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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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What is Skin Cycling? We Deconstruct The TikTok Trend

Updated: 5 days ago

'Skin cycling' is a popular TikTok trend that advocates giving your face a break from too many treatments on a regular basis to allow your skin to regenerate. But does it actually work? Let's break down this trend step-by-step to answer this question!

Image showing a person with smooth and clear skin

Is it time for a skin-care routine “break”?

Skin cycling is a new trend in the beauty world that's sweeping across the globe. It's not quite a fad, but it's still pretty new, so maybe that's why it's so fun to talk about!


The term “skin cycling” was first coined by Whitney Bowe, a New York-based dermatologist with more than 985,200 followers on TikTok. It’s been more than a year since Bowe first started posting videos of the routine on TikTok, which has since caught on in the United States and abroad. Videos with the hashtag #skincycling have been viewed a collective 110.6 million times on TikTok.


Who should try 'skin cycling'?

Anyone! Skin cycling is meant for anyone and everyone. Those who have been developing skin sensitivity due to over usage of skincare actives would benefit the most from skin cycling.


How does skin cycling work?

Skin cycling is a four-night routine that includes two nights of treatment followed by two nights of recovery. Here's how it works:


On night 1, you use retinol (a retinoid) to help with acne scarring and reduce fine lines and wrinkles. You apply this once per day while you sleep.


On night 2, you exfoliate with an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) to slough off dead skin cells and reveal new ones underneath. This is done once per day while you sleep.


On nights 3 and 4, you repair your skin barrier using moisturizer or snail mucin—a form of hydrocolloid that helps keep moisture in your skin without clogging pores or causing breakouts. This is done once per day while you sleep. Then repeat!


Having said that, snail mucin might not be for everyone. Snail mucin can cause acne for some people.


Does skin cycling actually 'work'?

While there haven't been any controlled studies or published research on whether skin cycling works, in my expert opinion this routine is backed by the fundamentals of skin kinetics. While there hasn't been any published research on whether skin cycling works, dermatologists say the concept is founded on a number of sound principles. This routine encourages people to cleanse and moisturize their faces every night, as well as to space out harsher treatments that can irritate the skin.


But if you're thinking "that sounds like a lot of work," don't worry! There are plenty of products on the market that are designed specifically for this purpose—and they're pretty affordable too!


  1. So, on night 1 use an exfoliant like Sesderma Acglicolic Liposomal Serum that contains 6% glycolic acid. For more mature I would recommend Sesderma Acglicolic Classic Forte with 10% glycolic acid or Glyco-12 cream with 12% glycolic acid. People with sensitive skin could benefit from milder AHAs like The Ordinary The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + Hyaluronic acid 2% or Sefpil Mandelic Acid Cream.

  2. On the 2nd night use retinols like CeraVe Retinol Serum or RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream.

  3. On the 3rd and 4th nights use a barrier repair cream containing ceramides or products like Cetaphil Daily Moisturizing Cream and Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence.


Final verdict

Skin cycling is here to stay! By the virtue of its sustainability, skin cycling will prove to be a boon for sensitive skin. But just like all good things that require time and patience, you need to maintain a regular skin cycling routine for at least 3 months before expecting any significant results. So, start skin cycling tonight, and thank me later.

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