Have you tried TikTok’s viral skin cycling beauty trend yet?

If you’re on TikTok a lot you know that most of the beauty trends on the platform are pretty gimmicky or just existing practices with an interesting sounding new name. But every now and then there’s a new trend that’s none of the above and you guessed it, we’re talking about skin cycling. So what is this trending TikTok beauty routine? Here’s what you need to know.

Dermalogically approved

Skin cycling was created by dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe and is basically a cycle of exfoliating, applying retinoids and recovering to get healthy glowing skin. Bowe developed the concept to prevent people from going overboard with their skin routine. She realized a lot of her patients were exfoliating and using harsh products way too often.

“You can use a nourishing moisturizer twice a day, but when you try to push the workhorses (the acids, the retinoids) you can actually do more harm than good — including damaging the skin barrier, experiencing low-grade chronic inflammation, increasing free radical damage, accelerating the aging process and worsening hyperpigmentation”, Bowe explained to The Well. That’s why the routine includes recovery days to give the skin the chance to repair itself.


Skin cycling for beginners: how to get started. And how to layer with Bowe Glowe #skincycling #thatboweglow #dermatologist #skintok

♬ original sound – Dr. Whitney Bowe

Start your skin cycling routine

One of the most popular versions of Bowe’s skin cycling routine is a four night cycle recommended for sensitive skin. The mantra is: exfoliate, retinoids, recover, recover, and repeat.

Step 1: Exfoliate

Step 1 of the skin cycling routine is all about exfoliation to remove dead skin cells from the outer layer of your skin. But before you start exfoliation it’s important to first use a cleanser and pat your skin dry afterwards. Then it’s time to start taking care of those dead skin cells.

Bowe recommends using exfoliating acids instead of a scrub, as acids are more effective and less harsh for the skin. She also prefers leave-on exfoliation as opposed to wash-off options. She explains that the latter are less effective. Every step in the cycle ends with a moisturizer. You can use whatever moisturizer you already use, just make sure it keeps your skin hydrated.

Step 2: Retinoids

On day two it’s time to get busy with retinoids, like retinol and tretinoin. This class of skincare products is meant to stimulate collagen production, which in turn could help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, improve skin elasticity and treat certain skin conditions like acne. Just like on day one, it’s important to first cleanse your skin and apply a moisturizer after your retinoid treatment.

Skin cycling step 3 & 4: Restore

After your exfoliation and retinoid days it’s time for some much needed rest. Give your skin time to recover on day three and four by first giving it a good cleanse and follow up with some pampering. You could go for a hydrating serum and have fun with masks. Whatever you do, don’t forget to use your moisturizer. Bowe recommends two days of rest if you have sensitive skin. If your skin is less sensitive, you could also opt for a three day skin cycling routine and start exfoliating again on day four.

When you use retinoids it’s extra important to protect your skin from the sun. If you’re worried about sun lotions messing up your makeup, you should definitely check out these top 5 powder sunscreens to keep your skin safe.

Ilona Braam

Ilona is a Digital Media Design graduate, content writer/creator and a whole bunch of other things. A few words that would describe her are jolly, creative, nerdy, curious and a bit dark.