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Everything you need to know about skin cycling

Can less really be more? Discover how skin cycling brings your skincare routine back to basics to achieve bright and healthy skin

Do you have a lengthy nightly skincare regime that includes all the actives beauty buffs rave about, and yet your skin feels and looks irritated? If the answer is yes, then it’s likely you’ve gone overboard in a bid to cover your beauty bases. But all is not lost, as one of the most popular skincare hacks gracing our social media feeds right now could be the answer.

Skin cycling, created by Dr. Whitney Bowe, a NY-based board certified dermatologist, aims to heal and treat irritated and problematic skin, and give it a youth-boost all at the same time.

What is skin cycling? 

Ensuring that you don’t overuse your active packed skincare, skin cycling is designed to give you all the benefits of those big in beauty ingredients like AHA’S and retinoids, while minimising irritation. 

This is extremely important as Etre Vous Expert, Aesthetics Practitioner and Owner of the Cotswold Skin Clinic, Alexandra Bebb believes, “the use of too many products and especially too many actives at the same time, can compromise the skin's barrier.”

The outer layer of your skin, aka your skin barrier is the most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining healthy skin. Your barrier protects your body from environmental aggressors like UV, pollutants, and even damaging blue light from the plethora of screens we can’t live without. It also helps to hold in much needed skin plumping water. 

So, if you have a penchant for overstimulating the skin with exfoliants and cell proliferators and your skin becomes dry, flaky, itchy and even inflamed – that’s a clear sign you’ve damaged your barrier. 

Cue skin cycling, a routine consisting of a four night rotation of product types. From an exfoliant and retinoid, to repairing and hydrating actives, this hack covers all the bases by “reducing the risk of mixing incompatible ingredients and over-exfoliating,” adds Bebb.

Here’s how it’s done…

Night 1

Night one is dedicated to exfoliation – the key to a glowing complexion. But with so many different exfoliants on the market it can be hard to know what is right for your skin. One of the best ways to exfoliate is with a chemical exfoliant: look for ingredients like AHA’s or BHA’s during this nightly process. If you have dry skin, lactic acid is a great choice for adding moisture, whereas salicylic acid is useful for acne prone or oily skin types. 

For those looking to target hyperpigmentation, glycolic acid is a real winner, but should be used sparingly as it packs a punch. It’s safe for those with melanin rich skin too, but stick to lower concentrations. Or invest in mandelic acid, as it brightens the skin without the risk of exacerbating existing pigmentation. 

“For those with rosacea or wanting a more gentle or natural approach, the Meder Enzy-Peel Double-Action Exfoliating Mask, is unbeatable as it uses natural probiotic enzyme exfoliation,” shares Bebb. 

Night 2

If you’re new to retinoids, skin cycling will help you avoid the retinoid uglies, since you’ll only be using the vitamin A derived active twice a week. Not only do retinoids boost collagen and elastin to wave bye bye to lines and wrinkles, they also increase cell turnover to tackle hyperpigmentation and acne, resulting in newer, clearer and brighter skin. 

When beginning your retinoid journey, make sure to only use a pea sized amount over your entire face. If you feel your skin is often irritated by retinoids, use the “sandwich technique” recommended by Bowe. This technique is performed by applying a thin layer of moisturiser to the face before your retinoid and then another on top.  

Nights 3 & 4 

As the nights of exfoliating, cell renewal and collagen boosting come to an end, give your skin a round of applause and a warm welcome to your two recovery nights! Nights three and four bolster the skin by focusing on hydration and repair. This is where the likes of mosturisers and serums loaded with hydrating hyaluronic acid, glycerin and panthenol come into play, along with barrier repairing ceramides, restorative peptides, and antioxidants.

Is it worth trying?

Just like a lazy Sunday after a busy weekend, skin cycling gives your skin a real chance to heal and “prevents the overuse of products,” says Bebb. It’s also ideal for those who “are new to retinoids or acids, those with sensitive skin or rosacea, and it helps identify potential skin irritants as you use one active product at a time,” adds Bebb. 

So, if you’re looking for a gentle and simple way to achieve radiant, smooth, blemish free skin, pull out your calendar and schedule yourself in. But remember, consistency is key – skin cycling is a marathon, not a sprint.

Alexandra Bebb, Company Owner/Registered Aesthetic Nurse

Hi! I'm Alexandra, the life and soul of The Cotswold Skin Clinic. I qualified as a nurse in 2007 and have worked in...

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