Everything to Know About Skin Cycling, TikTok's Newest Skincare Trend That Will Transform Your Complexion

This dermatologist-approved method has worked wonders on my sensitive skin.

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Skin Cycling TikTok Trend!
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As a beauty writer, I love that part of my job is testing dozens of amazing products each month. But while the thrill of trying out a new serum truly never fades, striking the balance between applying an adequate amount of an active ingredient-packed product without overusing it is tricky, and getting it wrong has seriously enraged my ultra-sensitive skin. That's why I now swear by a foolproof TikTok-inspired method that's given me the glowiest complexion of my life, free of irritation: skin cycling.

Created by TikTok-famous dermatologist, Dr. Whitney Bowe, MD, "skin cycling" is essentially a four night regimen; One night of using an exfoliant, followed by one night of using retinoids, followed by two "recovery" nights, devoid of active skincare ingredients. "After just two cycles, you can start to see overall improvement in radiance and glow to the skin," Dr. Bowe explains to followers in a 30-second video. "If you continue to skin cycle over a period of two months, then you'll start to see that your fine lines become less noticeable, the skin will look and feel more firm, and you'll also notice that your dark spots will start to fade."

Yes, a four-night ritual does feel a little excessive, but dermatologists say the method checks out, especially for those with sensitive skin types looking to incorporate anti-aging and brightening agents into their routines. "In order to improve our complexion and look younger, there is often the temptation to use more than one product each day," says Dr. Peter Young, MD, dermatologist and Medical Director of Facet. However, he adds, "too many products on your skin, especially anti-aging products, can cause irritation, and actually make you look older. Therefore, it's best to space out active ingredients like retinoids and exfoliants in your weekly skincare routine."

For those looking for a low-stress way to get the most out of your skincare, I cannot recommend this method enough. Below are all the products you need to start skin cycling and get your glow on:

Exfoliants

"Exfoliating acids like glycolic acid and lactic acid gently resurface the top layers of skin to reduce skin dullness and improve radiance and glow," says notes Dr. Courtney Rubin, M.D, cofounder of Ashley Graham-approved skincare brand Fig.1. On the first night of the skin cycling routine, Dr. Bowe recommends applying a chemical exfoliant (either an AHA or BHA) to clean, dry skin. Personally, I'm a die-hard fan of the Paula's Choice Two Percent BHA Liquid Exfoliant.

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $32; paulaschoice.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $64; dermalogica.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $12; theinkeylist.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: youthtothepeople.com; $38

Retinoids

Dr. Rubin explains that retinoids can boost collagen production, even out texture, and reduce pore congestion. "This regimen can be a wonderful way for those with sensitive skin to get retinoids into their skincare routine without irritation," Dr. Rubin adds.

Because my skin flares up so easily, I've been retinoid-phobic for most of my adult life. However, since beginning skin cycling, I've fallen in love with the True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Sleep Mask. In addition to retinoids, it contains soothing, hydrating ingredients like aloe, glycerin, and jojoba oil. In the month since I've started using it, my pores look smaller and my face looks brighter and healthier. However, for an easy over-the-counter, Amazon-accessible option, Dr. Young recommends the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Regenerating Cream."To further reduce the chances of irritation, when it comes to choosing products, look for products that formulate retinoids with ingredients that support the skin barrier, like HA, glycerin, and vegan squalane, like the Fig.1 Retinol night cream No. 1," Dr. Rubin adds.

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $140; truebotanicals.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $11; amazon.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $92; murad.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $38; fig-1.co

Recovery Nights

On nights three and four, Dr. Bowe recommends using only the basics: a cleanser (or two, if you're wearing waterproof makeup or SPF), a hyaluronic acid serum, moisturizer, and a moisturizing oil. "For the moisturizer part of your skin care cycle, I recommend a gentle fragrance-free non-comedogenic moisturizing cream. Cerave, Cetaphil and Vanicream are excellent choices," says Dr. Rubin.

For this step (and on every other day in the cycle) I've been depending on Tula's ultra-nourishing 24-7 Moisture Hydrating Night and Day Cream. It's full of plumping squalane and peptides, as well as balancing probiotics. For added dewy hydration, I also layer on the TikTok-famous Glow Recipe Plum Plump Hyaluronic Acid Serum.

Since both retinoids and exfoliants can increase your sensitivity to the sun, Dr. Young adds that daily SPF use is also crucial to maintaining healthy skin while skin cycling.

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $54; tula.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $14; amazon.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $40; amazon.com

Skin Cycling Routine
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Shop now: $20; supergoop.com

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