What Is Skin Cycling And How Can It Prevent Aging Over 40? We Asked Dermatologists

November 11, 2022 by Marissa Matozzo
shefinds | beauty

If you’ve scrolled through the beauty and skincare realms of TikTok lately, you’ve probably come across videos that depict what many users refer to as ‘skin cycling,’ or a trend that many dermatologists are actually fond of. With millions of views under the ‘skin cycling’ hashtag on the video-sharing app, the trend refers to having a nightly skincare routine with specific products on certain nights, and then allowing for ‘rest days,’ or those in which the TikTok creators are seen either giving their skin a break from any products at all, or using less than the previous nights.

We checked in with dermatologists and skincare experts to learn more about the trend amongst Gen-Z BeautyTok-ers, and if it could possibly help slow or prevent wrinkling/ aging over 40. Read on for tips, suggestions and insight from clinical dermatologist Dr. Enrizza P. Factor, Dr. Rolanda Wilkerson, principal scientist and skincare expert at OLAY, Hillary Clark, esthetician, celebrity makeup artist and founder of Beauty HAC, and Kris Adair, skincare expert, nurse practitioner and owner and medical director of Adair Family Clinic and MedSpa.


@drwhitneybowe Skin cycling for beginners: how to get started. And how to layer with Bowe Glowe #skincycling #thatboweglow #dermatologist #skintok ♬ original sound – Dr. Whitney Bowe


First Off, What Is Skin Cycling?

The ‘skin cycling’ concept was created by New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, as reported by Vogue, who shared the following four-day skincare routine on TikTok— one night of exfoliation, another night of retinol, and two other nights of repair and recovery. Skin cycling, Wilkerson explains, “is focused on exfoliants and retinoids, which are highly effective ingredients, but potentially irritating.” By “cycling” products with these ingredients, Wilkerson says that skin can “build up tolerance, allowing people to get the full scope of benefits from intense ingredients without exacerbating existing sensitivities.”

A large benefit of this method, she adds, is that it works for most skin types and tones. For those with dry or sensitive skin, skin cycling is a “great option because these types often have more difficulty adjusting to retinoids and chemical exfoliants such as AHA (alpha hydroxy acids), she points out. Skin cycling is also great for people with “darker skin tones, while effective at smoothing lines and wrinkles, as retinols and AHAs also increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s UV rays,” she notes. Dark skin is more prone to “hyperpigmentation and damage when using retinol excessively with little to no sun protection,” so “rest and recovery nights featured in the skin cycling regimen allow the skin to heal from these effects,” Wilkerson stresses.


@dermguru #duet with @Erica Nicole #healthyskin shoutout to @drwhitneybowe #skincycling #skincycle #retinoids #skintok #dermtok ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral – WZ Beat

Can Skin Cycling Slow Aging (Or Prevent More Wrinkling) Over 40?

While skin cycling is a popular trend amongst younger users in their twenties, Factor notes that those at any age can benefit from the practice. While she and other experts explain that developing wrinkles over 40 and even before is normal and inevitable, you can prevent more from forming by properly exfoliating on the first night of the skin cycling method, applying retinol on the second night, and allowing yourself to rest and recover on the other two nights. “The upper layer of your skin is made up of dead skin cells that can, if they don’t shed properly, lead to a dull and uneven appearance,” Factor warns, something that “can be helped with using an exfoliant, giving your skin back the much-coveted glow.” She adds that skin cycling is crucial since applying “more of your products doesn’t always give you better results.”

The dead skin cells do have a function, she notes, as they make up the skin barrier, “essential in keeping hydration in and potential irritants out,” meaning that if you exfoliate “too much” of them away, you lose that protection and can “aggravate dehydration,” leading to more wrinkles and irritated, dry patches. The same is true for using retinol over 40, Factor says, as in the prescription-form like Tretinoin and Adapalene, which are used as parts of acne treatments, they are “amazing products with benefits for treating acne,” but they do come with a “relevant risk for irritation that often presents itself with tight, red, flaking and uncomfortable skin.”



@michellezoltan So thankful I stumbled upon your videos. #skincycling is life changing! #skincare #exfoliation #retinaldehyde #sensitiveskin #acneprone ♬ Super Freaky Girl – Nicki Minaj

These effects, Factor adds, don’t happen directly when you start using the products, but after the first two or three weeks, which can make it even harder to avoid, as she says, “you think you are fine, you keep using them daily, and then your skin flares up.” To prevent this, Factor recommends skin cycling to “reduce the frequency of activities used and giving your skin time to adapt.” Skin can build a tolerance to strong retinoids over time, Factor says, allowing you to increase the frequency and potency you can use without adverse effects. “And if these problems don’t appear, you are way more likely to stick to using these ingredients, which is the only way to see results,” she continues, noting that “consistency is key in any skincare routine.”

