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The Steps to Skin Cycling For A Glowing Skin


A new TikTok trend featured in Vogue and The New York Times is catching on and winning the hearts of skincare enthusiasts. Skin cycling, a new method to bring out the best in your skin. 

Our skin is one of the first barriers and  lines of defense that protect us from outside invaders such as microorganisms [1] which is why it is important to nourish it from the inside and out.

Dermatologists have always stressed the importance of a skincare routine to improve the health and integrity of the skin and it might not be the only way, as dietitians have also explored the dietary benefits for optimal skin health. 

Let’s dive into skin cycling and additional dietary tips to make your skin look and feel healthier. 

What is Skin Cycling? 4 Easy to Apply Steps for Beginners 

Skin cycling was developed by Dr. Whitney Bowe, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. She advocates this method on TikTok with tips and best practices for skin cycling.

Beginners in particular are advised to start with what Dr. Bowe calls the “classic cycle”: “If you’re new to skin cycling, I generally recommend starting with the classic 4-night cycle: the first night is an exfoliation night, the second is a retinoid night, the third and fourth nights are for recovery,” the dermatologist explains. 

Night 1 : Exfoliation 

“Cleanse your skin, pat it dry, and then apply your exfoliating product,” says Dr. Bowe. Exfoliation involves removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and you can use either a chemical exfoliant or a granular gel.

Dr. Bowe recommends using a chemical exfoliant since she believes it to be more effective and gentler on your skin.  The board-certified dermatologist also recommends that those with oily skin, breakouts, or clogged or enlarged pores use an exfoliant containing salicylic acid to help shrink pores.

For those looking to even out their skin tone, she suggests using products containing AHAs (like glycolic acid) or PHAs (like lactobionic acid or gluconolactone). 

Night 2 : Retinoid 

Retinoids, vitamin A derivatives, are the focus for night 2. They have been used to topically treat skin conditions such as acne vulgaris, photoaging and photodamage [2].

Dr Bowe recommends using the “sandwich method” when applying retinoid especially if you’re a skin cycling beginner or with a sensitive skin.

This method is simple, all you need to do is create a light barrier using your moisturizing cream before and after applying retinoid and most importantly make sure to always cleanse and pat dry before the retinoid step. 

Nights 3 & 4 : Recovery 

These nights are an opportunity for your skin to recover. “You want to focus on nourishing your skin microbiome and repairing your skin barriers,” Bowe says. One of her tips is to cleanse the skin, leave it a little damp, and then follow up with a hydrating serum and moisturizer. 

You can add extra recovery nights if you experience irritation from any of the active ingredients (exfoliant or retinoid). Or if you want to take it to the next level and your skin can handle it, Dr. Bowe suggests cutting your recovery routine down to one night.

A Balanced Diet for a Healthier Skin

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The British Dietetic Association (BDA) recommends a balanced nutritional diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals for optimal skin health [3]. Other studies suggest that nutritional products containing prebiotics and/or probiotics, found in a kombucha drink, Traditional Korean Kimchi, or Apple Cider Vinegar, may help optimize the skin microbiota, boost the immune system, and have curative effects on atopic diseases [4].

In addition, certain foods such as garlic, turmeric, and ginger can reduce skin inflammation, while others are thought to block collagenase (an enzyme that breaks down collagen), such as green tea, white tea, and pomegranate, and as a result may minimize the symptoms of skin aging [5]. 

Bottom Line : A Skincare routine such as Skin Cycling combined with a Healthy Diet could be the solution

Skin cycling could be a revolutionary approach to your nightly skincare routine, but you should always consult with your dermatologist to customize the products you need to use and the frequency of application, especially if you have sensitive skin.

There is also no silver bullet to make your skin smoother.

However, by taking care of your diet by including healthy nutrients, avoiding bad habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol, and adopting an effective skincare routine such as skin cycling, you could enjoy a more radiant skin.


  1. BS;, Bryant RA;Rolstad. “Examining Threats to Skin Integrity.” Ostomy/Wound Management, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11890081/.  
  2. PR;, Riahi RR;Bush AE;Cohen. “Topical Retinoids: Therapeutic Mechanisms in the Treatment of Photodamaged Skin.” American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26969582/.   
  3. “Skin Health.” British Dietetic Association (BDA), www.bda.uk.com/resource/skin-health.html. Accessed 11 Nov. 2022. 
  4. Al-Ghazzewi, F. H., and R. F. Tester. “Impact of Prebiotics and Probiotics on Skin Health.” Beneficial Microbes, vol. 5, no. 2, Wageningen Academic Publishers, June 2014, pp. 99–107. https://doi.org/10.3920/bm2013.0040
  5. Number 2, Stl Volume. “An Anti-Wrinkle Diet: Nutritional Strategies to Combat Oxidation, Inflammation and Glycation.” Skin Therapy Letter, 6 July 2021, www.skintherapyletter.com/aging-skin/anti-wrinkle-diet-nutritional-strategies-combat-oxidation-inflammation-glycation