Winter Skin Cycling Routine, Care, and Tips

Winter brings with it a host of skin challenges. From dryness to redness, the cold weather can wreak havoc on your skin. But, have you ever heard of skin cycling? This concept, introduced by Dr. Whitney Bowe, could be the solution to your winter skin woes.

Skin cycling is a skincare approach that involves adjusting your skincare routine based on changes in your environment, diet, stress levels, and hormonal fluctuations. It’s about listening to your skin and giving it what it needs at any given time.

How does winter affect our skin health? Let’s take a scientific look.

How Winter Affects Skin Health?

Low Humidity and Dry Air

Harvard Health explains that the winter result is roughness, flaking, itching, cracking, and sometimes a burning sensation on skin.

In winter, the humidity levels drop, and the air becomes dry. This can strip the skin of its natural moisture, leading to dryness and flakiness.

The below figure show how the low humidity and dry air make our skin flacking and dry in scientifically.

winter effect on skin
Low humidity cause to loss the moisture on skin

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the skin’s water content tends to reflect the level of humidity around it, and in winter, both indoor and outdoor humidity is low.

This lack of moisture in the environment can accelerate water loss from the skin, especially when the lipid-rich “glue” that holds the skin cells together is loosened by factors such as sun damage, over-cleansing, scrubbing, or underlying medical conditions.

Cold Temperatures and Wind

Cold temperatures and wind can also have a detrimental effect on the skin. They can cause redness, irritation, and can exacerbate skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Changes in Skin Cell Turnover during Winter

Interestingly, studies have shown that skin cell turnover – the process by which our skin naturally exfoliates itself – can slow down during winter. This can lead to a buildup of dead skin cells, resulting in a dull complexion.

How to Create your Own Winter Skin Cycling Routine?

Identifying your skin type and concerns is the first step in creating any skincare routine.

Your skin type (oily, dry, combination, or sensitive) will determine the types of products you should use.

Dr. Whitney Bowe, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Whitney Bowe Beauty, suggests a four-night skin care regimen meant to reset your skin and strengthen its barrier.

This regimen, known as skin cycling, has gained popularity on social media platforms like TikTok for its simplicity and effectiveness. It will be discussed in the coming sections of the article.

Choose the Right Products

For winter, look for products that are hydrating and soothing.

Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin can help maintain skin hydration.

On the first night of the skin cycling routine, Dr. Bowe recommends using a gentle exfoliating serum rather than a watery toner or pad, which can be more drying for the skin.

Consider the Order of Application

Skincare products should be applied in order of their consistency – from thinnest to thickest.

After exfoliation, a fragrance-free moisturizer like the Dr. Whitney Bowe Beauty Bowe Glowe can be used to rebalance the microbiome and repair your skin barrier.

Adjust the Frequency of Use

Some products, like exfoliants, may need to be used less frequently in winter to prevent skin irritation.

On the second night, a retinoid is used. The choice of retinol should be based on your skin type and how adjusted your skin already is to retinol.

The Role of Nutrition in Winter Skincare

Nutrition also plays a crucial role in skin health.

Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins can help maintain skin health during winter.

How to Do Skin Cycling Routine step by step in the Winter?

Skin cycling is a skincare method that involves alternating between exfoliating and using retinoids on different nights.

Skin cycling can help to keep your skin hydrated and protected from the elements. Here is how to do skin cycling in the winter:

Exfoliation Night

On exfoliation night, use a gentle chemical exfoliator or a physical scrub to remove dead skin cells.

Be sure to follow with a hydrating moisturizer.

Retinoid Night

On retinoid night, use a prescription retinoid cream or serum.

Retinoids can help to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and acne.

Recovery Nights

On recovery nights, use a fragrance-free moisturizer with ingredients like ceramides, squalane, hyaluronic acid, prebiotics, and postbiotics.

It focuses on hydration and barrier repair on skin.

Repeat the Cycle

Repeat the exfoliation/retinoid/recovery cycle every 3-4 nights.

You can also do skin cycling on a weekly basis, if that works better for your schedule. Use a skin cycling calendar to avoid missing the steps of the routine.

Note: For more information about the four night skin cycling routines, read our complete guide “Four Day Skin Cycling: Routine, Pros and Cons“.

