What Is Skin Cycling?

Nailing the perfect skincare routine is tough: Finding the right products for your skin’s needs is already hard enough, but learning how to layer them and when to use them, not to mention how to tell if they’re actually working or not, can feel overwhelming. Too many active ingredients used at the same time can lead to irritation, but not using them frequently enough won’t get you the results you’re hoping for. Figuring out how and when to use your products is equally as important as the actual products themselves, which is why board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe came up with skin cycling. 

What is skin cycling? 

Skin cycling is a regimen that helps improve the efficacy of your nighttime routine, alternating “treatment” nights and “recovery” nights. If you’re using heavily active ingredients on your skin every single night, your skin never has time to regenerate, so adopting a skin cycling routine can ensure that your products are working effectively. 

It’s natural to want to add a buzzy ingredient to your skincare routine — especially if a product claims a high concentration of the ingredient — but doing so can lead to a long, cumbersome skincare routine that isn’t as efficient as you need it to be. Dr. Whitney Bowe’s skin cycling approach is very deliberate in that it prioritizes different areas of your skincare routine to maximize your results over the course of four nights. Here’s how it works. 

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Night 1: Exfoliation

Exfoliating helps remove dead skin and excess sebum (i.e. your body’s naturally-produced oils that cause acne) from the surface of your skin to leave you with a blank canvas. Your exfoliant can be physical or chemical.

Physical exfoliants are products that have actual physical texture in the formula to manually slough away dead skin and impurities.

Chemical exfoliants utilize a variety of acids to not only remove impurities from the surface of the skin, but to also seep into the skin to stimulate cell turnover, leaving you with a glow literally from the inside out.

Exfoliate after cleansing then follow up with your usual moisturizer.

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Night 2: Retinoid

Retinoids are a great option for addressing a variety of skincare concerns like fine lines and wrinkles, discoloration and texture, and redness. This is because retinoids significantly cut down your skin’s oil production and greatly amplify your skincare’s anti-aging effects.

Our new Midnight Ritual Retinol Renewal Serum is powered by two retinoids, vegan retinol and retinyl linoleate, to create a gentle yet effective formula. Midnight Ritual Retinol is also enriched with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and a blend of oatmeal and tiger grass, that works to calm and soothe the skin, making it the perfect addition to your PM skincare routine. In the evening, apply 1-2 pumps over clean, dry skin. If you're new to retinol, start by using 1-2 alternate nights per week. If you are experienced with retinol, you can use this every night as tolerated, just not with other exfoliation products. 

After applying retinol, finish with your PM skincare routine with moisturizer.


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Nights 3 & 4: Recovery 

Nights 1 and 2 are meant to push your skin out of its comfort zone so the next two nights are all about recovery. Avoid any active or potentially irritating ingredients and instead focus on hydrating and nourishing the skin. Our best-selling Jet Lag Mask is the perfect recovery product: It contains Glycerin, Niacinamide, and Hyaluronic Acid to attract and retain moisture, as well as repair the skin barrier. 

Start nights 3 and 4 with a gentle cleanser like Super Amino Gel Cleanser, which contains a blend of 11 Amino Acids to replenish and protect the skin barrier. Follow up with an ultra-hydrating product like Dream Oasis, which is a deeply nourishing serum that contains Squalane, Glycerin, and Hyaluronic Acid, as well as a blend of Colloidal Oatmeal, Aloe, Arnica, and Tiger Grass, to soothe the skin and help it retain moisture. Jet Lag Mask comes after that, and if you’re in need of a final layer of hydration, end with Heavenly Sixteen All-In-One Face Oil to seal it all in. 

While skin cycling might seem intimidating at first, it’s a great method to ensure that your products are working as efficiently as possible. Pro tip: Write down your routine and leave it by your bathroom sink so you never forget what night you’re on. Now you have everything you need for your glowiest, healthiest skin yet.