If you’re not “skin cycling,” you should be. Here’s why.

Although it may be trending on social media, skin cycling isn’t really a new concept. Basically, this approach involves alternating active ingredients so they can help enhance the health and appearance of the skin while keeping side effects to a minimum. And guess what, skin cycling also helps simplify your evening skincare routine—and make your anti-aging skincare products last longer!

Skin cycling works by keeping your skin surprised. Rather than applying the same ingredients night after night, spacing out their application gives your skin a chance to do its job. This simple approach also helps streamline your evening regimen, and the hardest part is remembering which night you’re on. (This happens to me all the time, so here’s a tip: I put the next night’s featured product next to my sink when I’m done with my routine so I know which one to use tomorrow.)

Night 1: Chemical exfoliation
Ingredients such as lactic acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid help reduce the buildup of dead cells to improve fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, rough texture and the look of fine lines and wrinkles. I like to use a serum for this skin-cycling step (after cleansing and before moisturizing). I recommend The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 10% + H.A. or SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator because they are both gentle, effective and hydrating.

Night 2: Retinol
Retinol to the skin is like “water to the fish.”  Retinol is a form of vitamin A that helps improve the look of visible signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots and rough skin texture. Retinol works by increasing cell turnover, which helps slough off dead skin cells and promote the production of new, healthy cells. Retinol’s benefits also include helping to reduce acne and improve uneven skin tone.

Using retinol as part of your skin cycling helps minimize side effects like dryness, irritation and peeling since you’re only using it every fourth night. (Don’t worry, you’ll still see results after a few months—stick with it!) My top budget-friendly retinol pick is RoC’s Deep Wrinkle Serum and Line Smoothing Capsules (available at drugstores and supermarkets). At the more professional level, I recommend ZO Skin Health retinol products, which I carry at Neem Medical Spa. (Our team of skin experts can help determine which concentration is best for your skin based on your skin type and history of retinol use.) For those living far away, my best advice as to “what is the best strength of retinol to use?” is to start with the strength that your skin will tolerate and that you will actually use! So, start with 0.25% and gradually build yourself up to tolerate up to 1% over several months.

Nights 3 and 4: Skip the active ingredients
Consider these your skin’s nights off, because it’s actually quite busy “processing” the exfoliating acids and retinol from the previous two evenings. Although you’re skipping the “actives,” these nights offer an opportunity to focus on moisture and restoring the skin barrier with hyaluronic acid. I suggest The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 or Alastin Skincare’s HA Immerse Serum. And don’t worry… Hyaluronic acid helps improve signs of aging like fine lines—and it’s well-tolerated by sensitive skin.

Are you ready to reboot your skincare routine with skin cycling? 

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