Skin Cycling is a clever strategy developed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe to address the issue of constant mild inflammation caused by an excessive use of active skincare products. While being obsessed with skincare is not necessarily a bad thing, using serum and other active products every night without a break can lead to various skin problems such as sensitivity, breakouts, and premature aging. According to Dr. Bowe, the most common mistake people make with their skincare is not allowing their skin barrier enough time to heal.
To simplify skincare routines and improve skin health, Dr. Bowe came up with the idea of Skin Cycling, which involves switching skincare products at night. She explains that she had been gradually developing this concept in her practice for some time before sharing it on social media. Dr. Bowe believes that the skincare world had become too complex, and by listening to her patients and examining their skin, she realized that a simpler routine using just a few products used in a specific way could achieve amazing results.
The smart idea of “skin cycling” has gone viral on her TikTok and Instagram, and it’s now a popular topic (it has over 15 million views on the hashtag). Dr. Bowe explains everything you need to know about the trending skincare method below.
- Dr. Whitney Bowe is a New York-based dermatologist and scientist who has won awards for her board certification. She also founded Dr. Whitney Bowe Beauty, a skincare brand that focuses on the skin-gut-mind connection.
What Is Skin Cycling?
@drwhitneybowe #duet with @elpltt_ #MakeupHacks Rosacea? Red nose? Blotchy swollen skin? I guess if I could look this good, sign me up! ????. #cryinggirl #cryinggirlmakeup #dermatologist #thatboweglow #rosacea ♬ girlfriend – Hemlocke Springs
According to Dr. Bowe, skin cycling (a term she invented) is a smart way to optimize your skincare routine by balancing your active and recovery nights. This way, you can get the most out of your products without irritating your skin. She says it’s a four-night cycle: exfoliation night, retinoid night, recovery night, recovery night, and then start over.
She compares this idea to other cycling habits you may already have. “For instance, if you want to strengthen a specific muscle group, like your legs, you don’t lift heavy weights every day with those muscles. That would cause injury, not strength,” Dr. Bowe says. “You might work on your upper body one day and your lower body the next day, giving those muscle fibers time to heal and grow stronger between sessions.” The same applies to your skin. When you use exfoliating acids and retinoids daily, you’re harming your skin barrier.
See also: All Your Questions About Retinol Answered by Dermatologists
The Four-Night Cycle
The Nighttime Routine
Dr. Bowe recommends using your potent products at the start of the week. The first night is for exfoliation, but she prefers chemical exfoliants over physical ones. She says a chemical exfoliating serum can make your skin glow right away and prepare it for the next night.
The second night is for retinoids, a key step in any skincare routine. Retinol needs to be cycled because it can cause inflammation instead of the desired results if used too often or combined with other potentially irritating ingredients.
The third and fourth nights are for recovery. You should stop using exfoliating acids and retinoids to let your skin heal. On recovery nights, you want to nourish your skin microbiome and repair your skin barrier (meaning, hydrate and moisturize). Dr. Bowe created her Bowe Glowe Microbiome Nourishing Cream for all nights of skin cycling, but it is especially helpful on recovery nights.
The Morning Routine
In the morning, you don’t need many products for your skin. Just use a mild cleanser, vitamin C serum, a cream that protects your skin barrier, and SPF. Dr. Bowe also recommends taking care of your skin from within. She created the Bowe Growe Pomegranate Microbiome Water-Enhancing Elixir to work together with her Bowe Glowe Microbiome Nourishing Cream. The elixir is like the final “layer” of your morning routine. It has many kinds of plant-based polyphenols in one bottle.
- The Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser: A gel-based cleanser with glycolic acid to exfoliate and clean pores, along with herbal extracts to soothe and moisturize skin. Suitable for all skin types, it leaves skin feeling refreshed and clean.
- Dermalogica Overnight Repair Serum Anti-Aging Peptide Face Serum: A serum that targets signs of aging and promotes collagen production with peptides and botanical extracts.
- Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil – 100% Pure Squalane Oil for Daily Use: A lightweight facial oil that hydrates and nourishes the skin with 100% pure squalane oil, improving texture and reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
Photo: Pexels/ Karolina Grabowska