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Skin Cycling and Products: How to Skincycle Your Skincare Routine

Escrito por: Dr. Leslie Baumann

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Tiempo de lectura 10 min

Skin cycling, or rotating products in your skincare routine, has become a popular skincare trend recently, thanks in large part to Dr. Whitney Bowe’s promotion of the concept on TikTok. But what exactly is skin cycling and is it really beneficial for your skin health? As a dermatologist, let me walk you through the details.

what is skin cycling?

What is Skin Cycling?

The idea behind skin cycling is that you rotate your skincare products in a structured regimen so you are not using the same products every day. The goal is to maximize both the effectiveness of your products as well as the health of your skin by giving your skin time to “reset” between products. This helps avoid problems such as overexfoliation and retinoid side effects. Each dermatologist has their own way of doing this with their patients.

Dr. Whitney Bowe's Cycling Plan

Although dermatologist's have been cycling skincare products for years, Dr. Bowes coined the term skin cycling. Her system is a way of cycling products over 4  nights with these cycles:

Her cycling advice is only for the night time regimen.  This approach can work well if you are beginning a retinol for the first time and have a resistant skin type. The problem with this approach is it is not consistent enough and it is not right for all skin types and skin concerns. For example, this is not a good approach to treat acne, melasma, rosacea or skin inflammation.

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In this blog, I am going to tell you how I design a custom skin cycling skincare routine for my patients based on their Baumann Skin Type.

If you take the skincare routine quiz, I can tell you what your daily skincare routine should be and help you find the best medical grade skincare brands that are right for you. Once you know your skin type, you will be able to shop by your skin type to find the skin cycling products that are right for you.

How Dermatologists Skin Cycle

When dermatologists are prescribing a custom skincare routine for their patients and a skin cycling plan there are two approaches:

  1. Customize the regimen based on a skin diagnosis such as acne, rosacea, melasma, or skin aging
  2. Personalize the routine based on the Baumann Skin Type

Over 280 doctors in the USA and more around the world use the Baumann Skin Type as the basis for skincare regimen design. (1-12)

Once the skin type is diagnosed, software that has been developed by dermatologists over the last 2 decades is used to generate the optimal skincare routine template.  The regimen template is then populated by products that meet the criteria for inclusion into that step of the regimen specific to that skin type. The instructions you get on how to cycle products are specific to you skin type.

best skin cycling routine

Best Skin Cycling Routine

In your routine, there are some products that need to be used consistently every day to get results, while other products should be cycled. I will go through the morning and night steps and discuss which products can or should be recycled.

Morning Skin Cycling Routine

At a minimum your morning skincare routine should have a sunscreen.  This can be a moisturizer with sunscreen or an active therapeutic sunscreen. This is true for all 16 Baumann Skin Types.

Step 1 AM Routine

Your am cleanser can be cycled.  If you are using a low pH cleanser in the morning, this exfoliates the skin.  You can skip this cleanser on days you are using other exfoliating products, starting a new retinoid, or when your skin is in recovery. You can use your evening cleanser instead.  This is one of the many reasons you need 2 different cleansers in your skincare routine.

Step 2 AM Routine

The eye cream you choose should match your eye issues.If you use it in the am and need to cycle will depend on the type of eye cream. Don't use eye creams with hydroxy acids or retinol if you are using other products in your regimen with these ingredients in them.

Step 3 AM Routine

This is the regimen step that you should cycle skincare products.  Which products to use depends on your skin type- but i will give you an example. Vitamin C, exosomes, and growth factors are used to treat aging skin, but Vitamin C serums are a low pH and can lower the effectiveness of the other two types of products. So you cannot use them at the same time of day and you may need to use several types of antiaging serums that are incompatible with each other. This is when you cycle. Read below to learn how to cycle individual product types or ingredients.

Step 4 AM Routine

This is your moisturizer step.  Dry skin types should not cycle this step. If you have dry skin, find the best type of moisturizer for your skin type and stick with it and use it every day. Oily skin types can cycle moisturizers with serums.


Why does this matter? 

Dry types need a daily barrier repair moisturizer- a real one that has the maltese cross pattern.


Oily skin types need a lightweight noncomedogenic moisturizer on dry days but may not need a moisturizer on humid days.  This is the step that oily skin types can use hyaluronic acid serums if they are right for your skin type.

Step 5 AM Routine

Never skip your sunscreen step. Even if you skip everything else and do not wash your face- you still  need SPF!

night skin cycling routine

Night Skin Cycling Routine

In your night time routine you will mainly cycle step 3 and your retinol step which may be step 3, 4 or 5 depending on your Baumann Skin Type.

Step 1 PM Routine

You do not need to cycle your night cleanser. Choose a cleanser that removes sunscreen, dirt, oil, and makeup for your night skincare routine. If you have oily skin- a foaming cleanser works well and can be used every night.  

If you have dry skin, choose a cleansing oil or a creamy cleanser. Do not use your low pH cleanser at night unless you have been told to by your dermatologist to avoid overexfoliation.

Step 2 PM Routine

You can cycle your night eye cream depending on what eye issues you have that night.  There are different night eye creams for these issues:

  • dark circles
  • dryness
  • eye skin sensitivity, irritation, inflammation
  • fine lines and wrinkles
  • puffy eyes

Step 3 PM Routine

This is the step that you will skin cycle products. Which products to choose depends on which skin concerns you are treating. You can read more about the barriers to skin health and what all you should be treating in this skincare routine step.

