Positioned as an alternative approach to skincare, skin cycling is where you rotate products to target different concerns without overloading the skin with different ingredients and actives in one go.
Currently a big trend on TikTok, skin recycling is not an entirely new concept according to Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz of Skin Masterclass. He continues: “Even though this routine now has a viral name, it is what we always recommend that our clients do, especially if they are new to skincare actives, or have no particular skin concerns that need ongoing treatment.”
Dermatologist Dr Derrick Phillips adds: “It’s also important to note that skin cycling is the name of the technique given to the ‘way of application’, being a rotational skincare routine that alternates between applying active ingredients one night ,and then allowing the skin to recover and rest the next.
“The reason skin cycling is becoming more popular is due to its aim of improving the efficacy of active ingredients and to help minimise any irritation by cycling through active and inactive products.”
Recovery days provided by skin cycling are essential for giving the skin time to repair and can also help to indicate any sensitivity caused by products and ingredients reacting to the skin differently to how they should.
“Skin cycling is a really simple way for a consumer to use active ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid or even retinol in a clear way, which could ensure beneficial use without the confusion and the potential sensitisation that may be caused by overuse,” explains Jon-Paul Hoy, lead educator for Lesielle UK.
“This type of routine works by allowing a better tolerance and compliance with the use of ingredients that are known to be strong; especially when they are made to powerfully improve the appearance of skin concerns,” comments Dr Phillips. “Skin cycling can benefit most skin types when the correct products are chosen. It may not be suitable for all of them though, such as highly sensitive skins that cannot tolerate retinoids.”
As with all changes to skin routines, it’s important that your clients consult you before adding in actives, especially if they have active concerns such as acne and scarring.
“When I am forming my skincare routines to my clients, I generally suggest the cycle of one night acid serum, one night retinoid serum and one night for recovery,” shares Yilmaz.
“If the client can tolerate the acids and retinoids on alternating nights without any skin sensitisation, you can recommend them not to take a break in between, and ensure they are adding a ceramide and peptide, and an emollient-rich moisturiser on top of their serums.”
With skin cycling, the most important thing to educate clients about is which ingredients should be used together, and, more importantly, which shouldn’t, as Dr Phillips shares.
Combinations to avoid
Vitamin C and AHAs
Vitamin C and retinol
Retinol, AHAs and benzoyl peroxide
AHAs and niacinamide
Combinations to recommend
Retinol and glycerin
Retinol and hyaluronic acid
Vitamin C and vitamin E
Vitamin C and folic acid