So what is Skin Cycling, and should you be doing it? I think you should, especially if you are on prescription actives. I believe Dr. Bowe is on to something with the skincare method she has used with her clients for many years. She shared the “Skin Cycling” method, which has gone viral on TikTok and Instagram.
I have been seeing a dermatologist for about six months now. And while I have seen a difference in my skin—it is nowhere close to what I want it to be. So we have gone from antibiotics [which I am now convinced does not work for me] and Tretinoin to Tazorac and Hydroquinone. And now, I am in a comfortable place with Retin-A micro and Azelaic acid.
As someone who has suffered from acne for most of my adult life—I have experienced the good and bad of using exfoliants and retinoids. I am that girl who has suffered terrible irritation and inflammation from using too much of a product. If you have gorgeous skin with no acne, you may not understand how someone can use a lot of a product that could cause extensive irritation and inflammation. But it happens pretty often. Just ask any dermatologist.
I have gotten better at using the right amounts of products, but I still get irritated. I want my acne gone ASAP by using what works but with less irradiation and inflammation. The sandwich or buffering method has been my go-to for my retinoid, but I still get irritated and have damaged my skin barrier a few times. And that is why I decided to try Skin Cycling—I am in week two and thought it was time to share it with you since I like it very much.
So what is Skin Cycling
Using exfoliating acids and retinoids daily will damage your skin barrier [I have learned this the hard way], mainly when using too much product. The Skin Cycling method is a four-night strategy to balance your activites with recovery. It focuses on optimizing your skin’s barrier. And is a four-night schedule of exfoliation, retinoid, recovery, recovery, and repeat. The two things I like best about this method are that I feel my skincare routine is more streamlined than ever, and my skin is not irritated. Woohoo.
The Four-Night Skin Cycle Routine
Your PM Routine
Night one: EXFOLIATE
While Dr. Bowe suggests and prefers chemical exfoliants over physical ones, I did not have either, so I used what I had on hand Saturday Skin Rub-A-Dub, and it worked. Often we can use what we have on hand, which can still be very effective—skincare does not have to be expensive, and you do not always have to buy the suggested products. So start with what you have on hand, that is adequate in most cases. And buy the other products later if necessary.
Night two: RETINOIDS
I think everyone should use retinoids—it is essential to anyone’s skincare routine. If you do not need it right now, it is a significant preventative step you should begin as soon as possible. And it does not need to be a prescription. Dr. Bowe suggests a gentle over-the-counter [OTC] retinol or retinal. There are several effective and gentle products out there [maybe I will do a roundup]. But if you use a prescription strength, you can still take advantage of the skin cycling method. I currently use a Retin-A Micro of point zero eight percent [PM] and an Azelaic Acid Gel of fifteen percent [PM].
Nights three and four: RECOVERY
If retinoids are essential to anyone’s skincare routine, then recovery should always be your number one priority. On recovery night, your focus should be on nourishing and repairing. This is the time to hydrate and moisture. After retinoids, you should give your skin a chance to recover. After experiencing burning and red blotches way too often, I understand why recovery should be a priority.
On recovery nights, I am hyper-focused on hydrating and moisturizing. I start with a cleanser, then my CAUDALÍE Grape Water, followed by Hyaluronic Acid, SK II Essence, COSRX Snail Mucin 96% Power Repairing Essence, eye cream, and then a moisturizer [I rotate between two different ones depending on how my skin is feeling—I am trying these out but will share at some point]. And finally, a face oil, I am rotating between two since I am out of my BIOSSANE Squalane Oil [which is currently on sale at Amazon, BTW.]. Here are the two I am using, OSEA essential hydrating oil [I had this on hand; I bought it a few months ago to try] and the other is FRENCH GIRL LA FLORE BOTANICAL SERUM [this is new, I am trying it]. Look out for our article on Face Oil in the upcoming weeks.
Your AM Routine
My morning routine involves an active [Azelaic Acid Gel fifteen percent], but it can be streamlined and more straightforward if yours does not. For example, it could look like this: cleanser, vitamin C, moisturizer, and SPF.
Here is what my routine looks like, although I may still be overdoing it. But here it is, and I am following the CLASSIC Skin Cycling method. On the days I use Retin-A Micro at night—I use the Azelaic Acid Gel in the morning. I start with my gentle Dermalogica cleanser, then SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, and then Niacinamide. Then I add my Azelaic Acid Gel and finish with a moisturizer and SPF.
And there, you have all that you need to know about the CLASSIC Skin Cycling method. Should you be doing it? I think you should—it is a foolproof strategy focusing on getting the most out of your skincare. And the most significant benefit is less irritation. Look, there is nothing better than seeing your skincare products doing what they should for your skin.
Dr. Bowe’s website shares invaluable tips for effectively using her Skin Cycling method. And In addition to the CLASSIC Skin Cycling method, she also created a GENTLE Skin Cycling method for sensitive skin and an ADVANCED Skin Cycling method that I can not wait to try. I have sensitive skin, and the CLASSIC method worked well. Dr. Bowe has created a line of skincare products that I love—I am excited to try it soon.