While internet trends seem to come and go quickly, there’s one that appears to be here to stay. “Skin cycling,” a term coined by New York dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, has taken TikTok and its dedicated skin care communities by storm. Some skin cycling videos have attracted upwards of 450,000 likes with the hashtag “#skincycling” skyrocketing to over 255 million views.
Skin cycling is the method of “cycling” through different skin care products on different nights. Conventional retinol is at the core of this method. It is an ingredient that can be so harsh that your skin needs to “recover” between uses. Skin cycling is about rotating through your products on a set schedule to allow for those recovery and healing days to avoid irritation.
If you’re undecided about skin cycling, or conventional retinol in general, an easier option is to select skin care with a gentle retinol alternative like bakuchiol. Eminence Organics products only contain natural retinol alternatives rather than conventional retinol, which allows you to use them every day without the need to let the skin rest, recover or heal.
Keep reading to find out more about your options — whether skin cycling is your preference or you’re looking to explore natural alternatives for similar results without the side effects.
Skin cycling is a type of nightly skin care routine that is designed to help you regulate your use of intensive skin care products that use strong active ingredients. The method involves cycling through your products on different nights to allow for “rest nights.” Rest nights give your skin a chance to repair and avoid irritation while reaping the benefits of the active ingredients used during the other two nights of the four-night cycle.
A typical skin cycling routine keeps things simple by following this approximate schedule:
- Night 1: Exfoliation
- Night 2: Conventional Retinol
- Night 3: Recovery and Moisturizing
- Night 4: Recovery and Moisturizing
Rest days are crucial during skin cycling because conventional retinol can be overly harsh on the skin if used every day.
Retinol is a powerful ingredient made from Vitamin A. Small molecules penetrate beneath the epidermis (top layer of skin) to the dermis (middle layer of skin), which boosts the production of collagen and elastin, Healthline explains.
Your skin should appear plumper, with a reduction in fine lines, wrinkles and acne scarring. It’s also noted for its ability to reduce breakouts. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “When your pores become blocked with dead skin cells and/or oils, you can develop blackheads, whiteheads or other types of pimples. Retinol works for acne by preventing clogged pores.” Skin cycling creator Dr. Bowe explains to Popsugar that using conventional retinol “too frequently” or layering it with other potentially irritating ingredients may create skin inflammation rather than leading to results you’re after. “Because of this, it’s best to use retinol on its own as the only exfoliating or resurfacing ingredient in your routine.”
At Eminence Organics, our products do not contain conventional retinol. Instead, we formulate products with retinol alternatives that mimic retinol’s effects. These gentle options can be used day or night (unlike conventional retinol which is strictly for nighttime use) and offer the smoothing and firming benefits of traditional retinol without irritation.
One of these alternatives is bakuchiol, an extract derived from the leaves and seeds of the babchi plant. This plant has been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years to help heal, calm and soothe the skin, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
More recently, bakuchiol has become popular in skin care because it produces similar results to conventional retinol (reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, helps restore firmness, refines skin texture and evens out the look of skin tone) in a gentle way. You can find this ingredient in our Bakuchiol + Niacinamide Moisturizer, a lightweight gel cream that hydrates all skin types. This moisturizer also contains niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3, that visibly reduces pore size, supports the skin barrier and smooths uneven texture.
The dynamic duo of bakuchiol and niacinamide can also be found in our Radiant Protection Fluid SPF, a hydrating formula that protects with SPF 30 and leaves a dewy finish. Since bakuchiol is safe when the sun is out, this SPF product is a great option to treat the skin while keeping it shielded from UV rays.
Need more options for results without side effects? Our Natural Retinol Alternative is another botanical-based solution. This complex gives the skin a lifted and tightened appearance, improves skin firmness and elasticity, and minimizes the visible signs of aging. Unlike synthetic Vitamin A, this alternative is derived from chicory root and tara tree extract, two natural compounds that provide the same results as conventional retinol — without the side effects.
With everyone from dermatologists to TikTokers endorsing the practice, there’s no denying that a skin cycling schedule is a good option for many. If you have a complex ritual, skin cycling can help simplify your routine and determine which products no longer work for you. Another major benefit is that the practice minimizes irritation. Dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick tells Elle, “It can be especially good for those with dry or sensitive skin who otherwise may not be able to tolerate a retinoid or exfoliant.” Skin cycling could also benefit sensitive skin types since the rest days allow the skin to repair and recover and focus on rehydrating and replenishing your moisture barrier.
