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Worth Repeating: Why (and How) You and Your Clients Should Try Skin Cycling

Skin cycling, a TikTok trend in which you rotate through different skin care actives across four nights, gained major popularity in 2022 and shows no signs of slowing down. A more minimalist skin care trend, skin cycling has been touted for its ability to transform the complexion, from diminishing acne and redness to delivering a filter-worthy glow. The skin cycling hashtag has some 3.5 billion views (and counting), which means that you will no doubt be hearing about it from your facial clients in the near future—if you haven't already. Here's what you need to know.

Skin Cycling Protocol

Luckily, skin cycling is similar to at-home recommendations that spa pros already give their guests. For example, when a client uses a retinol for the first time, estheticians offer guidelines for starting slow, such as applying it once every couple of days (or less) to allow their skin to acclimate and avoid irritation.

The trend was started by New York-based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., who shared her recommended routine on social media. Skin cycling is a four-night skin care regimen that gently introduces active ingredients in a way that maximizes their benefits. By rotating and giving the complexion "rest days," people can avoid overdoing it with potent actives like exfoliants and retinoids while still reaping the benefits.

Night 1: Exfoliant

The first night is all about exfoliation. After cleansing, a chemical exfoliant containing AHAs, BHAs or PHAs is applied, followed by a moisturizer. This is a great opportunity for estys to create a customized regimen based on their clients' needs. So, if their primary concern is acne, suggest a BHA (like EB Aloe Salicylic Toner which helps remove dead skin cells); if they're looking for smoother skin, an AHA like Glycagel would be ideal.

Night 2: Retinol

On Night 2, the person cleanses and applies a vitamin A product to the entire face, neck and décolleté. Whether they use a prescription retinoid, or a more gentle, over-the-counter retinol depends on the client's skin tolerance and sensitivity.

If they are totally new to retinol, estheticians should use their usual guidance or even recommend retinol sandwiching in more sensitive areas to prevent over-drying. Meanwhile, guests looking for a natural alternative to clinical retinol products may want to try a plant-based vitamin A formulation or a product formulated with bakuchiol instead.

Night 3: Moisturize

On the third day, clients should just cleanse and moisturize. Products should be hydrating and free of the actives from Nights 1 and 2. According to Dr. Bowe, clients should apply a serum featuring hyaluronic acid, glycerin or niacinamide, followed by a moisturizer; she recommends rosehip oil or squalane for those with super dry skin.

Night 4: Moisturize

The fourth day is a repeat of the third, where the person cleanses, then applies a hydrating serum and moisturizer. These "rest days" give the complexion a break from the exfoliation and retinol, allowing it to heal. This is also a great way to protect the natural skin barrier and avoid the potential irritation and dryness that can arise from using such active ingredients.

The good news is that this regimen is relatively easy to keep up. Estheticians can capitalize on the skin cycling trend by offering expert guidance for each spa guest, which not only customizes their treatments but ultimately optimizes their results. You can even put together skin cycling bundles for different skincare concerns and offer these to clients or suggest a create-your-own-option for their skincare products.

article excerpted from Wellspa 360 online magazine 2023.


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