Thinking of Trying Skin Cycling? Here are 10 Products to Get You Started

by Christopher Ehlers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday August 14, 2022

Thinking of Trying Skin Cycling? Here are 10 Products to Get You Started
  (Source:Getty Images)

Last week, I wrote about the TikTok-hot trend of skin cycling that has all who try it raving about the results.

Dr. Whitney Bowe may not have invented the idea of skin cycling, but she's definitely the one that went viral for doing it on TikTok. In short, skin cycling involves using a chemical exfoliator on night one, a retinoid on night two, and then two nights of an ultra-soothing recovery routine. Not only will you get the most out of your products this way, Bowe claims, but you will reduce the frustrating irritation that can sometimes come along with using potent products like exfoliants and retinoids.

If you're thinking about giving this derm-loved nighttime routine a go, here are five exfoliants and five retinoids that earn top marks from EDGE:

The Exfoliants

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel

Available in three different strengths, this OG peel has been number one for decades, and that's because it's simply the best product of its kind on the market. This potent combination of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids work together to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, acne scars, pigmentation, and pores. There is some retinol in this peel, but this is the product I use for cycling my own skin and it's never looked brighter or clearer. Still, those with sensitive skin may want to opt for the sensitive skin peel, at least when starting out. $88, lovelyskin.com.

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum

This lightweight, leave-on serum should be the first thing you put on your skin on your exfoliating night. Combining glycolic, tartaric, citric, and salicylic acids, T.L.C. Framboos will gently and effectively exfoliate the skin while you sleep. It also contains raspberry fruit extract, which helps to rehydrate and soothe the skin. $90, sephora.com.

Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Amino Acid Exfoliating Peel Pads

Enriched with peptide-building amino acids, this mighty peel contains a 20% exfoliating complex that will leave your skin looking smooth and tight. While the percentage of skin exfoliating goodness is on the high side, this is a rinse-off peel, so it's not actually on your skin for more than a few minutes. Plus, it contains chamomile and green tea to help soothe and calm. $55, sephora.com.

SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight Exfoliating Treatment

If your skin is on the oilier side, a high potency leave-on treatment like this one from SkinCeuticals is the way to go. This scientifically advanced treatment boasts "a free acid value" of 10% glycolic acid, which means that the product is formulated with a pH that ensures that the acid can live up to its fullest strength potential. In addition to glycolic acid, this also includes 2% phytic acid which further promotes skin clarity and brightness. $84, lovelyskin.com.

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One AHA Lactic Acid Treatment

This product is different from others on this list in that it uses a single acid — lactic — to do all the work. While the lactic acid exfoliates the surface layers of the skin, licorice and lemongrass brighten the skin and reduce dark spots, while prickly pear extract calms redness. Impressively, in a clinical study, 100% of users said that it was the most effective skin-plumping product they had ever used. $85, sephora.com.

The Retinols

OBAGI Clinical Retinol 0.5 Retexturizing Cream

If you're new to retinol, starting with a lower dose is the way to go, and this OBAGI Clinical classic is a foolproof way to get started. This contains entrapped retinol, which is essentially time-released, which cuts down on irritation. In addition to chamomile, green tea, and white tea extracts to soothe the skin, it contains hyaluronic acid, which adds an instant boost of hydration. Once you make it through one entire tube of 0.5% retinol, you should be able to upgrade to a 1.0% formula. $61, lovelyskin.com.

Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Overnight Wrinkle Treatment

This is a powerful retinol serum that harnesses the power of both retinol and bakuchiol to transform the skin. Bakuchiol is a popular retinol alternative that is shown to be as effective as retinol without the irritation. By combining it with retinol in one serum, collagen production is further boosted, and wrinkles and sun damage will be lessened exponentially. Not only does this serum work, but it works fast in comparison to other over-the-counter retinols that I've tried. $85, sephora.com.

Shani Darden Retinol Reform Treatment Serum

Created by celebrity skincare guru to the stars Shani Darden, this is the product that put her on the map. Containing encapsulated retinol to minimize irritation, this serum is super gentle, and is the perfect retinol product for those with extremely sensitive skin. $88, sephora.com.

SkinMedica Retinol Complex 1.0

Either the 0.5 or the 1.0 retinols from SkinMedica are worth the splurge, but the 1.0 is a worthy product if your skin is ready for it. While a lot of high-dose retinols cause flaking, redness, and irritation, this formulation — from the makers of Botox — contains antioxidants to soothe the skin and bisabolol to calm inflammation and irritation. And with one pump for your entire face every four days, this product will last for a while. $96, lovelyskin.com.

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream

When Drunk Elephant was first launched, their anti-retinol stance made them something of an outlier in the skincare community. Thankfully, they eventually came around and removed retinol from their infamous hit list of ingredients to avoid. The result? This terrific retinol serum that utilizes a triple peptide blend to firm and strengthen while the retinol does the heavy lifting. $74, sephora.com.