What is Skin Cycling and What Does it Mean for Your Ritual?
Recently I was flying home from a long trip abroad and the airline lost my luggage. Although not shocking during these times, my immediate reaction to hearing this news was: How am I going to keep my skin healthy without all of my 10-minute skincare routine products! So I started to do research on how I could take care of my skin with very minimal products (to avoid repurchasing everything) and ended up stumbling upon a genius skincare concept: Skin cycling.
- Dr. Whitney Bowe created the concept of skin cycling where you strategically use certain products on different nights of the cycle.
- Skin cycling starts with one or two days of exfoliating and ends with gentle products to help repair the skin.
- Make sure to use at least a cleaner and moisturizer twice a day, if not anything else in your morning skincare routine.
How does the concept of skin cycling work?
So you know how many personal trainers and fitness influencers harp on switching up the types of workouts you do throughout the week? Well, this is because switching up your routine allows you to target different parts of your body and also keeps you from getting tired and worn out from the same thing every day. Your skin needs the same type of treatment!
Over-exhausting your skin with too many products, especially exfoliants, can cause your skin to appear and feel dry and damaged. Spreading your products out throughout the week and giving your skin time to soak everything in and heal is the main point of this revolutionary concept.
Skin cycling is a skincare practice that involves rotating through certain products on specific days of the week. A dermatologist named Whitney Bowe came up with this regiment during the height of Covid-19.
Dr. Bowe claims it takes your nighttime skincare to the next level and delivers amazing results. It’s all about using certain products and then allowing your skin to breathe and heal by not overdoing it every night. There are different types of skin cycling for certain skin types and also available products. Dr. Whitney Bowe openly reveals her own skin cycling routine, as well as other kinds.
Dr. Whitney Bowe's skin cycling regimen
Since Dr. Bowe has what she claims is “sensitive skin,” she opts for a four-day skin cycling routine. This is how her nightly skin routine goes:
Night one: Exfoliation
On Dr. Bowe’s first night, she goes all in. This is the night she exfoliates to get rid of her dead skin. She states that there are many different types of exfoliants people can use, but she opts for a chemical exfoliant over a physical scrub. One of her favorites is the Shani Darden Lactic Acid AHA Exfoliating Serum ($88).
- 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($8.25)
- AHA 30% + BHA 2% Exfoliating Peeling Solution ($8)
- Youth To The People-Mandelic Acid + Superfood Unity Exfoliant ($38)
- La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Face Scrub ($18.99)
Night two: Retinoid
The next night, Dr. Bowe uses retinol, which is another version of an exfoliant. Retinol helps to increase new cell production, as well as stimulate collagen synthesis. People make the mistake of applying retinol on their face too often, which can result in inflammation and redness. Cycling this in your routine one to two times a week can produce the amazing anti-aging benefits that retinol has been known to offer.
Recommended retinols (from Dr. Bowe’s shopping shelf):
- Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum ($110)
- PCA SKIN Intensive Clarity Treatment 0.5 Pure Retinol Night (1 oz.) ($115)
- Acne Treatment Gel ($17.99)
- SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream (1 fl. oz.) ($80)
Night three and four: Recovery
These two nights are all about letting your skin rest and repair. This is when you don’t even want to look at exfoliants or anything harsh. On recovery nights, Dr. Whitney Bowe likes to use products that give her skin moisture and hydration. Products such as microbiomes, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin on your recovery nights are the best.
Best recovery products:
- Greek Yoghurt Probiotic SuperDose Face Mask ($55)
- Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm (2.8 fl. oz.) ($64)
- Sunday Riley GOOD GENES Glycolic Acid Treatment (1.7 fl. oz.) ($122)
- Caudalie Vinoperfect Glycolic Peel Mask 2.5 fl. Oz. ($39)
How do you implement skin cycling
Depending on your skin type and its needs, you can definitely start skin cycling as soon as possible. There are many sources to help you find a cycling routine for skin types such as dry or oily skin, and even rosacea. Most of these techniques, however, are still very similar to the standard Dr. Bowe cycle, but may just be longer in length to give the skin more time to repair.
The best thing about it is that it will make your products last twice as long as they normally last. Even if you don’t want to follow Dr. Bowes exact regimen, you can come up with your own while still implementing the same idea.
You want to start with harsher products in the first one or two days to really strip away the dead skin parts. Then move on to lighter products for moisture and hydration to give your skin a break and heal it. Once you finish your four-day cycle, or however many days you choose to cycle, make sure to immediately restart the process
Should you skin cycle your morning routine?
Having a morning skin routine is extremely important for maintaining healthy and youthful skin. However, this is when you should only be applying light and nourishing products – NOT the heavy ones. So when it comes to skin cycling in the morning, it’s not really necessary since you aren’t using any harsh exfoliants.
Many dermatologists recommend using just a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen in the mornings. If you want to go further with your morning skin routine, you can add a light serum such as vitamin C and an eye cream to really jazz it up.
Maybe you’ve been wanting to try a new type of skin care routine lately. Maybe you've been feeling bored with your constantly repeated regimen. This is your opportunity to start skin cycling. Dr. Bowe has created a genius technique that allows the skin to repair itself on a weekly basis by just rotating products in and out.
Written by Emma Carlson