How To Practice Skin Cycling

Whether you heard of it via that one friend who’s always experimenting with the latest beauty trend, or saw it go viral on TikTok, it’s likely you’ve stumbled upon the term skin cycling in recent days. For all its buzziness, though, skin cycling truly offers plenty of benefits: It’s simple, making it easy to stick to a skin care routine on a regular basis, and it requires very minimal formulas. Below, we break down what it is, why you need to try it, and the our favorite luxury skincare brands for getting started.



Dr. Lara Devgan, BeautyStat, Babor

What Is Skin Cycling

Much like any well-rounded fitness routine employs days of weight training, cardio and rest, so should your skin care routine—according to dermatologists and believers of the skin cycling principle, at least. When done correctly, skin cycling starts your week with two consecutive evenings of active ingredients, followed by two nights of “rest.” Then, proceed with nothing more than a simple, easy moisturizer for the remainder of the week until the cycle starts again. Seems easy enough, right?

Tata Harper, BeaytStat, U Beauty, RéVive

Night 1:


To kick off your skin cycling routine, start with an exfoliation night. For dry skin, oily skin and acne-prone skin, exfoliating is already likely a part of your agenda. The main difference with the skin cycling skin care trend is that you’ll only use chemical exfoliators. So, stash the physical exfoliators away for now, and look for ingredients like salicylic acid, lactic acid and AHAs and BHAs. What chemical exfoliants lack in physical textures, they make up for in skin-glowing benefits. Try an exfoliating pad, which has the formula soaked into an easy-to-use, no-mess cotton pad that you sweep across the face, or massage a few drops of a resurfacing treatment gently into the skin. Whichever you choose, you’ll sleep peacefully knowing that the chemical exfoliators are working hard to eliminate any dead skin cells and promote healthy, glowing skin.

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Night 2:

Layer on a Retinol

While we can sing praises for retinol on a daily basis, it’s important to know you can’t actually use it on a daily basis. One of the most powerful anti-aging ingredients around, retinol comes in many forms and varying strengths, and is lauded for its fine line-smoothing properties. If you’re new to retinol, try mixing it with a moisturizer or hydrating cream to buffer its sting, and slowly work your way up to using it solo. Don’t forget the neck and decollété, two areas that are often overlooked—but surely are susceptible to wrinkles. When used properly, retinols have the power to promote skin cell turnover, helping your skin shed dead cells and make room for healthy, fresh ones which, in turn, create the appearance of a more youthful, perked-up face. 111SKIN’s cult-favorite oil and La Prairie’s caviar-infused formulas are both winners in our book. If you’re not already using sunscreen daily, know that when using a retinol it’s simply non-negotiable. Strong actives make skin more sensitive—think of your complexion as vulnerable—so it’s extra-important to layer on SPF the following morning. Rain or shine.

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Nights 3 & 4:


After two nights of letting actives get to work, it’s time to give skin a breather. With a skin cycling routine, you don't just have one recovery night, but two. If you haven’t heard of the skin barrier, know that everyone has one—and it’s super-easy to damage it by overdoing it with exfoliators, harsh physical scrubs and too many ingredients in the mix. People can get overzealous and excited with skin care products—we know, we’ve been there, done that—trying out something new multiple days in a row and, in turn, confusing and stressing the skin out. (Which is another reason we love skin cycling—a streamlined routine means less room for skin to freak out from being over-treated.) Anyone who’s struggled with long stretches of redness, inflammation and irritation has likely had a bout of compromised skin barrier.

To restore and soothe yours after two nights of active ingredients, you’ll want to lean into reparative formulas that soothe, nourish and hydrate. Start with a gentle cleanse, but don’t towel dry. With skin still damp, pat on a serum of your choice. Dr. Barbara Sturm, a huge believer in hyaluronic acid, has a formula we love for locking in and supporting healthy skin hydration. Or, you can gently dab on a dollop of U Beauty’s Barrier Bioactive Treatment. Aside from hyaluronic acid, ingredients to look for in your “recovery” products include niacinamide and glycerin, which seek to calm and repair the skin barrier. After a serum, lock everything in with a moisturizer, grab your silk eye mask and take your “rest days” very seriously.

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How To Practice Skin Cycling

The truth is, with only three or four products to keep in rotation every week, skin cycling couldn’t be easier. For those who are overwhelmed by beauty “trends” (though we'd argue, this isn't a trend so much as establishing a dedicated regimen), or those who don’t know where to start with building a routine, skin cycling is a no-brainer. It’s the best skincare routine for healthy, glowing skin.


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