Skin Cycling: This Viral Skincare Technique Taught Me To Be Patient With My Skin

skin cycling benefits

Let’s admit it, skin does enjoy more spotlight than well, let’s say the liver. But it is an organ, the largest in our body. So it’s only logical for it to behave like other organs. Skin takes time, patience and the proper routine to heal, and rushing it won’t produce any results. This is especially true after a stressful time-an acne breakout, for instance. The worst adult acne flare-up of my life (yet!) lasted a whole year. A bout of maskne turned into persistent and painful blemishes for months on end. And the more I tried to heal it hacks and tricks, the worse it got. Loading up on active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid mindlessly left me with itchy, irritated skin that had me on the verge of tears. Finally gave up and took a third expert opinion that required the same treatment products, but with a smarter approach to administering them. Serendipitously, I stumbled upon skin cycling – the current obsession of Beauty TikTok and here’s how it works for your skin.

What Is Skin Cycling?

Simply put, skin cycling requires spacing out your treatment days with recovery time, and then starting the whole process again. The routine that went viral followed an exfoliation-regeneration-hydration format for the nighttime, but I updated it to suit my own skin’s needs. The objective of a cyclic routine is to avoid overburdening your skin with too many layers of active ingredients. Layering actives is complex; mix the wrong labels and you can end up with irritated skin and a compromised barrier. An extensive routine also hinders the proper functionality of individual ingredients due to unchecked interactions. For me, an overwhelming routine resulted in extremely irritated skin prone to breakouts. Here’s how the simplified approach to skin cycling helped rectify it –

1. Saturday Night – Exfoliate

Day 1 of my skin cycling routine consists of using a mild-to-medium strength chemical exfoliant to help with pore-care. Since quitting physical scrubs (you’ve really gotta make the switch for the sake of your skin!), my go-to exfoliants are the AHA glycolic acid to smooth out the texture and BHA salicylic acid to unclog the pores and help curb breakouts before they appear. Given that my skin is recovering from a year-long bout of acne that repeatedly bruised and damaged it, I reach for exfoliants that are paired with soothing or moisturising agents. Label check for sodium PCA, saccharide isomerate, or aloe leaf water if your skin tends to get irritated by chemical exfoliants. On days I am feeling confident in my skin, I top up the moisturiser with a thin layer of azelaic acid to help with blemish control.

2. Sunday Night – Retinoid


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One of the best decisions I’ve made for my skin is to add a retinoid to my routine. Emphasis on the ‘oid’, because OTC retinol solutions and creams did nothing for my skin. For the uninitiated retin-user, retinol is a type of retinoid, with the latter being a more potent, often prescription, ingredient clinically proven to offer anti-acne and anti-ageing remedies. My superstar retinoid, adapalene. Available only on prescription, my retinoid treatment comes in combination with benzoyl peroxide for acne control. But as you guessed, this concoction can make my skin extremely dry, meaning layering with other active ingredients will make a sleepless night. I load up my retinoid layer with a hydrated, gel-based moisturiser to lock the treatment in and allow the treatment to work overnight.

3. Tuesday-Wednesday Night – Hydrate And Recovery


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The next two nights are recovery nights where I drench my skin with hydrating products to allow it a break from strong ingredients and relax. Remember, skin that is on the mend needs an ideal level of hydration to do so. Skimp on moisture and your skin won’t heal properly. For my recovery days, I layer a water-y essence with a ceramide-rich moisturiser to help reinforce my compromised barrier. If I do see a spot emerging, I’ll just treat it with clindamycin, a much more forgiving acne spot treatment compared to benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid.

4. Thursday-Friday Night – Marks Treatment

Technically skin cycling is a 4-day deal, but with my skin’s extensive needs (your girl needs a miracle at this point!), I use the two extra days in the week to work on the post-inflammation hyper-pigmentation and fading dark marks. I might go in with a benzoyl solution to spot-treat but the two days are dedicated to a prescribed dosage of depiwhite cream to help with post-acne marks. Come Saturday, I start with the cycle again!

In conclusion, while I am yet to see long-term results of skin cycling, it definitely has taught me to be patient and precious with my skin. I no longer feel the need to overstimulate my skin with actives and acne treatments, but hack their usage to slowly and steadily improve its health. I am definitely sticking to this regime, updating the ingredients involved according to changing skin needs.

Images: Pexels

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