Step 4 PM Routine

In most skin types who are beginning a new skincare routine, this is the moisturizer step.  You should choose your moisturizer based on which of the 16 Bauman Skin Types you  are. You may want to cycle this step if you are using moisturizers with exfoliators like:

  • hydroxyacids
  • Vitamin C
  • retinoids 

In most case you do not need to cycle the products n this step but you may need to cycle when this step happens. For example, once you get acclimated to retinoids, you may use them in this step of the routine instead. 

Step 5 PM Routine

This is the step that retinol goes in when you are a beginner.  You will cycle this step until you can tolerate the retinoid every night.


This blog explains how to use retinoids.


You can alternate retinol, tretinoin, tazarotene or adapalene with one of these antiaging retinoid alternatives.

skin cycling products

Skin Cycling Products

How to skin cycle depends upon the product type.  Below I discuss each product type that in some cases should be used according to skin cycling rules.

Exfoliants

If you over use exfoliants in your skin care routines you can get redness, irritation, acne breakouts, eczema, dry skin, and hyperpigmentation.  This is why exfoliants should be cycled in most skin types.


Examples of types of exfoliants are:

retinoids

Retinoids

vitamin c

Vitamin C

You may not have enough steps in your routine for Vitamin C, but your skin cannot make collagen without it and you need more than you can get with diet and supplements.  You can cycle it into your routine this way:

  1. Apply a Vitamin C serum after washing your face in the am with a low pH cleanser. Let it stay on at least an hour.  Then you can shower and afterwards apply your normal am regimen.  This way your Vitamin C serum has a chance to penetrate into the skin without being diluted by any other products.
  2. Substitute the Step 3 of your am routine with Vitamin C serum 3 times a week.

It is better to cycle Vitamin C this way then applying it with other antiaging serums because they will just dilute each other.  Also the low pH of Vitamin C can inactivate exosomes and growth factors.

Skin cycling is very confusing.  The easiest way to do it is take the skincare routine quiz.  Then you will receive a dermatologist-recommended custom skincare routine for your Baumann Skin Type. Check your emails for advice on how to cycle products.  On day 30, 60 and 90 you will receive personalized advice on how to cycle products and add new ones to your routine. We will guide you.  You can also visit our youtube channel and social media and skincare blogs for  more advice on how to cycle products in your skincare routine.

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

Is skin cycling necessary?

In most skincare routines, cycling is not necessary.

Is skin cycling good?

It can be good for some skin types when beginning a new product or when you have so many skin issues to treat and too many products to use in one day.

Do dermatologists cycle skincare products in routines?

The most important thing to do to get products to work well is to use them consistently. Cycling products is complicated and confusing so most dermatologists choose a straightforward basic daily routine for their patients. They often see patients every month and adjust their routine at the office visit.

What products are most important to cycle?

Retinol serums, Vitamin C serum, and other antiaging serums are the most important to cycle. If you apply more than 2 at a time, they will dilute each other- so cycling them is a good idea.

Which ingredients should be cycled in your skincare routine?

Retinol , Vitamin C , and exfoliants are the most important ingredients to cycle in your routine. Retinol and ascorbic acid are both acids and exfoliants that help increase skin collagen but there are reasons not to use them every day.

Best References and Scientific Publications on Skin Cycling:

  1. Baumann L. Skincare Regimen Design  in Ch. 35 of Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology Ed 3. (McGraw Hill 2022)
  2. Shin, Y. B., Kwon, C. I., Jo, J. W., Jeong, H. B., Moon, Y. S., Jung, E. C., ... & Yoon, T. J. (2018). P199: Baumann skin type in outpatient. 프로그램북 (구 초록집)70(2), 457-457.

  3. Lee, Y. B., Ahn, S. K., Ahn, G. Y., Bak, H., Hong, S. P., Go, E. J., ... & Goo, J. W. (2019). Baumann Skin Type in the Korean Male Population. Annals of Dermatology31(6), 621-630.

  4. Ahn, S. K., Jun, M., Bak, H., Park, B. D., Hong, S. P., Lee, S. H., ... & Park, K. (2017). Baumann skin type in the Korean female population. Annals of dermatology29(5), 586-596.

  5. Choi, J. Y., Lim, J. Y., Kim, H. S., Min, J., Kim, J. I., Seo, H. M., ... & Kim, W. S. (2015). P241: A study on Korean womens skin types by baumann skin type questionnaire. 프로그램북 (구 초록집)67(2), 501-502.

  6. Kim, B. K., Choe, S. J., Lee, S. H., Min, P. K., & Hana, B. (2014). P110: Analysis of Baumann skin type in Korean women. 프로그램북 (구 초록집)66(2), 355-355.

  7. de Souza, C. R. S., Fontes, R. B., & de Godoy, C. A. P. (2023). Estudo comparativo entre a autopercepção das características cutâneas e o formulário Baumann. Research, Society and Development12(4), e15912441144-e15912441144.

  8. Baumann, L. (2006). The skin type solution: a revolutionary guide to your best skin ever. Bantam.

  9. Baumann, L. (2008, 2012, 2019). Cosmetics and Skin Care in Dermatology. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine. 7t, 8th and 9th eds. New York: McGraw Hill.

  10. Baumann, L. (2020). 14 A Scientific Approach to Cosmeceuticals. The Art of Aesthetic Surgery, Three Volume Set: Principles and Techniques.

  11. Baumann, Leslie S. “The Baumann Skin Typing System” in Farage MA, et al. Textbook of Aging Skin Skin. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (2017): 1579-1594.

  12. Baumann, L. (2009). The Baumann skin-type indicator: a novel approach to understanding skin type. Handbook of Cosmetic Science and Technology, 3rd Edition, Informa Healthcare, New York, 29-40. 

  13. Baumann, L. (2008). Understanding and treating various skin types: the Baumann Skin Type Indicator. Dermatologic clinics, 26(3), 359-373.