Don’t fear, “skin cycling” is not a high-energy, sweat-inducing spin workout for the skin 🚴🏼‍♀️, it is actually quite the opposite of a regimen, one that builds in recovery nights 💤 for this skin through intermittent or alternating use of active ingredients.

The term was coined by a board-certified dermatologist, Whitney Bowe, MD, and took off as most things do now on TikTok. In fact, Whitney’s videos themself have garnered over 3M views, while posts that mention skin cycling have garnered 3.5B views, and the specific #skincycling rose to 271 Million views by Feb 2023 alone on the platform.

But what exactly is skin cycling you ask?

In its most basic of routines, skin cycling aims at simplifying and strengthening your skin barrier by applying only 3 highly effective products in a 4-day cycle. While all four days consist of applying product, 2 of the 4 are for “active recovery” which means instead of applying high or strong active-containing products, you apply a moisturizer, whether that be #slugging, an ointment, oil, or cream. The goal of these two rest days is to prevent irritation and inflammation.

So what are the actual benefits of the cycle? We’ve highlighted three:

  1. It can help repair your skin barrier – A compromised skin barrier exhibits symptoms of skin conditions related to acne, eczema, or atopic dermatitis
  2. May reduce negative product side effects by reducing usage and has increased interest for those looking for high-quality products but are budget conscience
  3. Prevents skin from drying out and can further help protect the skin from seasonal issues such as cold, windy, dry climates which can cause the skin to dry and worsen already existing skin conditions

Cycle Levels: Establishing your Baseline Level

Newbie Cyclers: Over 18.5 million views of Dr. Bowe’s TikToks – Those new to skin cycling have flexibility to use less harsh ingredients or stagger the rest days in between active days or add a rest day.

Super Cyclers: Is targeted to more advanced skin cycling has 898.2k views of Dr. Bowe’s TikToks – Those who are experienced with using highly active products, can layer more active days on, or chose to add actives to their rest days. There are many suggestions to make this routine more useful for each user’s skin.

Sensitive Cyclers: 1.3m views of Dr. Bowe’s TikToks – Given that this routine uses higher active products than some consumers are used to, these videos give advice on products and modifications to the routine to further reduce irritations.

Ingredients for effective skin cycling

Lox-Age: proposes multi efficacies: anti-wrinkles, pores appearance & roughness decrease, elasticity improvement, and is clinically proven to be as efficient as retinol.


AH-Care L-65 – a complex of lactic acid and L-arginine, provide powerful exfoliating action without the irritating effect.


All-trans-retinyl palmitate is converted to retinol in the skin, this process improves lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, elasticity and firmness. The maximum dose of use for body care is 0.05%, and for all other leave-on and rinse-off products is 0.3%

Retinols Trade Name INCI Total Retinol
Retinol 10 S Glycine Soja Oil 9.9-11.1%
Retinol 15 D Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Retinol 15.0-15.9%
Retinol 50 C Retinol, Polysorbate 20 42.75-49.5%
RetiSTAR® Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Ascorbate, Tocopherol, Retinol 5.0-5.9%
Palmitates Trade Name INCI Total Retinol
Vitamin A-Palmitate Care (1.7 Tocopherol) Retinyl Palmitate Min 93.5%, all-trans-retinol palmitic acid ester
Vitamin A-Palmitate Care (1.0 Tocopherol) Retinyl Palmitate, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil 55-60% all-trans-retinol palmitic acid ester

Formulation notes:

  • Retinol penetrates the skin more effectively than retinol esters and is more stable
  • Manufacture and fill under an inert atmosphere; fill into oxygen-impermeable packaging
  • Avoid oxygen, heat, light and heavy metals
  • Add the retinol together with chelating agents <40°C; formulations to be kept <20°C during storage and transport
  • Optimal pH: 5.5-8


Recovery Moisturizers 

Hydrasensyl® Glucan Green – utilizes hyaluronic acid and collagen properties to bind to large amounts of water in the skin

Nephydrat® – an extract from the spiny fruit peel that reinforces the skin’s capacity for water retention

(AMC) Advanced Moisture Complex™ PF – provides both short and long-term moisture replenishment, hydration, and assists in barrier repair

Happy Cycling! 🚴‍♀️