Beauty content on TikTok may be wildly popular, but the platform hasn’t always had the best track record when it comes to skincare-specific videos. Most DIY acne hacks or viral beauty product recs take over feeds, only to be followed by a string of warnings from dermatologists. Last year, however, a major exception appeared in the form of skin cycling, a buzzy approach to nighttime skincare routines that’s not only approved by dermatologists…but also created by one.
During the pandemic, dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, had noticed that despite her patients increasing interest in skincare, none of of them actually knew which what products to use when. Every time they discovered a new ingredient, they added it to their routines without considering how it would interact with their existing product lineup. So in an effort to help her patients be more strategic with their skincare, Dr. Bowe created skin cycling.
Ahead, everything you need to know about the practice, including how it works, who it’s best for, and which products to use in your skin cycling routine.
What is skin cycling?
Skin cycling is, in many ways, exactly what it sounds like: a cycle. “It’s a thoughtful approach to your PM skincare routine that encourages you to use products in a specific way to set your skin up for success while dialing down unnecessary irritation,” says Dr. Bowe. The principal aim of skin cycling is to simultaneously maximize the efficacy of retinol and minimize irritation.
The classic skin cycling routine spans four nights. The first evening focuses on exfoliation (preferably with a chemical exfoliant, like lactic acid or glycolic acid), the second night features retinol, and the third and fourth nights are all about recovery where you only use