Four Day Skin Cycling: Routine, Pros and Cons

Skincare has evolved over the years, with various routines and products promising radiant and youthful skin. One such innovative approach is the “Four Day Skin Cycling.”

This article delves deep into the concept, its routine, and the pros and cons associated with it.

What is the Four Day Skin Cycle?

The Four Day Skin Cycling is a skincare regimen that focuses on a specific skincare action for each day, spread over four days. It’s not just a trend but a scientifically backed approach that many dermatologists, including Dr. Whitney Bowe, endorse.

The origin of this concept is rooted in the understanding of our skin’s needs and how different products can cater to those needs without overwhelming the skin.

The Four Day Skin Cycle Routine

The four-day skin cycling is a skincare routine that rotates between different active ingredients on a four-day schedule. The four days are:

Night 1: Exfoliation

Night 2: Retinoids

Night 3: Recovery

Night 4: Recovery

Let’s look at each skin cycling nights with descriptive explanations.

Day 1: Exfoliation Night

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin.

This process is crucial for unclogging pores and allowing other skincare products to penetrate deeper into the skin. Dr. Whitney Bowe, a renowned dermatologist, emphasizes the importance of choosing the right exfoliating serum.

If you experience any burning sensation, it’s crucial to wash it off immediately. A slight tingling sensation is normal but isn’t necessary for the product to be effective1.

Dr. Bowe recommends opting for chemical exfoliating products over harsh physical scrubs. These two main exfoliation methods has been mentioned in the figure below.

chemical exfoliating vs. physical exfoliating
Chemical exfoliating vs. Physical exfoliating

Chemical exfoliants, unlike gritty scrubs, can provide an immediate glow to the skin and prepare it for the next step in the cycle.

Here are some recommended products to try for your exfoliation night considering your skin type.

All Skin Types:

Youth To The People Kombucha + 10% AHA Liquid Exfoliant with Lactic Acid & Glycolic Acid is excellent for all skin types as it contains glycolic acid, which stimulates collagen production. It’s liquid-based, ensuring a smooth application without any gritty feeling. The product is also fragrance-free, making it suitable for sensitive skin.

Dry skin:

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution is a gentle chemical exfoliant that can help to remove dead skin cells and reveal brighter, smoother skin.

Oily skin:

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is a more potent chemical exfoliant that can help to control oil production and prevent breakouts.

Combination skin:

Pixi Glow Tonic is a gentle chemical exfoliant that is suitable for both dry and oily skin. It can help to remove dead skin cells and improve the overall appearance of the skin.

Sensitive Skin:

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse Gentle Exfoliating Cleanser is gentle and oil-free. It lathers into a creamy foam, leaving the skin softer and brighter. It’s free from synthetic micro-beads, ensuring a gentle exfoliation experience.

Below figure shows all products which have mentioned as options to use for exfoliation night.

Skincare products for Exfoliation Night
Skincare products for Exfoliation Night

Day 2: Retinoid Night

Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A and are known for their powerful skincare benefits.

They play a pivotal role in minimizing pores, smoothing skin texture, and preventing breakouts.

Additionally, retinoids can reverse signs of aging in the skin, such as dark spots and wrinkles.

It’s essential to start with a gentle over-the-counter retinol or retinal before transitioning to prescription-strength retinoids.

Dr. Bowe suggests that while some people can tolerate retinoids more frequently than others, most individuals find that using them too often or layering them with other potentially irritating ingredients can lead to skin irritation rather than desired results.

Read our special article “Best retinol for skin cycling” to select perfect retinol product for your skin cycling routine.

Here are some recommended products to try for your retinoid night considering your skin type.

All Skin Types:

Farmacy 1% Vitamin A Retinol Serum is lightweight and contains a safe amount of retinol, especially for those new to retinoids. It’s 100% clean, ensuring no harmful chemicals touch your skin.

Dry skin:

Differin Gel is a retinoid that is gentle enough for dry skin. It can help to improve the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and acne.

Oily skin:

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion is a more potent retinoid that can be used for oily skin. It can help to improve the appearance of acne scars and reduce the appearance of pores.