If your skin is oily and prone to breakouts, skin cycling might be a no-go. In a video from Doctorly, dermatologist Dr. Muneed Shah says that using conventional retinol “every fourth day, especially when you have acne or something you’re really trying to target, is probably too infrequent … to see benefits.”
According to the Eminence Organics Product Support Team, skin cycling is an introduction for those who are looking to sustain a “consistent exfoliating routine.” Skin cycling may also be an option if you’re heavy-handed or prone to over-indulging in skin care products. In an interview with Elle, Dr. Bowe explains, “[Skin cycling] takes a ‘less-is-more approach’ to your routine. Rather than adding more products on top of one another, this encourages the use of products strategically.”
How To Start Skin Cycling: A Routine
If you’re convinced that skin cycling is the best option for you, you may be inspired to start right away. There’s a good chance you already have the skin cycling products you need as there are only three steps. Before you start, set a reminder on your phone calendar to help you keep track of which day you’re on in your skin cycle.
Night 1: Prep And Exfoliate
Begin your skin cycling routine by cleansing the skin, patting it dry and then exfoliating. Exfoliation eliminates the skin’s dull surface layer by buffing away dead skin cells, makeup and impurities to leave skin clean and smooth. With regular exfoliation, you should notice smoother skin, clearer pores and a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Eminence Organics offers a wide range of exfoliating products. Some of our favorite exfoliants include the best-selling Stone Crop Oxygenating Fizzofoliant, the delicious Yam & Pumpkin Enzyme Peel 5% (paired with the Soothing Chamomile Tonique) and the warming Turmeric Energizing Treatment.
You may prefer two-for-one products. In that case, you can combine your exfoliant into your cleansing step and use the Monoi Age Corrective Exfoliating Cleanser or the Charcoal Exfoliating Gel Cleanser.
Night 2: Apply A Conventional Retinol
Apply conventional retinol on the second night of your skin cycling routine. Like exfoliants, retinoids come in various formulas, from masks and creams to serums. They are also available in different strengths and dermatologists recommend starting low and working your way up to higher concentrations.
Night 3: Recovery and Moisturizing
Come night three, you’ll want to give your skin some time to rest and repair. Now is the perfect time to introduce masks, serums and hydrators made with soothing, calming and replenishing ingredients. Recovery days are about letting your skin bounce back from the intensive, active ingredients you applied on the first two nights of your cycle.
The Kombucha Microbiome Balancing Essence and Kombucha Microbiome Leave-On Masque are chock full of natural ingredients that soothe and relieve the skin’s moisture barrier. You can also use the Strawberry Rhubarb Hyaluronic Serum for hydrating on recovery days as it contains a deeply replenishing Botanical Hyaluronic Acid Complex.
Night 4: Recovery and Moisturizing
Finish your cycle with the second evening of recovery. You’ll want this second evening to allow your skin to rest and restore with the help of soothing ingredients. The Rosehip Triple C+E Firming Oil, Apricot Calendula Nourishing Cream and Echinacea Recovery Cream are all replenishing options to keep your complexion looking calm. Happy customer, Sharon A., calls the Echinacea Recovery Cream a “miracle moisturizer,” saying in an online review, “I use it before bedtime every other day and in the morning my skin feels hydrated, soft and radiant with a noticeable reduction in redness [due to dryness]. I have sensitive skin and the … botanicals have definitely made a difference. I have gotten so many compliments on my complexion so I will definitely keep using it.”
Even though there can be perks, you don’t actually need skin cycling to achieve clear skin. As previously mentioned, there are gentle plant-based retinol alternatives that mimic conventional retinol to provide similar benefits without the concern of irritation. Like conventional retinol, both bakuchiol and our Natural Retinol Alternative visibly lift and firm the appearance of skin, smoothing out the look of wrinkles. However, conventional retinol can often cause side effects including dryness, redness, UV sensitivity and peeling. On the other hand, our options are made with botanical ingredients that avoid irritating the skin.
If prefer to skip skin cycling, you can use our Age Corrective products, including Bamboo Firming Fluid, Bamboo Age Corrective Masque, Monoi Age Corrective Night Cream for Face & Neck and Coconut Age Corrective Moisturizer. Or try our Bakuchiol + Niacinamide Collection with the Bakuchiol + Niacinamide Moisturizer and Radiant Protection SPF Fluid.
If you want to use retinol alternatives every day, you absolutely can. If you’re interested in a natural alternative, consider reaching out to an Eminence Organics Spa Partner in your area to help you choose the right option for you.