While the buzzy term skin cycling was only coined recently, the technique has actually been around for quite some time. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that you could very well be skin cycling already! 

Skin cycling specifically refers to the routine rotation of 1 night exfoliator, 1 night retinoid, 2 nights of rest/recovery, then repeat. Here’s the logic behind each step:

  • Exfoliating removes dead skin cells, allowing products to penetrate deeper, so it makes sense to start your cycle here.
  • Retinoids increase cell turnover and stimulate collagen production, helping with everything from reducing the appearance of wrinkles to minimizing breakouts. They need to travel deeper in your skin, so exfoliating helps clear the path.
  • Resting/recovery nights are crucial to give your skin a break after more irritating, active ingredients like exfoliants and retinoids. These rest nights support a healthy, strong skin barrier, which can become compromised by over-exfoliating or using drying products. 
  • At its core, skin cycling highlights 2 ideas that skincare professionals have been promoting for years: consistency and balance. All skincare routines benefit from a consistent routine, which allows your skin the time to recognize and use ingredients without overwhelming it. Similarly, a balanced routine rotates the use of active ingredients to reduce the risk of irritation and give your skin time to rest. Think about exercising – you need to take rest days in between! 

    One of the reasons the trend caught on was because of its simplicity. With so much skincare information available, it can be refreshing to be given a clear set of instructions. The 4-day cycle promoted by the trend is a great example of a consistent and balanced routine, but far from the only option. We know that everyone’s skin is different, so it wouldn’t make sense if everyone’s skin cycle looked exactly the same. 

    Consistency and balance are particularly important for acne-prone skin which needs regular use of active ingredients while always maintaining the strength and resilience of the skin barrier. Your “skin cycle” can be any consistent rotation of products that works for your skin – there’s no rule that says it must be 4 days long. For example, some people with very sensitive skin may only need to exfoliate twice a month, while seasoned exfoliators will often be using their exfoliator a few days in a row. 

    The 4-day skin cycling trend can be a good starting point, but the skin cycle that works best for you may look different from what’s trending on TikTok. As long as your routine is consistent and balanced, your cycle is right on track.