyQuil chicken trend that took off, just plain dangerous. However, one has bubbled up to the surface that is worth investigating. Enter: skin cycling.
Not only can it be good for skin with sensitivities or newbies to actives like retinol. Skincare experts are giving the green light. To get the details on why skin cycling can be so beneficial, we tapped Dr. Carlos A. Charles, co-founder of 4.5.6 Melanin Skincare and medical skin expert. For starters, he notes, skin cycling gives your skin a chance to soak up all the benefits of your skin care routine without irritation.
"Additionally, it is a great way to customize your routine to meet your skin's needs," he tells xoNecole. "Those with oilier, less sensitive skin may want to use a stronger retinoid. Instead of taking two 'rest' days, they may only want to take one. Whereas those with sensitive skin may want to do the opposite and even extend the rest days for three days, allowing the skin a nice long break to mitigate irritation."
If you have skin conditions like eczema, acne, psoriasis, or rosacea, Charles emphasizes a one-on-one appointment with a derm is essential before trying on skin cycling.
So, What Is Skin Cycling?
"Skin cycling refers to the practice of using varying routines for your skin care regimen on different nights of the week and repeating these routines successively," Charles shares. "The goal with skin cycling is to give your skin a couple of repeated nights of maximum skin cell renewal and focused treatment followed by a couple nights of rest."
He notes that we should think of skin cycling like physical exercise routines, "where one day you might lift weights, on the next day you may perform intense aerobic exercise, and the next day you may rest, allowing your body to rebuild."
How To Start a Skin Cycling Routine
Carving out a skin care routine isn't as tricky as it sounds. But we're lucky to have Charles to break down what a sample routine could look like.
Skin Cycling Routine: Night One
Night one of skin cycling is all about exfoliation. However, a gentle chemical exfoliator is recommended versus a physical exfoliant—the reason for this: skin irritation. Skin irritation not only leads to physical discomfort. But upsetting the skin barrier can lead to more hyperpigmentation. Chemical exfoliators come in a range of formulas, from masks to peel pads.
If your skin is oily or acne prone, this exfoliant mask crafted with melanin-rich skin in mind soaks up excess sebum, smooths skin texture, and brightens. We can thank ingredients like pumpkin enzymes, rosehip seed oil, and niacinamide for that.
I've used this peeling solution for years, and it never disappoints. Formulated with AHA and BHAs (think: glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids), utilizing this weekly can make a significant impact on the overall appearance of dark spots and texture. However, don't overuse this or leave it on beyond what the directions advise. I don't care if you've got a pimple that just won't go away.
Peel pads can also offer exfoliating benefits sans the physical exfoliants. These correction peel pads are infused with glycolic and salicylic acid and retinol. If your skin is sensitive or you're new to exfoliating, these aren't for you yet. However, these could be worth a try if you're a skincare vet.
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Skin Cycling Routine: Night Two
On night two, it's all about retinoids. If you're new to using retinoids, you want to start slow to prevent skin irritation. But once you incorporate one into your routine, your skin cell turnover will increase, and your skin will build collagen. And if you struggle with acne, retinoids can help greatly with that too. With retinoids, less is always more. You only need a pea-sized amount to reap the benefits.
The Ordinary's was the first retinoid I tried. I love that this one is in squalane because the formula hydrates while treating the skin. And this formula is ideal for retinoid newbies.
Fragrance-free moisturizers are always at the top of my list. If your skin is sensitive to fragrance and you're looking for a hydrating retinol option, reviewers say this highly-rated night cream delivers the goods without irritation.
I've been using this serum every other night for the last two years. It's my holy grail. The honey-like formula glides onto my skin and prevents any unwanted irritation or dryness. And it helps get my hormonal acne in check.
Tanja Ivanova/Getty Images
Skin Cycling Routine: Night Three and Four
Think of nights three and four as giving your body rest days after working out. "You would enter the rest phase of the cycle in which you can simply use a gentle cleanser followed by the application of a hydrating moisturizer. On these two nights, you should avoid using any active ingredients to allow the skin to rest."
Double cleansing makes a big difference in the health and appearance of your skin. I like to start with a cleansing oil because it breaks down makeup, dirt, and debris from the day without stripping moisture.
No matter your skin type, this hyaluronic acid-infused formula gently cleanses while nurturing and hydrating the skin barrier. This formula is currently a personal favorite.
This hydrating formula has two ingredients that the skin barrier loves: niacinamide and ceramides. Apply this serum to damp skin after cleansing the skin. The niacinamide helps even the skin tone and protect, while the ceramides encourage moisture retention.
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