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Skin Cycling: What It Is & How It Works

Skin cycling is a trend that has been taking the social media world by storm. But what exactly is it – and why do so many people swear by this skincare routine? Here’s how skin cycling works, and how you can implement it into your daily regime. 

What Is Skin Cycling?

Skin cycling refers to a specific evening skincare routine in which you alternate between using powerful formulas on treatment nights, and gentler products on recovery nights. In theory, by giving your skin a break from stronger formulas, you’ll have a much lower risk of experiencing aggravation. This means you get the benefits of your treatments without the unwanted side effects. 

Four-Night Cycle

Skin cycling follows a four-night cycle. The first two nights are dedicated to treating the skin with potent active ingredients. On the last two nights, you let your skin recover and repair. 

On the first night, you use an exfoliant. Exfoliants work to clear away dead skin cells and other impurities on the skin that can clog pores, create textural issues, and lead to a dull complexion. By getting rid of this debris, the process also ensures the other products you’re using over the next few days are better able to absorb into the skin.

On the second night, you apply a retinoid, which is a vitamin A derivative. A retinoid is one of your best tools for fighting signs of aging. It promotes skin cell turnover to soften fine lines and wrinkles, improve uneven skin tone, and reduce textural issues. Additionally, it can be great for reducing and preventing blemishes for a clearer complexion. 

Nights three and four are all about recovery. Rather than using potent treatments, you’ll reach for gentle, restorative products. This gives your skin barrier a moment to repair and reset before you repeat the cycle. 

Nighttime Routine

Here’s a breakdown of what each night will look like in your skin cycling routine:

  • Night 1 (Exfoliant): Cleanse with a gentle cleanser, and then apply your exfoliant to completely dry skin. Let it absorb into the skin for at least 10 minutes, and then follow up with a moisturizer. 
  • Night 2 (Retinoid): Cleanse with a gentle cleanser, and then apply your retinoid to completely dry skin. After letting it absorb for at least 10 minutes, apply your moisturizer. 
  • Night 3 and 4 (Recovery): Cleanse with a gentle cleanser, and then apply any gentle calming and/or hydrating serums. Follow up with a moisturizer.
  • Morning Routine

    While skin cycling requires you to alternate products in the evening, your morning routine can be much simpler. Feel free to use the same products every morning!

    At the start of the day, one of the best products you can apply (after cleansing with a gentle face wash) is an antioxidant serum. Antioxidants help keep your skin shielded against harmful free radicals from environmental aggressors. Our  Vitamin C Boost Serum is the perfect solution for anyone looking for formula that will brighten the complexion and fight signs of aging, while the restorative  CoQ10 Boost Serum is great for those with dehydrated, aging skin in need of support. These antioxidant serums can also be layered together for a potent remedy against some of the most common skin concerns, including dullness, discoloration, fine lines, and wrinkles. 

    After applying your serum(s), you can then follow up with a moisturizer, as well as an eye cream if you use one. Last, apply sunscreen as the final step in your routine to keep your skin protected against damaging UV rays. 

    Vitamin C Boost Serum

    Is Skin Cycling Safe For Everyone?

    Skin cycling is generally considered to be safe for all skin types, especially since it gives the skin ample time to rejuvenate between using more potent active ingredients. That said, you should always pay attention to how your skin reacts to the routine, and adjust as needed. 

    How well your skin responds to the routine will also depend on the specific products you’re using. For example, someone with sensitive skin may be fine following this routine with a low concentration exfoliant and retinoid. However, they may find that they need to use higher concentration products less frequently than required with skin cycling. 

    Best Products To Use During Skin Cycling

    Now that we know what skin cycling is, let’s talk about the actual products you’ll want to use over the four-night cycle. Keep in mind that on nights one and two (the treatment nights), you can also layer in other gentle skincare products to keep your skin calm and comfortable, such as a hydrating serum, a soothing serum, or a face oil. 

    On night one (the exfoliation night), you’ll want to reach for an exfoliant that is suitable for your skin type and concerns. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) work on the surface of the skin, and are perfect for those with skin that tends to be drier. Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) are ideal for oilier skin types, as they work deep in the pores to clear away clogs. There are also formulas that combine both AHAs and BHAs to treat a range of concerns. 

    Those with sensitive skin will want to reach for formulas made with lower concentrations. Mandelic acid – which is an AHA – is particularly great for sensitive skin. This is because it has a larger molecule size compared to other AHAs, which makes it gentler on the skin. Alternatively, anyone with sensitive skin can look for polyhydroxy acid (PHA) formulas, as they are milder than AHAs and BHAs. 

    On night two (retinoid night), you can reach for either an over-the-counter retinol, or a prescription-based retinoid. A prescription retinoid will be stronger than what you’re able to get in drugstores. 

    On recovery nights, ditch the potent treatments and instead reach for calming, hydrating serums. A hyaluronic acid serum (like our  Hyaluronic Pure Boost Serum) is an especially great choice. Hyaluronic acid is a highly effective hydrator that is able to lock water into the skin for a soft, supple, and smooth complexion. Don’t let the term “acid” throw you off – this ingredient is incredibly gentle, as is suitable for all skin types. Be sure to apply it to damp skin, as this will enhance absorption for the best possible results.