Adair agrees, and adds that “getting the full benefit of a skincare routine requires consistency.” Whether it’s skin cycling or your own personalized skin boosting routine, she stresses not to “swap out products too frequently and to wait at least three weeks to see if a product or routine is working before you decide if you need to try something else.” She also stresses that skincare is not one-size-fits-all, and skin cycling may work for some, but not everyone. Her general recommendation is to “try it, as it’ll get you into the habit of performing a regular skincare routine.” She suggests “starting with products that are designed to be gentle, have low percentage active ingredients and most importantly, to invest in a hydrating, fragrance free moisturizer and protective sunscreen you can use daily.”

In addition, Adair says she strongly encourages users to “go into skin cycling with the understanding that they may need to modify the routine— swapping out products or adjusting the frequency and percent (strength) of their active ingredients as they go along to meet their specific skincare needs,” she adds, making it “their own version of skin cycling.” If you’re not seeing your skin improve with your routine after three weeks, or if new problems develop, she says to “see a skincare specialist, dermatologist or esthetician that specializes in your skin concerns.” There are many factors and conditions that can affect your skin and proper evaluation, so Adair notes that “diagnosis and getting the treatment plan specific to your needs is key.”


@oilyandyoung not a derm/skin expert. just sharing what i’ve learned and been doing lately #skincareph #skintokph #skintokthings #skincarephilippines ♬ Show Me How (Album V) – Men I Trust

Recommended Products And Suggested Skin Cycling Routine

Wilkerson recommends skin cycling, especially for those who have skin prone to irritation but would still like to incorporate high-potency ingredients into their routines. One product that she suggests for skin cycling is OLAY’s Retinol24 + Peptide night cream. “Along with retinol, it also includes ingredients like niacinamide and amino peptides for a more soothing take on retinoids and is effective yet mild enough to use daily during the skin cycling routine,” she explains. That said, she urges to “always check in with your primary care doctor or dermatologist for personalized advice, especially if you have eczema, rosacea, persistent acne, or other skin issues, or if you’re using prescription-grade products.”


@mybeautyhac Skin Cycle like a Pro #skincycling #exfoliation #retinol #vitamina #tretinoin #aha #bha #pha #dermaplaning #skintok #pores #wrinkles #esthetician #estheticianlife ♬ original sound – Beauty HAC

According to Clark, the following regimen is “easy to adopt” and delivers “noticeable” results:

Night 1 Recommended Products:

After each exfoliation, Clark says to follow with Beauty HAC, which contains natural Hyaluronic Acid and precious oils, that will “gently assist cellular health, prevent hyperpigmentation from over-exfoliating and also lock in moisture.”

Night 2 Recommended Products:

Nights 3 + 4 Recommended Products:



@sadminur1 Skin Cycling Routine #skincare #skincareroutine #skincycling #skin #skincaretips #retinol #paulaschoice #larocheposay #skincare101 #skincyclingroutine #FlexEveryAngle #foryou #foryoupage #foryourpage #fyp #fypシ @Dr. Whitney Bowe @LaRochePosayUS @La Roche-Posay @@COSRX Official ♬ original sound – KristyLee

Wilkerson concludes that during rest and recovery nights, you should “look out for products with skin-repairing properties such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, niacinamide, peptides or vitamin C.” She says she “also can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use proper sun protection and SPF at all times, especially in the morning after a retinoid or exfoliation night, even if you’re not skin cycling.” Other than that, Wilkerson advises to “always listen to your skin.” For exfoliants, a little tingling is normal, however, if you experience burning or immediate inflammation, she instructs to “wipe off the product as soon as possible.” Ultimately, you can rest assured in that there is “no wrong way to practice skin cycling, but it’s important to choose products and routines that work best for you.”


Staff Writer

Marissa is a Brooklyn-based culture journalist and staff writer at SheFinds, covering edgy celebrity style, timeless beauty trends, lifestyle and entertainment news. Her coverage of indie music, NYC fashion, underground and pop culture is featured in PAPER Magazine, Paste Magazine, The Knockturnal, Bandsintown and more. You can reach her at [email protected]

From Our Partners

Learn more about RevenueStripe...

From Our Partners

Learn more about RevenueStripe...


This $12 Mask Is Selling Like Crazy--It Clears Blackheads And Pores So Fast

Blackheads are a pesky skincare concern that don’t seem ...


Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles With This Smart Device

We’re constantly told that exercising should be a daily ...