The Viral Skin Cycling Trend: A Fad Or Here to Stay? Dermatologists Explain

Experts debunk the science behind Skin Cycling and whether it is as beneficial as advertised.

4 min read
The Viral Skin Cycling Trend: A Fad Or Here to Stay? Dermatologists Explain

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The world of social media is vivid and perplexing – everyday you come across new diets, fitness routines, and skincare techniques. One skincare technique in particular, has garnered a lot of attention (3.5 billion views on TikTok, and is catching up in India) and even approval, from medical professionals.

What do experts think about the viral 'Skin Cycling' trend? FIT asked experts.

What is Skin Cycling?

Coined by Dr. Whitney Bowe, a New-York based dermatologist, Skin Cycling is a night-time skincare routine that involves layering the face with active potents, followed by restoration time for the skin to heal and rest in a cycle of typically four nights.

To be specific, here is what social media prescribes:

  • Night 1: Exfoliating agent

  • Night 2: Retinoid application (concentration depends on your usage and skin type)

  • Night 3: Recovery night - simple face moisturiser

  • Night 4: Recovery night - simple face moisturiser

And then you repeat the cycle all over again.


What's The Buzz About?

Too many products and potent actives at once can damage your skin barrier. 

(Photo: iStock)

Our skin gets exploited by a multitude of chemical products. We need sunscreen to be applied more than twice a day, hyluronic acid or Vitamin C for hydration, glycolic acid for whitening and brightening, and salicylic acid for acne- but all these can't be clubbed together.

The idea behind skin cycling is to cater to the exact needs of your skin and not harass it with various actives. This way, your skin can absorb the actual benefits of the chemical exfoliant and retinoid, without being clogged up by different cosmetics or serums.

What Do the Experts Say?

Dr Rohit Batra, Dermatologist & Dermatosurgeon, at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, told us that skin cycling is something that they have already been doing for years. The same process has been packaged into a new name and given back to us.

He says he prescribes this course to acne-prone patients- application of retinoid thrice a week, and Vitamin C or a hydrating agent for the morning.

However, he warns, you must know your skin before you begin any treatment. Similarly, dermatologists online have established this skincare as more than just a 'fad' and approved it.


A Western ConceptNot Suitable For Indian Skin?

While many experts have given the go-ahead to the regime, there are a few dermatologists that have their reservations.

Dr Sanjeev Gupta, Professor and Head, Department of Dermatology, MM Institute Of Medical Sciences And Research Mullana Ambala, India stated that he would never recommend the process to any of his routine patients unless they have an ongoing medical issue.

He strongly believes that skin cycling is another western concept that aims to capture the Asian markets.

"Skin Cycling is a treatment for the mind, and not the body. It disturbs the patient's psyche by manipulating one into believing that cosmetic products, are actually working."
Dr. Sanjeev Gupta, Professor and Head, Department of Dermatology, MM Institute Of Medical Sciences And Research Mullana Ambala, India

It becomes hard to choose the correct product for your skin when there are now, so many options in the market. 

(Photo: iStock)

He says that, skin cycling actually attacks the psyche of the patient who uses it, causing subclinical stress. The patient starts obsessing over what chemical to use, and when to use it and whether it works or not, he adds.

These cosmetic products have a low concentration of the reactants that truly heal your skin and thus, they only give you a temporary respite, making you feel that they are working.

"Skin cycling is like 'old wine in a new bottle'. An old scientific treatment, with a new packaging."
Dr. Rohit Batra Dermatologist & Dermatosurgeon, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi

When Can You Expect Results

Skin cycling is a concept that aims to give back your skin's radiant glow. Results are usually visible within a week or two of application. Your skin should feel healthier and plumper.


Incorrect usage of Retinoid, especially during winter, can dry out your skin. 

(Photo: iStock)

Your complexion should clear up a little and there should be less dryness or inflammation.

The longer you stick to the habit, the more results will be visible. However, this depends on skin types, say experts.

The Big P for Precautions

There is still no consensus whether one must try this technique or not, but for those who would like to give this a shot, here a few things you must remember:

  1. Know your skin - Know what skin type you are, the concerns of your skin and skin's age. Any products that you wish to apply must be selected, henceforth.

  2. Talk to your doctor- Consult your dermatologist an make a tailor-made program, especially, for your skin. This will ensure you get the maximum benefits, while minimizing risk of reactions, inflammation, dryness, irritability, etc.

  3. Do not skip - If you do go ahead with skin cycling, then remember to not skip any dosage. Getting lazy in the morning and not applying your hydration serum can give you more trouble than you think.

  4. Use retinoid with care- Retinoid is a chemical that can lead to skin dryness if used more than the prescribed number of times, especially during winter. (Twice or thrice a week is enough.) It also needs to be used in a smaller dose, and gradually increased, as the skin begins adjusting to it. Therefore, listen to an expert.

  5. Do not rush - Do not rush or use more products in order to speed up the process. Stay patient and let you skin get better at its own pace.

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