You may have heard of skin cycling if you’ve been circling the social media blocks. If not (social media hiatus, anyone?), it’s actually an old trick that’s become popularised by dermatologist and TikTokker Dr Whitney Bowe, who advocates for cycling through skincare products over a four-day period. By using different products over this period, you’re allowing your skin exposure to different active ingredients over a period of time, with each day allowing for a different skin event to take place, like exfoliation, retinol absorption and more.
Why is it a good idea to ‘cycle’ skincare products?
Dr Ian Webster, a specialist dermatologist & co-founder of Dermastore®, says dermatologists have been recommending this kind of regimen for years. “Our bodies and skin are going through constant changes with ageing, hormonal cycles, stress, exposure to external aggressors, and exposure to climatic changes,” says Dr Webster. “Our skincare products need to change with changes in our body and skin. Different ingredients bring different results to the skin.”
What does skin cycling involve?
Skin cycling typically works over a four-day period. Each day, there’s a new regimen to follow, with different skincare products.
1. Skin cycling night one: Exfoliation
Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and makes way for powerful products to sink deep into the skin and work well. While a simple scrub could do the trick, for sensitive, acne-prone skin, a gentle chemical exfoliator would be best, says Dr Webster. Thereafter, moisturise.
Try: Huxley Sweet Scrub Therapy Mask, R520
2. Night two: Retinol
At night, after cleansing, use retinol in the form of a serum or cream. “It is recommended that retinols be mainly used at night and you can choose between a pure retinol of varying strengths; or an encapsulated, slow-release retinol which minimises irritation; or a retinol that is combined with ingredients such as ceramides, gluconolactone or niacinamide that helps to reduce any potential irritation and keep the skin barrier healthy,” says Dr Webster.
In the morning, stick to your normal routine and opt for retinol at night, advises Dr Webster. “If you are planning a long day outdoors in the sun, for instance, hiking, boating or partaking in sport activities, then retinol should not be used the night before, as it can cause photosensitivity,” he notes. The morning after applying retinol, make sure you apply sunscreen (which you should be doing anyway!).
Try: Dermaceutic Activ Retinol Serum 0.5%, R1215
3. Skin cycling nights three and four: Rest
After two days of exfoliation and active ingredients, your skin could use some rest. That’s not to say your Vitamin C serums and other tools need to be chucked away. If you’re a fan of gua sha or have a slugging routine, go ahead, says Dr Webster. “Depending upon your skin type and to give your skin a break from active ingredients, you can use a thicker, more rich moisturiser at night time once or twice a week,” he says. “Other more gentle ingredients that can be used during the ‘rest’ period at night would include gluconolactone, lactobionic acid, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and resveratrol.”
Try: NeoStrata® Glycolic Microdermabrasion Polish, R1130
Still not keen on skin cycling? Try a facial night
Dr Webster notes that ‘surprising’ your skin with new products that it could need is a good way of finding what works for your skin type. “An alternative way of skin cycling would be a weekly home facial treatment that offers a variety of ingredients,” says Dr Webster. “ The routine should include an exfoliating product, a mask suited to your skin type, and a serum that replenishes the skin. Your skin will love the boost of different ingredients.”
Try: pHformula VITA B3 Vibrance Boost Mask, R710
Michelle is a freelance writer at WH, passionate about all things health, fitness and mental wellness. She’s also an avid surfer and recently discovered skateboarding as a viable means of transport. Skate dates, anyone?