POSTED: 1 Aug 2023

What is Skin Cycling & Is It Worth Doing?

Skin cycling is a term that gained a lot of traction in the last couple of years mainly thanks to TikTok! Despite the hype, there’s nothing magical or that new about skin cycling. It involves rotating or “cycling” through skincare products to address varying skin needs and avoid irritating the skin throughout the month. It’s a common sense approach that embraces the notion that your skin changes and so should your skincare routine. In this article we take a closer look at what is skin cycling, if its worth doing and how you can incorporate skin cycling it into your daily routine.

What is Skin Cycling?

The term “skin cycling” was first popularised by Dr Whitney Bowe, a New York City-based dermatologist. She propelled this skincare method in 2021 on a TikTok video which quickly went viral. However, skin cycling is not a new concept at all, but it has become much more popular in recent years.

Skin cycling revolves around the idea that our skin’s needs are not static. Factors like hormonal fluctuations, weather changes, and stress levels can affect our skin’s condition, leading to varied requirements for hydration, exfoliation, or nourishment. In essence, skin cycling allows you to tailor your skincare routine to your skin’s changing needs. This dynamic approach may involve switching between different serums, moisturisers or targeted treatments throughout the week or even the day.

The goal of skin cycling is to create a more personalised and flexible skincare routine that can adapt to the skin’s varying conditions and requirements. This can potentially lead to more effective outcomes. It’s basically about listening to your skin and responding in real-time with products that address its current state, rather than adhering to a rigid skincare routine.

What Are The Benefits of Skin Cycling?

In traditional skincare, individuals might use the same products daily, regardless of how their skin feels or appears on a given day. Skin cycling challenges this one-size-fits-all approach by encouraging the use of different serums, moisturisers or targeted treatments that align with the skin’s current needs. As such, skin cycling offers a highly tailored approach to skincare by adapting products and routines to the ever-changing needs of the skin. Below are the key benefits of this approach.

Personalised Care

By paying attention to the skin’s daily condition and needs, skin cycling allows for a more targeted and individualised approach. This potentially enhances the effectiveness of your skincare routine.

Reduced Irritation

Traditional skincare routines may involve using strong active ingredients daily which can lead to disrupting the skin’s barrier and irritation. With skin cycling, you can adjust your routine to avoid using potent active ingredients simultaneously or too frequently. This potentially minimises irritation and protects the integrity of your skin barrier.

Enhanced Effectiveness

In theory, by tailoring your skincare routine to what your skin needs at any given time, you may find that the products work more effectively. For example, if your skin is particularly dry one week, you can focus on hydration, while the following week you might shift focus to exfoliation or targeting blemishes.

Avoiding Product Overload & Negative Interactions

A common pitfall in skincare is using too many products, which could lead to potential buildup or even counteractive effects. Skin cycling promotes a more mindful approach, encouraging users to apply only what’s necessary for their skin’s current condition. You also separate products that can interact with each other or augment each other’s negative effects. Similarly, you would pair products that work well together.

Adaptation to Seasonal Changes

Skin often requires different care in winter versus summer, and skin cycling embraces these seasonal changes. By adapting your routine throughout the year, you can keep your skin balanced and healthy.

Potential Cost Savings

In using products only as needed rather than on a strict daily regimen, you may find that you use less of the more expensive active products over time.

Encourages Mindfulness

Skin cycling requires paying close attention to your skin’s condition and needs. This fosters a greater connection and understanding of your skin and can turn your skincare routine into a more mindful and enjoyable ritual.

Risks & Potential Drawbacks

Skin cycling is heavily dependent on the idea of regularly altering or “cycling” through different skincare products to meet the fluctuating needs of the skin. This close attention to your skin and rapid response is the only way you can create the individualised and dynamic skin cycling routine. As such, there are a number of potential drawbacks and challenges that put off a lot of people from following through with skin cycling.


Tailoring a skincare routine daily or weekly based on perceived needs can be a challenge. It requires an understanding of various products, their ingredients and how they interact with one another. This can be overwhelming, especially for those new to skincare or very busy people.

Potential for Mistakes

Without a clear understanding of how different products work and the specific needs of your skin, its possible to misinterpret your skin’s signals. This can lead you to use the incorrect products which in some cases might exacerbate your skin problem.

Lack of Consistency

Certain skin problems like acne, hyperpigmentation and scarring may require consistent treatment over time to see results. Frequently switching products or routine might hinder progress in treating these specific concerns.


Building a collection of products broad enough to facilitate skin cycling might be costly. This is especially true of products with a short shelf-life like Vitamin C.

Lack of Professional Guidance

Unless overseen by a skincare professional, skin cycling can be a trial-and-error process. Without professional guidance, this might lead to irritation or other skin issues like purging or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Potential for Irritation

Constantly changing products might lead to irritation or sensitisation for some individuals. This is particularly likely if you have sensitive skin or an inflammatory skin condition like rosacea or eczema.

