All you need to know about skin cycling

Skin cycling is a concept coined by Dr. Whitney Bowes that’s the latest trend approved by Esti’s, Dermatologists, and of course, TikTok. You’ve likely heard of it but may not understand exactly what it is. If this is the case, you’ve come to the right place to learn all about it.

What Is Skin Cycling?

Skin cycling is a simple nighttime regimen focused on 4 days of specific product usage to transform your skin in a more intentional way. The first 2 nights are focused on exfoliation and nights 3-4 are all about nourishing and hydrating the skin. This allows you to increase cellular turnover without causing irritation, which is especially effective for those with sensitive skin or new to the corrective skincare game. Skin cycling is also a great way to incorporate new products into your regimen if your skin isn’t reacting as you’d like to your current regimen.

Night 1: Chemical or physical exfoliant + hydrating product

Night 2: Retinoid/Retinol + hydrating moisturizer

Nights 3-4: Recover with hydrating and calming ingredients

Repeat all steps

Night 1

You’ll pre-cleanse the skin to remove makeup and surface level debris then incorporate a mild exfoliant. This ranges from a gentle Alpha-Hydroxy Acid (AHA) or Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA) product (cleanser, pads, toner) or a gentle facial polish/scrub. Chemical and physical exfoliants lightly penetrate the epidermis to remove dead skin cells and initiate cellular turnover in a very gentle manner, which is important as we age and our cellular turnover rate decreases.

Next, you’ll incorporate a hydrating serum or moisturizer to ensure you’re not depleting the skin of all nutrients. Skipping this step could lead to irritation and breakouts – the skin will naturally produce more oil if it feels dehydrated.

Night 2

After cleansing, this is the night you’ll bump up exfoliation with a retinoid/retinol. Retinoids are a Vitamin-A derivative designed to target acne, premature aging, inflammation, uneven tone and texture, and stimulates collagen production. They are FDA cleared and only available via prescription. Retinoids are ideal for anyone over the age of 30 as they are highly active and incredibly effective at increasing cellular turnover. For those under the age of 30, you may be more familiar with Retinols – OTC products that treat the same skin concerns but in a gentler way. OTC Retinols are also great for all ages if new to retinol use.

Because Retinoids can be quite irritating, there are a few ways to apply the product – hydrating serum, Retinol, moisturizer is my preferred method. This approach is ideal for sensitive skin or new Retinoid users. Retinols are typically in a cream and can be applied without a serum under, but you can certainly add a hydrating moisturizer to prevent sensitizing the skin.

If you have extremely sensitive skin, not a candidate for Retinoid products, or have adverse reactions to them, you should opt for Bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to Retinoids. Bakuchiol is derived from the seeds of Psoralea corylifolia, also known as the babchi plant, and has been used in Eastern Medicine for centuries. It is known to behave as a Retinol and provide similar results without the side-effects of Retinoids.

Nights 3-4

These are your “rest” nights where your focus is hydrating and nourishing the skin. Products used on nights 1 and 2 penetrate the skin the remove dead skin cells and pore clogging debris to create the perfect canvas for optimal product penetration. Hyaluronic Acid (super hydrator that holds 1,000x its weight in water), Heparin Sulfate Analog (HSA – aids in cellular repair and stimulates collagen production), and antioxidants (Vitamin-C, Vitamin-E, Niacinamide, Resveratrol – calm the skin, improve skin tone, prevent oxidative damage) are all ingredients in products that will properly nourish the skin post-exfoliation.

You can apply a hyaluronic acid or nutrient rich serum on damp skin before applying an ultra-nourishing moisturizer to lock in hydration and improve overall skin health.

And Now, Repeat!

You can increase strengths of products used on nights 1 and 2 every couple of weeks if you’re skin can tolerate it, and you can also switch up products if your skin is becoming irritated. Your daily regimen should consist of antioxidant rich products and SPF to protect your skin and maintain a healthy complexion.

How To Enhance Home-Care Regimen

If you’re interested in accelerating results – who isn’t – you can incorporate Hydrafacials every 4 weeks. The treatment is essentially a comprehensive skin cycling session in just 45-60 minutes! The skin is physically and chemically exfoliated, debris is extracted from pores, Boosters are targeted serums designed to nourish the skin, LED Light Therapy stimulates collagen production, calms inflammation, and treats acne, and the last step saturates the skin with Hyaluronic Acid and an antioxidant blend.

Every Hydrafacial experience is personalized to meet your skin needs, and you can purchase home-care products to maintain results and complete your skin cycling regimen. Click on the “Find a Provider” link to connect with a Certified Hydrafacialist near you.

Happy skin cycling!