As for the final two nights of Dr. Bowe’s skin-cycling routine, nights three and four, she emphasizes a full-on dedication to sole hydration and repair, which means no active ingredients are involved. It begins with washing the day away with a gentle cleanser or even partaking in some double cleansing. If you feel your skin is in need of an extra boost of hydration, a hyaluronic acid serum will do the trick, she says. Lastly comes your choice of moisturizer. An optional step four: pat a face oil onto your skin to seal the moisture in.
How does skin cycling work?
The concept of skin cycling allows for a balance between these two effective-yet-potentially-irritating ingredients. Alternating the use of exfoliant and retinol — and following them up with two nights of recovery — allows the skin time to build tolerances and reduces the potential of overdoing it.
Other dermatologists generally agree. As Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, says “Focusing on one active or process at a time allows for maximal results and minimal irritation. Although as time goes on, many can multitask by combining some of these steps. It often depends on comfort level and level of skin sensitivity.”
But, as it goes for all skin care, you’ve got to consider your own specific skin type. “Starting low and going slow is great. It all depends on who you are, your skin type, and what the goal is your wanting to get out,” Marchbein tells Allure. “This is a technique that allows you to build up.” When it comes to her patients, she says every skin-care routine is (and should be) different. She ultimately stresses the importance of having a conversation with your dermatologist before incorporating certain products into your regimen.
If you’re not ready to jump right into skin cycling, here’s what Dr. Marchbein suggests: “I love the idea of alternating things, but a good skin-care routine comes with gentle cleansing twice a day, plus sunscreen and vitamin C in the morning. Once a week, Sunday night, I have patients do a chemical exfoliant.” If a patient’s skin can’t tolerate once a week, she says she’ll have them exfoliate once every two weeks.