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My Skin Cycling Routine to help my oily, acne-prone skin

Hi, welcome to my beauty blog. I am Rachael, and this is my beauty blog Written by Rachael on April 2023, last updated: January 2024

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I’ve incorporated skin cycling as my routine for a few months now. I decided to do a big skincare reset after getting home from my holiday in December where I experienced painful acne, caused (I’m 99% sure) by Elemis cleansing balm which triggered fungal-acne (although I haven’t been properly diagnosed).

My skin was red raw and covered in spots; some had white heads, others were just tiny painful bumps all over my forehead. Since I stopped using Elemis and reduced the number of products I use, my skin has completely changed, even before, after, and during my period when I’d normally get worse acne.

What is skin cycling?

It’s a night time routine where you use different products over 4 days. The goal with skin cycling is to improve your skin by:

  • reducing the number of products you are putting on your face
  • stopping overusing products that might be causing irritation
  • giving your skin time to breath after using harsh products, like retinol

Skin Cycling Routine – before and after

photo of my cheek with painful acne
Photo of my skin after holiday.- painful bumps
This was my skin after stopping using the Elemis, and just starting the Malezia
This was my skin after stopping using the Elemis, and just starting the Malezia with Skin Cycling
This was my skin after using Malezia for a few months - pic 3/4
This is my skin in April after using skin cycling routine for 4 months

What is an example of a skin cycling routine?

Skin cycling is a 4-day routine. If you start on a Monday, you will reset on Friday and start again.

Night 1 – exfoliate.

Night 2 – retinol

Nights 3 and 4 – moisturise.

I go into detail below what I do on each night, and also what my morning skincare routine looks like.

I use Malezia moisturiser after both nights following Exfoliating and Retinol

Night 1 – Exfoliate

Your first night is to exfoliate, which gets rid of all old and dead skin cells allowing products to get deeper into your skin and therefore work better.

This is the exfoliator I use – Paula’s Choice. It’s fantastic

My routine looks like this:

  1. Remove make up.
  2. Cleanse and tone skin. I use both Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4 followed by Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  3. Exfoliate using only a few drops. I use Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, which I find perfect on my oily and acne-prone skin. The day after using this product, my skin is GLOWING and spots are gone. I really love this product.
  4. After 10 minutes, I finish with a moisturiser

Night 2 – Retinol

Retinols can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, by restoring plumpness. They can be harsh, so go easy with it – only 1 or 2 drops of a low concentration to start with. I use Pixi Botanical Collagen & Retinol Serum.

This is the retinol I use on Night 2 – Pixi Botanical Collagen Retinol Serum

My routine looks like this (the same as Night 1 apart from number 3)

  1. Remove make up.
  2. Cleanse and tone skin. I use both Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4 followed by Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  3. Add a few Retinol drops, nabbing on gently. I use Pixi Botanical Collagen & Retinol Serum.
  4. After 10 minutes, I finish with a moisturiser if my skin is feeling dry – I don’t always do this though.

Night 3 and 4 – Moisturise and recovery

After nights 1 and 2, your skin needs a break from the harsh chemicals, so nights 3 and 4 are for deep moisturising.

My routine looks like this:

  1. Remove make up.
  2. Cleanse and tone skin. I use both Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4 followed by Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  3. Moisturise. I use Face Theory Supergel Oil-free Moisturiser M3 followed by a thicker moisturiser to keep everything in my skin – Malezia 5% Urea moisturiser.
This was my skin after stopping using the Elemis, and just starting the Malezia
My skin starting to improve after following skin cycling and using Malezia

Following day – start again, back to night 1 (unless you’re new to exfoliating/retinol, in which case I’d add on another recovery day to reduce any skin irritation).

How many products do you use in total during night skin cycling routine?

I use a total of 8 across the morning and evening but not using them all every day.

Every morning I use:

  • 1x Cleanser. I use Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4
  • 1x Toner. I use Face Theory Cera-C Pore Reducing Toner T1.
  • 1x Vitamin C. I use Face Theory Regena C30 Pro Vitamin C Serum with 30% Ethyl Ascorbic Acid
  • 1x Hyaluronic Acid. I use Face Theory Hylafecta 2% Hyaluronic Acid Serum S14
  • 1x Moisturiser. I use Face Theory Supergel Oil-free Moisturiser M3
  • 1x SPF. I use La Roche-Posay Anthelios 400 SPF50.

Night routine over the 4 nights includes:

  • 1x Retinol. I use Pixi Botanical Collagen & Retinol Serum.
  • 1x Exfoliator. I use Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
  • 1x Moisturiser. I use Malezia 5% Urea moisturiser plus sometimes the other one by Face Theory mentioned above if I feel my skin is needing even more moisture.

Do you moisturise every night with skin cycling?

I do personally, yes. After nights 1 and 2 of exfoliating and using retinol, I wait at least 10 minutes for the product to settle before moisturising.

I’m using 5% Urea moisturiser from Malezia as part of my routine. It’s one of my favourite skincare products. See my full review here.

How do you apply moisturiser when skin cycling?

If I’m using more than one moisturiser, I use the lightest/thinnest first followed by the thickest. This helps keep all products in your skin.

I use a pea-sized amount, and warm up for a few seconds between my clean fingers. Then I gently rub across my skin, patting the sensitive and thin skin around my eyes.

Does it change your morning routine?

No, skin cycling is for night time only. I don’t tend to change my morning routine no matter what day it is or what my skin is like.

My morning routine looks like this:

  1. Cleanse skin. I use Face Theory Freshening Face Wash C4.
  2. I then go in with a few drops of Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C. I’m using both Face Theory Hylafecta 2% Hyaluronic Acid Serum S14 and Regena C30 Pro Vitamin C Serum with 30% Ethyl Ascorbic Acid.
  3. Moisturise and bronzer – I use Face Theory Supergel Oil-free Moisturiser M3 mixed together with a bronzer. The bronzer I’m using is Indeed Labs Nanobronze Bronzing Drops. A tiny amount is all you’ll need.
  4. I finish with SPF. I’m currently using La Roche-Posay Anthelios 400 SPF50.

Does skin cycling routine actually work?

Yes. I will NEVER not use this routine to simplify my skincare. Not only has it massively improved my skin, it’s stopped me over-using products which has made it easier on my bank balance as I’m buying less!

Can you use face masks when skin cycling?

Yes of course! But if they are exfoliating, use them on night one instead of your normal exfoliator so you don’t over-exfoliate your skin. I personally use Sand and Sky pink clay (and Aldi’s £3 version!).

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