Lauren Feiler, a Dallas homemaker, took five years to reach “skincare nirvana,” a state Feiler says is characterized by skin that looks unfiltered or airbrushed form (or a filter).
It was a journey. After the birth of her son in 2017, at the suggestion of her esthetician, Feiler, 34, applied up to 12 products a day, including a placental serum (made from biomimetic placenta, not human or animal placenta) and a $155 mask -Dollar feeling like her pre-baby self. Two and a half years later, the outbreaks began; The biomimetic placenta went in the trash along with the rest of her routine, except for cleanser and moisturizer.
Finally, Feiler integrated prescription strength retinol and exfoliating pads with seven types of acids, alternating between the two every other night. There were some improvements, but Feiler still wasn’t overwhelmed by the texture of her skin.
Eight weeks ago, Feiler started “skin cycling,” a skincare routine that was trending online and seemed legitimate, at least compared to the libido gummies and collagen powders she bought because she saw them on TikTok.
The concept: a four-day cycle that alternates between the use of active ingredients and “free nights”. On Night 1, cyclers apply a chemical peel; at night 2 a retinoid; and a moisturizer on night 3 and night 4. Cleaning is always the first step.
“My skin is as soft as a baby’s bottom,” says Feiler. “I haven’t been able to get that texture in a long time.”
People are adopting routines similar to Feiler, and TikTok videos with the hashtag #skincycling are popular.
Yet dermatologists have recommended routines of minimal products that encourage rotation of active ingredients, albeit with their own rotation and product recommendations, for decades. What was missing was a catchy name and a viral platform.
You need a catchy name
“People would learn about an ingredient, get excited, and then just incorporate it into their evening routine,” said Dr. Whitney Bowe, dermatologist in New York who coined the term “skin cycling”. She’s been promoting the method on her social media channels for more than a year, offering product recommendations (from her own line, Dr. Whitney Bowe Beauty and other brands) and tips based on skin type and budget, but it’s only recently that the approach is gaining traction online .
Bowe described the philosophy as a kind of “undoing,” or response, to the pandemic’s skincare excess, which was causing “real problems” with the pandemic for many skin barrier.
The approach is consistent with the advice she gives patients, which is not to exfoliate too many times a week or mix too many ingredients in the same night. On any given day, cyclists use no more than three products before bed and only one with active ingredients.
Bowe also outlines some ground rules: the cycle must be done at night (scrubs and retinoids make skin photosensitive and should be used before bed) and in a specific order (the exfoliation on Night 1 prepares the skin for more penetration of the retinoid). effective in night 2).
Many dermatologists agree that skin cycling is a good approach because it can be adapted to different skin types, ages, lifestyles and budgets. At its core, the rotation and balance of active ingredients and moisturizers help keep the skin barrier intact. Also, anything that promotes skin care in moderation is good.
“That’s how I practice—it just didn’t have a name,” said Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, a dermatologist in New York. “What we’re trying to do is not to pile up and do every single active product you can get your hands on every night. You will never get results that are worthwhile – you will get angry.”
Ingleton’s skincare brand, Rose Ingleton MD, sells four serums, each targeting a specific concern: hyperpigmentation, breakouts, moisture and texture. She said patients and clients can use a different serum every night — or use the same serum every day — but they should never be used together.
Even those who call themselves skinimalists (skincare minimalists) can over-exfoliate or apply too many active ingredients at once, causing irritation, including dry or inflamed skin.
Such was the case with Kelly Abbott, a 33-year-old attorney in Seattle, who used Bowe’s four-day cycle as a framework.
Abbott started the skin cycle because her skin was irritated from using retinoids every other day, but about a month later her esthetician told her to just take a rest night. Together they developed a new four-day cycle: exfoliate, night out, retinol, night out, and repeat. Abbott said her skin became less red and looked healthier.
Luisa Parra, a 25-year-old nanny in Washington, also rides modified cycling.
For two months, Parra has been on a three-day cycle that Bowe recommends for acne-prone skin. After a month of exfoliating, applying a retinoid, and one night’s rest, Parra said her acne “basically stopped.”
Anyone can do this
“Essentially, everyone in the dermatology community is saying the same thing but proceeding in different ways when you apply your products gently and alternate days or nights,” said Dr. Adeline Kikam, a Florida-based dermatologist and owner of Skinclusive Dermatology, which is slated to open in Fort Lauderdale this year.
Kikam prefers a five-night cycle. She is reluctant to recommend back-to-back active ingredients and urges people to add an extra night of recovery between exfoliating and retinol nights.
Dermatologists also like that Skin Cycling is independent of brands and prices.
For example, Feiler prefers exfoliating pads from Dr. Dennis Gross, which costs $88 for a 30-day supply, while Parra is sticking with a Neutrogena scrub for $14.99. For moisturizers, Bowe suggests CeraVe Healing Salve for about $10 or Glossier After Baume for $28 as budget-friendly alternatives to the $95 moisturizer from her own line.
Bowe said almost anyone can do a skin cycle, even those who have never used a retinoid. The routines are easy to switch for sensitive skin (add a third night of rest) or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding (swap the retinoid for bakuchiol, peptides, or another alternative with effects similar to a retinoid).
For those new to active ingredients, Bowe recommended a night of exfoliation followed by three nights of recovery for two to three weeks before adding a retinoid. people with really sensitive skin could create a retinoid “sandwich” on Night 2 by applying a retinoid between a base and top layer of moisturizer.
Those who want to take it to a more advanced level, Bowe said, can skip a recovery night or add a second (or third) retinoid night, and the most advanced cyclers can increase the retinoid strength or switch from over-the-counter to one prescription version.
Still, not all dermatologists are completely sold.
“The best thing you can do to protect your skin barrier is not to destroy it in the first place,” says Dr. Ranella Hirsch, a dermatologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
She supports anything that promotes skincare in moderation, but has a more conservative stance on active ingredients than Bowe. Hirsch tells patients not to chemical peel if they already use a retinoid regularly.
“The approach I generally recommend is to slowly titrate one product at a time so you’re helping your barrier adapt without having to destroy and repair it on a regular basis,” Hirsch said, comparing the skin barrier to a door who kept things on and off. “Barrier repairs should be the unfortunate exception, not the rule.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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