Skincare junkies are welcoming a new trend to their routine; the “skin cycling” trend has taken TikTok by storm, and dermatologists and skincare influencers are among those singing praises of this skincare method.

What is “skin cycling”

Photo source: @sarabloom/TikTok and @hello.glen/TikTok

“Skin cycling” is a four-part nightly routine that will help tame your breakouts and even your skin texture. This works by conditioning your skin to adapt to the ingredients being introduced to it.

It may sound complicated, but here is a simple breakdown of how the routine works.

Breaking down “skin cycling”

Always cleanse and pat your skin dry at the start of your routine for the best results.

Night 1: exfoliate

Photo source: @glowwithmar/TikTok

Apply a chemical exfoliant: glycolic, salicylic, or lactic acids are a few good ones to consider. Follow up with your moisturiser.

Night 2: retinol


Whether it’s in the form of a moisturiser, serum, or oil, any retinol product will do for the second night. Apply a pea-sized amount for your entire face.

If you have sensitive skin or if you are new to retinol, apply moisturiser on your sensitive areas— under eye areas and corners of your mouth.

Night 3 & 4: moisturise

Credit: Sora Shimazaki/Pexels

The next two nights are simple. All you need to do is apply moisturiser and take note of the areas that are irritated and drying. These two nights are intended to help your skin heal and condition it so that your skin can adapt to the next round of exfoliation and retinol treatment.

Does it really work?

Photo source: @drwhitneybowe/TikTok

The person to be given credit for sharing and coining this trend is dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe. After her initial TikTok introducing this concept blew up, skincare junkies on TikTok tried the routine. They came back with positive reviews and results.

Aesthetic doctor Dr. Salome Dharamshi explains that “skin cycling” is an effective way to introduce active ingredients to the skin. By practising this routine, you can give your skin time to absorb ingredients and let your skin ease into harsher treatments. Your skin will also be able to take a break and benefit from the healing cycle.

Daily Vanity gave skin cycling a try and here’s how it worked for us:

@dailyvanity Healthy skin FTW🙌 Learn more about this trending Skin Cycling routine by tapping the “Read article by Daily Vanity Singapore”.😉 ib: @jjaneslee #skincare #skincycling #skin #acneskincare #skincareroutine #skintips #trending #tiktokmalaysia #viral ♬ Dreamy Vibes – Ocean Bay Jazz

Pros and cons

Like every skincare trend and routine, it is hard to say definitely whether it will be a success or flop. Skin type varies from person to person. If you’re looking to try “skin cycling”, here are some tips to remember when trying out the process for the first time.

Skincare journal

Photo source: @journalthea/TikTok

We know it can be a hassle to make a journal for your skin but it’s worth it. It doesn’t have to be an actual journal; you can just use your notes application in your phone to jot down your observations.

Photograph your skin before and after every round of day one and day two. Take note of the areas that appear red and irritated and pay extra attention to those areas for the next few days.

Your skin may be more sensitive than others. You might need to reduce the amount of retinols you’re applying or the frequency of your cycles. For this, you will need to take note of the progress of your skin to see whether it is purging or getting irritated.

Related read: Is your skin purging or breaking out? 3 dermatologists explain the difference

Trial and error

The skincare journal will help with this. After observation, if you note that your skin condition is improving you can continue and even increase the amount of products used. If you notice that it’s worsening, dial back on the amount of products used or add more moisturising days in .

Skincare products often take a few days or weeks to take full effect. Some skin types also take longer to adapt than others. Don’t give up on this routine immediately if things go south. Always remember that everyone’s skin is unique. Trial-and-error is a necessary principle to follow when trying new skincare routines that involved harsh formulas like acids and retinols.

Apply sunscreen to protect your skin

Whether you’re a skincare beginner or pro, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of skincare’s holy grail— sunscreen. The acids and retinols used in “skin cycling” are often sensitive to sunlight.

When you wake up, the products from the previous night are still taking effect in the day. If you don’t apply a protective sunscreen, the acids and retinols will be exposed to sunlight and may cause irritation to your skin.

Products you can use for Night 1’s exfoliation

IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Glycolic Acid Serum

Its formula contains 10% of glycolic acid to reduce the size of your pores and refine your skin texture.

This formula also includes hyaluronic acids that can help smoothen and hydrate skin to leave it feeling supple.

IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Glycolic Acid Serum retails for RM130 on Sephora.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

The Ordinary is no stranger to fans of chemical exfoliation or chemical skincare. This brand is known for its low price and excellent results.

This product may be strong for some but like all chemical exfoliation products, trial-and-error is key to maximising its benefit. This high-strength lactic acid will offer exfoliation to the pores and the Tasmanian pepper berry factored into this reduce signs of inflammation and irritation.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA retails for RM50 on Sephora.

Products you can use for Night 2’s retinol treatment

Frank Body Rewind Retinol Serum

This retinol serum has a wide range of benefits, from targeting and preventing fine lines to reducing breakouts and scars, making it a great option for “skin cycling”.

This serum even includes niacinamide and ginger extract that will help boost the effects of the retinol, giving you faster and more apparent results.

Frank Body Rewind Retinol Serum retails for RM117 on Sephora.

Pixi Overnight Retinol Oil

This product has a silkier oil texture compared to the previous serum and can improve plumpness and decrease the appearance of fine lines and pores.

It is formulated with peptides as well to boost your skin’s firmness and revitalise your skin condition.

Pixi Overnight Retinol Oil retails for RM121 on Sephora.

For Night 3 and 4’s moisturisation

Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator Moisturiser


Clinique’s moisturiser is a fan-favourite of those who have sensitive and irritated skin.

This soothing moisturiser will nourish your skin and boost your the inner defence against daily stressors.

Clinique Moisture Surge 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator Moisturiser for RM188 on Sephora.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer

Known for using natural ingredients in their products, Glow Recipe impresses us with this lightweight moisturiser. The soothing botanicals in this product’s formula boosts radiance and glow.

This oil-free moisturiser contains watermelon extract that keeps skin hydrated and soothed, making it perfect as the last step in your “skin cycling” routine.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer for RM182 on Sephora.

Sunscreen to protect your skin with

Shiseido Global Suncare The Perfect Protector SPF 50+/PA++++

A sunscreen that provides a broad-spectrum SPF 50 is just what we need to ensure the acids and retinols from our “skin cycling” routine don’t irritate our skin. This product will also protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays.

Global Suncare The Perfect Protector SPF 50+/PA++++ for RM190 on Sephora.

Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen Moisturizer

This product from Fenty Skin is both a moisturiser and sunscreen, giving you the best of both worlds. It is also makeup-friendly and ensures there is no pilling or white-cast.

Fenty Skin Hydra Vizor Invisible Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen Moisturizer for RM180 (50ml) and RM110 (30ml) on Sephora.

Featured image credit: @drwhitneybowe/TikTok and @sarabloom/TikTok