Lack of Scientific Backing

Since skin cycling is a relatively new concept, there isn’t much scientific research to guide or support this approach. The lack of studies means that claims about its benefits are largely anecdotal and may not apply to every individual.


Crafting a unique routine every day or week can be time-consuming, especially for those who prefer a simple and straightforward skincare protocol. This can have a negative effect as people maybe put off by the complexity and time it takes. As such, busy people or those who are new to skincare may struggle to keep up and hence end up not having a regular skincare routine.

Possibility of Overuse of Active Ingredients

Without proper understanding, there might be a risk of overlapping active ingredients, leading to overuse or conflicts between products.

Whilst skin cycling may offer a customised and more dynamic approach that appeals to some, it’s not without challenges. It requires a nuanced understanding of skincare which is possible with professional guidance or a lot of background research. There’s also a high level of effort and commitment level needed. This might not be suitable for everyone. The potential drawbacks emphasise one thing. Whether you are following a traditional fixed or a skin cycling routine, it is vital to tailor your skincare to your skin and lifestyle.

How to Implement a Skin Cycling Routine

If you’re not put off by the drawbacks and interested in trying skin cycling, the biggest recommendation would be to start small and build up. Always listen to your skin and observe how it reacts to different environmental and lifestyle factors as well as different skincare products.

An easy intro to skin cycling is a four-night skin care routine that involves using different active ingredients on different nights. The goal of this skin cycling routine is to allow the skin to rest and repair itself between uses of active ingredients. The four nights of skin cycling would typically involve:

  • Exfoliation: on this night you would use an acid or enzyme exfoliating product. This helps to remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover.
  • Retinoids: this is the night to use a retinoid product, such as tretinoin or retinol. Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A that can help to improve the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, texture and acne.
  • Recovery: use a rich moisturiser and hydrating serums that are designed to hydrate and repair the skin. Look for ingredients with humectants like glycerol, polyglutamic or hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
  • Antioxidants & Other Actives: on this night use any other active ingredients that meet your inidividual skin needs, These can include azelaic acid, Vitamin C or niacinamide.

As mentioned, the above is an easy to follow skin cycling routine which you can tailor to your needs. You can build it out to include more products as the week goes on and as your skin tolerates. You would consistenyly use a gentle hydrating cleanser and simple moisturiser on the non recovery nights. In the morning, you would keep a simple skincare routine using a gentle cleanser, moisturiser and broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30.

Is Skin Cycling for Everyone?

Skin cycling is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It might work wonders for some, whilst others might find it unnecessary or even detrimental. If you have a consistent skincare routine that works for you, there’s probably no need to change it. If you are new to skincare its probably too technically challenging and time-consuming as a starting point.

On the otherhand, if you have sensitive skin or are very new to active products then skin cycling offers a great way to gently introduce these powerful skincare ingredients without risking irritating your skin. Just remember, if you have specific skin concerns like acne or hyperpigmentation, skin cycling might delay the time it takes to see benefits from your skincare. Furthermore, skincare no matter the product or routine takes time to work. Your skin takes 6-8 weeks to turnover and so the most important thing is consistently using effective products without irritating or damaging your skin.

Is There An Alternative To Skin Cycling?

Skin cycling is not the only way to build a personalised or dynamic skincare routine. You can follow a regular fixed skincare routine customised to your skin but adapt it to meet urgent and transient needs. For example, you can take a short break from actives if your skin feels irritated. You can also add hydrating serums to your protocol when your skin feels dry or switch to lighter moisturisers or gels if your skin feels more oily. This approach would allow you to use active skincare products more regularly and hence allow them more time to work on your skin whilst avoiding irritation. It would also allow you to incorporate specific products for periods when you need them without buying or using a large number of products.

Skin cycling is an intriguing concept because it promotes a personalised and flexible approach to skincare. However, it’s not without its complexities and potential pitfalls. As such, it requires a good understanding of your skin’s unique needs and solid skincare knowledge as well as the time and willingness to adapt your routine accordingly. There are ways to introduce skin cycling that are more practical and require less effort. Ultimately, it is also possible to adopt a dynamic approach to a traditional skincare routine as an easier and possibly more effective alternative. If the idea of skin cycling appeals to you, consider seeking guidance from a doctor or skincare professional to ensure that you use the correct products and the right protocols to suit your individual skin needs. Remember, what matters most is finding a skincare routine that works for you and that you are comfortable using consistently.

We passionately believe in personalised skincare. Through our virtual skin clinic, we offer safe and effective prescription-strength skincare like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone. Our doctors are experienced in treating a variety of skin conditions including acnehyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing. Book a virtual consultation today to tart your journey towards great skin.


Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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