'Skin cycling': the latest TikTok trend we can get behind

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Skin cycling, a four-day regimen, was invented by a dermatologist in the US.
Skin cycling, a four-day regimen, was invented by a dermatologist in the US.
  • Skin cycling is the latest social media skincare trend that's all the rage.
  • It was invented by New York City-based dermatologist Dr Whitney Bowe.
  • Bowe advocates for giving your skin a break in between using skincare products.

In the land of SkinTok, you’ll find beauty and skincare-hack videos every so often that try to persuade you to jump on board with the trend.

‘Slugging’, ‘sunskin contouring’ and ‘double cleansing’ were just some of the beauty hacks that gained steam earlier this year, and with the help of an expert, News24 cleared up which ones may lead to potential damage and should be avoided.

READ MORE | From sandpaper shaving to slugging: 6 TikTok beauty hacks debunked

But there’s a recent one that we can easily get on board with: ‘skin cycling’. 

Invented and coined by New York City-based dermatologist Dr Whitney Bowe, it has already racked up more than 3.5 billion views to date. In an interview with Good Morning America, Bowe, who is also the founder of Dr Whitney Bowe Beauty, explained:

“I created a method that I call skin cycling … and it’s a four-night routine. Nights three and four are your recovery nights -  these are the most important when it comes to the skin barrier.”

READ MORE | Is your skin stressed? Here are five signs you should look out for

According to Allure, Bowe has been educating TikTok and Instagram users about skincare cycling since April 2021. 

What is it about exactly?

Speaking to Women’s Health, Bowe says that "skin cycling is a deliberate and strategic way to bring your nighttime skincare routine to the next level.” 

If your skincare routine includes actives such as salicylic acid (exfoliation), retinol (anti-ageing), and vitamin C, the four-night cycle is one worth paying attention to. 

The routine involves one night of exfoliation, one night of retinoid use and two consecutive nights of ‘recovery’. The purpose of this is to give your skin a break and a chance to reset before you repeat the process from scratch.

Following these steps should lead you to notice results within eight days or two cycles, she says. 

“Most people assume that more is better when it comes to active skincare ingredients,” Bowe says. “Particularly on social media, the answers are all over the place, and we are seeing angry, irritated skin as a result.”

In her Instagram post, Bowe said she might switch a product based on how dry her skin feels, but that she maintains the order and the key steps above.

Results to expect

According to Bowe, after eight nights (or two cycles) of skin cycling, you should start to see the following:

  • an overall improvement in radiance or glow to your skin,
  • your skin will look and feel more hydrated, and
  • your skin will feel softer.

If you continue to skin-cycle beyond two months, you’ll start to notice your fine lines become less noticeable, your skin will look and feel more firm, and your dark spots will start to brighten, she adds.

Glamour magazine’s beauty editor, Fiona Embleton, wrote that she had been skin cycling for a fortnight, and the results were positive. “My skin is smooth, with no signs of tenderness or redness,” she added. 

For all skin types, but customisable

While everyone can benefit from skin cycling, irrespective of your skin type, you may want to customise your skin cycle to suit your needs, Bowe told Women’s Health. “If you have acne-prone skin or oily skin, you can cut out one of the recovery nights, so it becomes a three-night cycle: exfoliation night, retinoid night, recovery, repeat,” she says. 

READ MORE | These TikTok skincare trends don't work and doctors say you should avoid them

And if you are new to skincare, the key is to start slow, says dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr Neera Nathan, in an article for Harvard Health

“Begin in a stepwise fashion, and increase frequency or add additional products only as tolerated,” she advises.

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