Skin Cycling 101: Get the Perfect Routine and Recommended Products

Let's talk skin cycling 101. The idea of skin cycling is that you rotate your active ingredients so that your skin barrier does not become compromised, irritated, or damaged due to the strength of some of these ingredients. The last two days of your skin cycling routine is then dedicated to repairing and restoring your skin barrier.

The most common, tried and true method, is a 4-day skin cycling nighttime routine. Night one is dedicated to exfoliation. Night two is for your retinoid. Nights three and four are repair and recovery. And then you start over again. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of skin cycling through this 4-night cycle, focusing on exfoliation, retinol, repair, and recovery. By following this cycle, you can maximize the benefits of each night's skincare routine and achieve healthier, more radiant skin. Let's dive in!

Night One: Exfoliation

Exfoliation is a crucial step in any skincare routine as it helps remove dead skin cells, unclog pores, and promote a smoother complexion. On the first night of the cycle, dedicate your routine to exfoliation.

  1. Cleansing: Start by thoroughly cleansing your face to remove any impurities or makeup residue. Option: use your favorite toner.

  2. Chemical Exfoliation: Opt for a gentle chemical exfoliant containing ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). These exfoliants work by dissolving dead skin cells and promoting cellular turnover. Apply the exfoliant as directed, taking care not to overdo it, especially if you have sensitive skin.

  3. Hydration: After exfoliation, follow up with a hydrating serum or moisturizer to replenish the skin and provide essential nutrients.

Here is a list of product recommendations for some of our favorite chemical exfoliations:

 Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum Earth Harbor Glow Juice
Mad Hippie Earth Harbor
Paula's Choice Exfoliant Good Molecules Exfoliator
Paula's Choice Good Molecules


Night Two: Retinoids

Retinol is a powerful ingredient known for its ability to boost collagen production, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and improve skin texture. On the second night of the cycle, incorporate retinol into your skincare routine.

  1. Cleansing: Begin by cleansing your face to ensure a clean canvas for the retinol to work effectively. Again, as an option, feel free to add a toner afterwards.

  2. Retinol Application: Apply a pea-sized amount of retinol cream or serum to your face, focusing on areas of concern. Start with a low concentration and gradually increase over time to minimize any potential irritation. If you are new to retinols, add a moisturizer first, to sensitive areas.

  3. Moisturize: Follow up with a nourishing moisturizer to help soothe and hydrate the skin, as retinol can be drying for some individuals.

Below are some of our favorite retinol creams out there:

Youth To The People Retinol CeraVe Retinol Serum
Youth To The People CeraVe
 La Roche Posay Retinol The Ordinary Retinol
La Roche-Posay The Ordinary


Night Three: Repair

On the third night, allow your skin to recover and repair by focusing on gentle, calming products that promote healing and hydration. Moisturization is key here.

  1. Cleansing: Cleanse your face with a gentle cleanser to remove any impurities. Use a toner if you like.

  2. Soothing Mask: Apply a soothing mask formulated with ingredients like aloe vera, chamomile, or hyaluronic acid. These ingredients help hydrate and calm the skin, reducing any inflammation or redness.

  3. Hydrate: Follow up with a hydrating serum or moisturizer to lock in moisture and support the skin's natural healing process.

Below are some recommended soothing masks and deep moisturizers that work great on Night 3.

Naturium Water Cream
 Fyve's Soothing Mask Naturium Water Cream


Night Four: Recover

The final night of the cycle is dedicated to replenishing and nourishing the skin, providing it with essential nutrients and hydration.

  1. Cleansing: Cleanse your face to prepare it for the replenishing products. Follow up with a toner of your choice.

  2. Antioxidant Serum: Apply an antioxidant-rich serum containing ingredients like vitamin C or green tea extract. These antioxidants help protect the skin from environmental damage and promote a youthful complexion.

  3. Moisturize: Finish with a moisturizer that provides long-lasting hydration and supports the skin's barrier function.

Tatcha Skin Cream True Botanicals Overnight Mask
Tatcha Skin Cream True Botanicals Overnight Mask
Fyve's Hydrating Face Oil  Fyve's Green Tea Balm


Implementing a 4-night cycle in your nighttime skincare routine can be a game-changer for achieving healthier and more radiant skin. By focusing on exfoliation, retinol, recovery, and replenishment on different nights, you address various aspects of skincare and give your skin the attention it needs. Remember to listen to your skin and make adjustments as necessary. Embrace the benefits of skin cycling and enjoy the journey to beautiful and glowing skin.


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