Skin cycling is a viral TikTok skincare trend, but it’s actually been around for a while.
It’s a four-day routine, plus two “recovery days” with no products like retinol or exfoliants.
Dr. Annie Chiu, a board-certified dermatologist, explains how to do it.
So many TikTok skincare trends these days have a more-is-more approach. Take slugging, skin flooding and 12-step routines – it’s all about lathering products on your face.
In theory, a heavy-duty approach helps offset dry winter skin and also reduces irritation from effective but harsh products like retinol.
But these routines can be time consuming and it’s easy to clog your pores if you don’t pay attention.
Now, TikTokers are taking a more strategic approach through skin cycling, giving your face a break from more intense skin care products. Professional dermatologists and beauty influencers swear by routine as a way to rejuvenate skin.
How skin cycling works
While this trend has recently erupted on social media — the hashtag has been viewed more than 250 million times on TikTok — “the concepts have been known for many years,” says Dr. Annie Chiu, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of The Derm Institute.
Chiu explained that “active skin care products,” such as exfoliators or retinoids, can have a sensitizing effect.
By cycling on the skin, Chiu said, you keep “rest days for the skin to recover.”
According to Chiu, this process can not only help prevent inflammation or irritation, but also improve your skin’s tolerance to the products over time.
How to cycle on a 4 day routine
To properly cycle skin, Chiu said you should follow a four-day schedule. Here are her tips, including products, that she doesn’t relate to.
Day 1: Exfoliation. Use a gentle exfoliant to avoid “accidentally over-exfoliating and damaging skin,” says Chiu.
Chiu recommended using Tatcha’s The Rice Polish: deep because it “doesn’t tear the skin” but still leaves it soft and supple.
Day 2: application of retinoids. Chiu said prescription retinol from your dermatologist is most effective and should be used every other day at first to “build tolerance and prevent over-drying.”
Her over-the-counter recommendations include La Roche Posay Adapalene Effaclar Gel as a great “starter retinol” and Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Oil as a gentler option.
Days 3-4: Recovery (In other words: lots of hydration). According to Chiu, you really need to focus on deep moisture, so “look not only for regular moisturizers, but also for products to repair and improve the skin barrier.”
For example, she recommended the Eve Lom Moisture Mask as a lightweight but “intensely moisturizing product”, the Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask to “restore the skin’s health barrier” and Element Eight O2 Squalane Repair Protect Cream as a healing moisturizer that aims to has to restore dehydrated skin.
The takeaway meals
In general, the benefits of skin cycling vary based on skin type. According to Chiu, people who have used retinol more often and tolerate it well may benefit from a “more advanced” form of skin cycling where active ingredients are used more often — for example, simply replacing retinol with a rich moisturizer on days when you feel dry. . .
But if you have sensitive skin and feel like your skincare routine is constantly leaving you flaky, skin cycling can be a great, luxurious way to give your face some much-needed rest, Chiu said.
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