Skin Cycling Simplifies What Dermatologists Have Been Begging Us to Do

Skin Cycling Simplifies What Dermatologists Have Been Begging Us to Do

Skin Cycling proves that simplicity is in



I’m 22 now, and one thing I’ve realized is that things can be simple. Meaning, things don’t have to be as complicated as I often make them out to be. 


Simplicity is universal. Productivity expert James Clear preaches his best productivity tip: saying no. A coding handbook goes off the same tangent: “Remember that there is no code faster than [the] no code.” As cliché as the statement is, sometimes you have to do less to achieve more. 


The same thing, or so I’ve learned, goes for skincare. My earliest memory of the world of skincare (save for the DIY skincare hacks on Pinterest, bless me) was watching Rachel Nguyen’s YouTube video on the 10-step Korean skincare routine. It was a turning point. Back then, the most I did was wash my face twice a day and apply the toner prescribed by my dermatologist. The concept of a self-care routine fascinated me. 


Safe to say, I enjoyed the “high maintenance-ness” of it all. I relished looking up the best products in my spare time, and I loved applying the plethora of toners, serums and moisturizers (in that sequence, if you were wondering). I learned to use my ring finger to apply creams on my face and patted my face gently like those beauty gurus do online. 


Acne came along like turbulence in my adolescence and shook my relationship with skincare. That’s the thing: When nothing seems to work, you suddenly want to try everything and rarely does that go the right way. 


While my skin did improve as I got older, I wish I learned about the concept of Skin Cycling much earlier.


What is Skin Cycling, exactly?

Simply put, Skin Cycling is the concept of a simplified skincare formalized into a routine. Sure, less is more, but how does this actually translate into practical application? While skincare is all about learning what works for you hence the lack of a universal solution, Skin Cycling is the answer for those looking for one. 


@drwhitneybowe Skin cycling for beginners: how to get started. And how to layer with Bowe Glowe #skincycling #thatboweglow #dermatologist #skintok ♬ original sound – Dr. Whitney Bowe


The routine is perfect for those overwhelmed by the world of skincare, those looking how to incorporate retinol into their routine or those with sensitive skin, since Skin Cycling teaches you how to integrate actives properly and safely.


However, you may need to consult a dermatologist or esthetician if you have skin allergies or extra-sensitive skin.


The routine was first introduced by NYC-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, and is split into four nights.


Night One: Exfoliation

  1. Wash your face and pat it dry
  2. Apply your exfoliant of choice (chemical exfoliators are preferred)
  3. Apply your moisturizer of choice


Our recommendation: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution



Night Two: Retinol

  1. Wash your face and pat it dry. Starting with a dry face is especially important because dampness makes retinol more sensitizing
  2. Apply a thin layer of moisturizer as a “buffer” to the retinol
  3. Apply a small amount of retinol on your face, neck and chest
  4. Apply your moisturizer of choice


Our recommendation: Kiehl’s Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum



RELATED: Retinol 101 for Beginners ft. Kiehl’s Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum


Night Three and Four: Recovery

  1. Wash your face and leave it slightly damp.
  2. Apply your moisturizer of choice. Barrier-promoting products are encouraged; think of ingredients like niacinamide, ceramides and hyaluronic acid, among others


Our recommendation: COSRX Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence and Advanced Snail 92 All-in-one Cream and Krave Beauty Great Barrier Relief 



For some people, it is common knowledge to use skincare actives such as exfoliants and retinols in moderation. And honestly, good for them! But let’s be honest—the industry taught us that more is more. So here we are, with sensitized skin and compromised barriers, all while being frustrated and desperate for a skincare solution that works.


Skin Cycling is here to teach us the foundations of skincare. It teaches us to simplify our rituals, to go easy on our skin and give it a chance to recover. Skin Cycling provides a blueprint on how to strategically layer your actives, meaning not more than one sensitizing active a day.


While Skin Cycling results in less irritation, a healthier skin barrier and glowy skin, these are results of knowing how to use skincare products correctly. If your skin is in a constant state of dehydration and irritation, we hate to break it to you, but you might be doing your skincare wrong. 


For the skincare-adept, Skin Cycling may teach you what you already know. Other professionals, like Liah Yoo, have taken the structure of Skin Cycling up a notch to serve their more specific skincare goals.


RELATED: Olay x FRIENDS: The One With The Exciting Collaboration


@liahyoo Have you tried #skincycling created by @Dr. Whitney Bowe? This concept isn’t new, and it’s all about being #skintentional which I 💗 be gentle with your skin, don’t over-exfoliate, don’t over-do skincare. Listen to what it’s craving and add products only when it needs😊 #skintok #fyp ♬ check out YEAH DONT CARE on spotify iTunes etc – HeyLoserFace


Eventually, I grew out of the high-maintenance form of self-care as I entered my 20s. I got tired of opening different tubs and jars and waiting for my skincare to dry before the next step. I no longer feel the need to overachieve, even in the realm of skincare. 


And you know what? The bare minimum is all I need, after all.



Words Gwyneth King

Art Macky Arquilla

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