How to Care Your Skin during Winter?

Winter skin care involves protecting your skin from the harsh weather, keeping it hydrated, and preventing irritation and breakouts.

Here’s how:

  1. Protect your skin from the cold weather: Wear scarves, gloves, and hats to protect your skin from the cold and wind.
  2. Hydrate your skin: Use hydrating products and consider using a humidifier in your home to add moisture to the air.
  3. Prevent irritation and breakouts: Avoid harsh cleansers and exfoliants, and opt for gentle, hydrating products instead.

Specific Skincare Concerns during Winter

Winter can exacerbate certain skin concerns. Here’s how to address them:

Dry Skin and Flakiness

To prevent and treat dry patches, use a gentle exfoliant once a week and follow up with a hydrating moisturizer.

The below figure scientifically explain how moisturizers heal our skin from flacking and drying.

Healing skin with moisturizer
Healing dry skin with moisturizer

Chapped Lips and Lip Care

Use a lip balm with SPF during the day and a nourishing lip mask at night to keep your lips hydrated and protected.

Winter Acne and Breakouts

If you experience breakouts during winter, it could be due to the dry air causing your skin to produce more oil. Use non-comedogenic products and consider using a humidifier.

Treating Irritated and Sensitive Skin

If your skin becomes irritated or sensitive during winter, it’s essential to use gentle, fragrance-free products. Also, avoid hot showers as they can strip the skin of its natural oils.

Winter Skin Cycling Tips

Here are some additional tips for taking care of your skin in the winter:

  • Hydrate and drink enough water.
  • Avoid too hot showers and baths.
  • Avoid Harsh Cleansers
  • Use a humidifier in your home.
  • Apply a thick layer of moisturizer to your skin before bed.
  • Avoid touching your face throughout the day.
  • Troubleshoot skin cycling problems by adjusting your routine as needed.
  • Know when to stop skin cycling. If your skin becomes irritated or sensitive, it may be a sign that you need to simplify your routine.

Potential Risks of Winter Skin Cycling

Always do patch test before use new products

While skin cycling can be beneficial, it’s important to ensure it’s safe for your skin.

If you have a skin condition like eczema or rosacea, consult with a dermatologist before making any major changes to your skincare routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best skin care routine for winter?

The best skin care routine for winter will vary depending on your individual skin type and needs. However, some general tips include:

  • Use a gentle cleanser to remove dirt and oil without stripping your skin of its natural oils.
  • Apply a hydrating moisturizer to lock in moisture and prevent your skin from drying out.
  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Exfoliate regularly to remove dead skin cells and reveal fresh, new skin.
  • Use a serum or oil to target specific skin concerns, such as fine lines, wrinkles, or acne.

What should I use for skin cycling?

There are many different products that you can use for skin cycling. However, some of the most popular include:

  • Exfoliators:
    • Chemical exfoliators, such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid, are a good option for people with oily or acne-prone skin.
    • Physical exfoliators, such as scrubs or peels, are a good option for people with dry or sensitive skin.
  • Retinoids:
    • Prescription retinoids, such as adapalene or tretinoin, are the most effective form of retinoids for skin cycling.
    • Over-the-counter retinoids, such as retinol or retinyl palmitate, can also be used for skin cycling, but they may not be as effective as prescription retinoids.

How do I adjust my skin routine for winter?

As the weather gets colder, your skin may become drier and more sensitive. This means that you may need to adjust your skin care routine to accommodate these changes.

Here are some tips for adjusting your skin routine for winter:

  • Use a gentle cleanser that will not strip your skin of its natural oils.
  • Apply a more hydrating moisturizer to lock in moisture and prevent your skin from drying out.
  • Use a thicker sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from the cold weather.
  • Avoid using harsh exfoliators, as these can irritate your skin.
  • Consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.

By following these tips, you can help keep your skin healthy and hydrated during the winter months.


In conclusion, winter skin cycling can be a game-changer for maintaining healthy, glowing skin during the cold months.

By understanding how winter affects your skin and adjusting your skincare routine accordingly, you can keep your skin looking its best all season long.

Following a simple routine and incorporating some of the tips above can help your skin stay hydrated, healthy, and glowing all winter.

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