Combination skin:

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a retinoid that is suitable for both dry and oily skin. It can help to improve the overall appearance of the skin, including wrinkles, fine lines, and acne.

Sensitive Skin or Those Pregnant/Nursing:

Alpyn Beauty Wild Nettle & Niacinamide Instant Firming Serum is luxurious and contains nettle and niacinamide. It’s a clean beauty product with an elegant applicator, ensuring easy application.

Day 3&4: Recovery Night

After the intensive treatments of the previous days, the skin requires time to recover. These two days are dedicated to allowing the skin to rest and rejuvenate.

Using a nourishing cream can aid in repairing the skin barrier and rebalancing the skin microbiome.

The concept of recovery is intuitive. Just as our muscles need recovery days and our minds benefit from downtime, our skin also thrives when given time to recover.

Overloading the skin with potent ingredients daily can lead to injury, not rejuvenation.

By focusing on hydration and essential nutrients during recovery days, the skin is better prepared for the next cycle.

Read our special article “Skin cycling recovery night” before schedule your recovery night products for your skin cycling routine.

Here are some recommended products to try for your recovery nights considering your skin type.

All Skin Types:

Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum contains squalane, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin — three hydrating ingredients recommended for skin recovery. It also offers a plumping finish, perfect after cleansing.

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 is a non-greasy balm that can help to soothe and repair dry, irritated skin. It is also a good option for those who are using retinol, as it can help to reduce the risk of irritation.

Dry Skin:

Kiehl’s Since 1851 Ultra Facial Moisturizing Cream with Squalane is rich in squalane and is fragrance-free. It’s especially beneficial during the winter months when the skin needs extra hydration.

Sensitive Skin:

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion from a best-seller from Clinique, this lotion is fragrance-free and contains hyaluronic acid. It’s widely recommended for dry skin and has been a trusted product for years.

Note: that these are just a few suggestions for skin cycling products. The best products for you will depend on your individual skin type and needs.

It is always a good idea to consult with a dermatologist before starting a new skincare routine.

Pros of the Four Day Skin Cycle

1. Increased efficacy of active ingredients

By dedicating a day to a specific action, the skin can absorb and benefit more from each product.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, layering too many products at once can reduce their efficacy.

By focusing on one active ingredient per day, each product can penetrate the skin more effectively, ensuring maximum benefits.

2. Reduced irritation

Spreading out potentially irritating products over days reduces the chances of overwhelming the skin.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that overuse of active ingredients, especially in combination, can lead to skin irritation.

By spacing them out, the skin gets a break, reducing the risk of redness, peeling, or burning.

3. Improved skin barrier function

The recovery days help in repairing and strengthening the skin barrier.

The skin barrier, according to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, plays a crucial role in protecting the skin from external aggressors.

By giving it time to recover, you’re ensuring it remains robust and resilient.

4. Clearer, brighter, more radiant skin

Regular exfoliation and use of retinoids contribute to a clearer and more radiant complexion.

The British Journal of Dermatology has highlighted that retinoids can reduce acne and improve collagen production, leading to brighter skin.

Cons of the Four Day Skin Cycle

1. Takes more time and effort

Committing to a four-day routine requires dedication and consistency. Unlike simpler routines where you might use the same products daily, this method requires you to remember which day corresponds to which treatment, potentially complicating your skincare regimen.

2. May not be suitable for everyone

People with specific skin conditions or sensitivities might need to adjust the routine. For instance, those with eczema or rosacea might find daily exfoliation too harsh, as noted by the National Eczema Association.

3. Can be expensive

Investing in quality products for each day can be heavy on the pocket. A survey by SkinStore found that the average woman’s daily skincare routine costs about $8, but this can increase significantly when incorporating multiple high-quality products for a specialized routine like the Four Day Skin Cycle.


The Four Day Skin Cycle is a comprehensive approach to skincare, ensuring that the skin gets the best of each product without the risk of irritation. While it might seem daunting initially, the results, as many have testified, are worth the effort.

If you’re looking to revamp your skincare routine, this might be the change you need. Remember, every skin is unique. It’s essential to listen to your skin and adjust the routine as necessary.

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