What is skin cycling?
Your step-by-step guide to the trending skincare routine.
What is skin cycling?
Your step-by-step guide to the trending skincare routine.

There’s no denying the influence of TikTok on the beauty world. There’s new skincare and makeup trends popping up with every scroll, and while some are gimmicky, occasionally you’ll stumble upon a gamechanger. Skin cycling – a buzzy, derm-backed skincare trend with over 3.5 billion views on TikTok – falls firmly in the latter camp, and it has the potential to boost the efficacy of your skincare regime.


But let’s go back to basics. What actually is skin cycling and what can it do for your skin? Here’s everything you need to know about the viral skincare trend that actually works.


What is skin cycling?

Just like a good exercise regime requires a few rest days a week, so does your skincare routine. Skin cycling is essentially a way to give your skin a break – alternating powerful active ingredients with soothing rest days to aid the growth and repair cycle of the skin. A skin cycling routine is typically a four-night rotation, consisting of one night of exfoliation with AHAs/PHAs/BHAs, one night incorporating retinoids, then two nights of R&R with a gentle, nourishing routine.


What are the benefits of skin cycling?

The idea behind skin cycling is to let your skin reap the benefits of active ingredients, without compromising the skin barrier. Overuse of actives like exfoliating acids and retinoids can lead to signs of skin barrier damage like dryness, peeling, breakouts and increased sensitivity. Alternating two nights of actives with two nights of recovery allows your skin time to repair itself, avoiding over-exfoliation and preventing irritation.


With a consistent skin cycling routine, you should start to see results from your actives, without impacting your skin barrier.


How to create a skin cycling routine.

It’s super simple to follow a nightly skin cycling routine. The rotation begins with exfoliation on the first night, followed by a retinoid serum on the second night, then nights three and four are dedicated to recovery with hydrating, skin barrier-strengthening skincare. Then repeat.



Night one: exfoliation.

Kickstart your skin cycling routine with an exfoliator to smooth and renew the look of skin, buff away dead skin cells and prime your skin for the rest of your skin cycle. Choose a liquid exfoliator like Clarifying Do-Over Peel which contains a 7-acid blend of AHAs, BHA and PHA including glycolic acid, lactic acid and salicylic acid.


Start by removing makeup with Take The Day Off™ Cleansing Balm, then follow with a second cleanse of your choice (Liquid Facial Soap is a great all-rounder). Pat face dry, then apply our at-home liquid peel to a cotton pad and sweep over the skin. There’s no need to rinse – just follow with a fragrance-free, nourishing moisturiser like Moisture Surge™ 100H Auto-Replenishing Hydrator.



Night two: retinoid. 

Night two is all about retinoids. To recap, retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A which help to accelerate cell turnover, helping to reduce the look of fine lines, wrinkles and pores over time. Read our dermatologist’s guide to retinoids for more info.


Less is always more when it comes to retinoids, so a gentle formula like Clinique Smart Clinical Repair™ Wrinkle Correcting Serum is a good starting point. Our innovative retinoid serum combines a potent retinoid with hyaluronic acid and peptides to repair and re-plump the look of skin, without irritation. To apply, double cleanse and dry your skin completely before applying 1-2 pumps of retinoid serum to your face and neck, then follow with your Clinique moisturiser of choice.



Nights three + four: recovery.

On nights three and four of your skin cycle, it’s time to show your skin barrier some love with restorative, nourishing formulas containing hyaluronic acid and glycerin. After double cleansing, apply a concentrated hydrating essence or serum like Moisture Surge™ Hydrating Supercharged Concentrate to slightly damp skin. This lightweight water-gel contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin and vitamins C and E to quench your skin and lock in moisture. You can then layer your favourite moisturiser on top, with an optional hydrating overnight face mask once a week.



What skincare should I use in the daytime?

To complement your nightly skin cycle rotation, it’s best to stick to a simple morning skincare routine. The key steps are always a cleanser, moisturiser and SPF, however you can also add a vitamin C serum into the mix, or choose a daytime moisturiser with vitamin C like our NEW Even Better Clinical™ Brightening Moisturizer.


Start your morning routine with a gentle liquid cleanser like Liquid Facial Soap Mild, followed by an optional brightening serum with vitamin C – try Even Better Clinical™ Radical Dark Spot Corrector + Interrupter. Next, smooth on your favourite daytime moisturiser, then follow with a high-level SPF such as Superdefense™ City Block SPF 50 Daily Energy + Face Protector.


Need some help creating your ideal skin cycling routine? Book in for a Skin School consultation with one of our expert Clinique Consultants for personalised advice. Enjoy a 1:1 session or invite your friends.

Words by Shona Wallace
Updated February 2023

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Liquid Facial Soap, Soft, non-drying face cleanser which gently, loosens surface flakes, removes dirt and debris, and protects skin’s natural moisture balance.
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