All about skin cycling, TikTok’s latest beauty trend

This simple technique could transform your skincare routine, says Prudence Wade.

Prudence Wade
Friday 10 February 2023 09:00 GMT
Skin cycling is gaining popularity on TikTok (Alamy/PA)
Skin cycling is gaining popularity on TikTok (Alamy/PA)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Psychodermatology, slugging, skin flooding… there are so many new skincare trends on TikTok, it can be hard to keep up – let alone know what will benefit your skin, and what could do more harm than good.

While not everything on social media should be tried at home, every so often, a trend comes along that professionals actually approve of – like skin cycling.

The hashtag #skincycling has 253.7 million views on TikTok, and here’s everything you need to know about the remarkably straightforward trend…

What is skin cycling?

Skin cycling is essentially using one active ingredient or one specific skincare step in the evening per week,” explains Dr Ahmed El Muntasar, a GP and aesthetician (theaestheticsdoctor.com).

“So, for example, night one, you cleanse and then you use your retinol. Night two, you cleanse and then you use your exfoliant.”

The general rule of thumb has nights three and four dedicated to moisturisation and recovery. It tends to work on a four-night cycle, which “allows your skin a few days of recovery and healing time, as a lot of active ingredients can be irritating for the skin”, he says.

While TikTok might have just discovered skin cycling, it’s not exactly a new concept. “Rotating skin products according to your individual needs within your skincare regime has been around for a long time,” explains Dr Mazin Al-Khafaji, founder of Dermatology M (dermatology-m.com).

Why do it?

A complicated, 12-step skincare routine isn’t for everyone, and skin cycling could be a good way of stripping back your routine and focusing on what actually works.

According to El Muntasar, this technique “allows your skin to fully absorb that product and treatment, without your skin getting as irritated or as dry”.

And if you’re a skincare newbie, it could help you find a balanced routine. “Some people tend to overuse exfoliants, for example, or certain actives – which can cause sensitivity, or even skin problems such as acne,” Al-Khafaji explains. “So skin cycling is a useful way to measure the applications and balance the use of certain actives, thus maybe reducing irritation and sensitivity to certain ingredients.”

And it could also help you get bang for your buck: “It does also help people have the confidence to use expensive products, counting active ingredients more economically, rather than every day, thus getting more use out of them,” Al-Khafaji  adds.

So, who might really benefit from skin cycling? Al-Khafaji says: “Generally, skin cycling can work for most people, and be adapted to all skin types simply by choosing the right products for them. However, I would not necessarily recommend it to people with hypersensitive skin, or individuals prone to allergies. They need to be careful with their choice of product, and ingredients.”

What do people need to know?

While there are plenty of suggested guides on TikTok, El Muntasar warns: “When it comes to skin cycling, I think it’s very much tailored to your needs. So, what would work for patient A might not work for patient B, and this is why I think doing your research and trying to understand your skin is very, very important.”

But as a general rule of thumb, he says: “Having a night that’s focused on retinol, another focused on exfoliation and another focused on hydration and moisturising ingredients, such as niacinamide, is important.”

You might also want to shorten the number of days in a cycle if you have thicker skin, El Muntasar suggests, but otherwise, it’s all about getting the right products.

“Watch out for actually picking the right products, because you’re not getting the ingredients in your skin every single night,” he says. “Keep an eye out for any irritation, redness and dryness that you would usually expect. However, if it’s out of the ordinary, such as any rashes or any excessive pain when you’re applying the product, seek medical opinion urgently.”

Al-Khafaji’s top piece of advice is to be patient with skin cycling. “This type of routine may need a little time to adjust to, you may experience flaking or red skin, especially if applying retinol-based products,” he says.

Suggested skin cycling routine

Night one: exfoliation

Q+A Glycolic Acid Daily Toner, £8, Sainsbury’s

Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner, £17.25, Boots

Night two: retinol

Vichy Liftactiv 0.2% Pure Retinol Specialist Deep Wrinkles Serum, £42.50, Boots

Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum, £89

Nights three and four: recovery

Skin Proud Sleep Hero Hydrating Mask, £14.95

FaceGym Hydro-Bound Daily Serum, £68

Dr. Brandt Hyaluronic Facial Cream, £59

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