Skin Cycling is a viral TikTok trend that’s been mentioned to me by a few patients, questioning if they’re doing things wrong. If you’re not familiar, let me share what’s meant by this concept, developed by renowned NY dermatologist Dr Whitney Bowe. It’s a way of using active ingredients to reduce irritation to the skin barrier.
Skin cycling is designed to be used with this frequency
- Night 1 - Exfoliant (usually a chemical exfoliant, like an AHA or BHA)
- Night 2 - Retinoid
- Night 3 - Recovery - just use moisturiser
- Night 4 - Recovery - just use moisturiser
What that means in practice is you’ll end up using a retinoid twice a week and exfoliating twice a week.
In one month you’ll be using your retinoid 7-8 times - Instead of an ideal of 30 times!!!
You’ll also be exfoliating 7-8 times and moisturising the rest of the time. So why do I think this is shortchanging people?
The value of exfoliants in this routine versus retinoids looks like this:
This routine is weighting them equally.
THEY ARE NOT EQUAL.
At this point, if our issue is irritation, my recommendation is to simply throw the exfoliant away. Focus with single-minded attention on your retinoid. That’s where the magic lies.
Retinoid benefits are maximised in direct proportion to how often they’re used. Daily is best. We have endless studies that tell us this.
And it makes sense.
When we think about the mechanism of action, retinoids are essentially hormones - which bind to dedicated retinoid receptors and switch on amazing functions like collagen synthesis and hyaluronic acid production.
Think of these as the building blocks of your house. Would you prefer your builders to come on Tues and Fri or would you prefer them to come every day? Which gets the house built quicker and better?
This approach doesn’t solve the core issue - people struggle at the beginning because of retinisation.
So the work here - and it is work - is to give people the right tools and guidance to manage this. I deal with patients every day who struggle with retinoid use. That insight is what led me to create my Retinoid Revelations Series. And I’ve coached thousands of people to do this the right way so go watch it if you're stuck in #SkinCycling and not progressing.
I come back to my first point again for emphasis - the first thing I’d recommend? Throw away that exfoliator. We are more sophisticated than this!
If #SkinCycling is the only thing that’s ever worked for you, then I suspect you’ve started out on the wrong rung of the retinoid ladder. Trade down. This stuff takes time but IT'S WORTH IT!!!
My mantra -
Frequency First (then potency!)
Find the retinoid you can build up to using daily (however gentle that might be), give it 3 months of devotion, and then, try cranking up the strength. Try the #Unicycle of retinoids alone and discover better skin.