These days, “skin cycling” is all over the news and social media feeds. Skin cycling is the idea that active ingredients should rotate in and out of your regular nighttime skincare routine, allowing your face a “rest” period, if you want to avoid irritation. But while the trend may seem universal, it’s not universally loved. In fact, our dermatologist founder, Dennis Gross, MD, prefers “skin boosting” over skin cycling. “I don't like the concept of not using ingredients like retinol and acids daily,” Dr. Gross Says. “There is proof that incorporating these into your daily routine can have amazing benefits for skin. These products are designed for everyday use – using them less often isn't going to give you maximum results.”
What is skin boosting?
Skin boosting is the idea of adhering to your usual nightly routine and amping it up two or three times a week by adding a more potent version of your regular product that’s not formulated for daily application. It’s akin to interval training at the gym. Not many people can sprint flat out for 30 minutes. But sprinkle in some short sprints during a 30-minute workout, and, over time, you’ll find yourself going faster, even when you’re not sprinting.
Same concept here, except the benefit is better-looking skin (not increased physical fitness). By dropping in these bursts of concentrated active ingredients, you’ll see results such as a spike in collagen production, increased cell turnover, and improved radiance—but with a low likelihood subsequent irritation.
Why is skin boosting better than skin cycling?
Especially when talking about retinol, there’s a long-held belief that skin needs to suffer in order to produce improvements. Devotees of skin cycling would rather apply a higher concentration of an active like retinol every few days (due to a legitimate concern that such a potent formula could cause irritation if used daily), as opposed to selecting a lower percentage of an active and smoothing it on every single day (or night). But here’s the thing: With proper planning, you can drive the speed limit and arrive at your destination well before the appointed hour. Or you can leave at the last minute, floor the accelerator, and still possibly arrive in time—if you’re not pulled over and issued a speeding ticket, or get into a traffic accident, or worse. The end result is the same, but one way of getting there is a lot less dangerous and risky.
It’s pretty much a fact that almost everyone can use retinol daily, but not everyone can use the same strength of retinol every day. And as your skin becomes more accustomed to retinol (or any other potent active), you may be able to move up to a higher concentration without triggering irritation or inflammation. But the idea that you should use a highly irritating concentration every few days, as opposed to a lower, non-irritating one daily, is flawed because you miss out on the proven benefits of using ingredients like hydroxy acids and retinol every day.
Skin boosting is based around the idea that the ideal skincare routine centers on consistency. You already know that you’ll achieve better results if you use your Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro every day versus a couple of times a week. Skin boosting means sticking to the same daily products (at a potency level that won’t trigger irritation) and interspersing bursts of intensive treatments (just like your sprints on the treadmill). If one of your current skincare products is formulated for daily use, and it’s still irritating your face when you apply it that often, skin cycling is not the solution. Instead, you need to discontinue the item and find a replacement that doesn’t upset your skin.
What are skin boosters?
Skin boosters are any product specifically formulated for use three times a week, at most, due to its ingredient potency. Some examples are pro-level chemical peels (like our Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel), supercharged retinol treatments (try our Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Overnight Texture Renewal Peel), or intensive face masks.
How do I start skin boosting?
Begin by incorporating one booster into your weekly regimen and following the instructions on the label. (If they say it’s to be applied one to two times a week, don’t use it three times in seven days.) If you are using an intense version of a daily product as a booster, don’t double up. Instead, swap the booster into your routine as a replacement for that product. (For example, skip your usual Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel if you’re planning to do your Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Grade Resurfacing Liquid Peel that same evening.) The “red skin is a red flag” rule applies to booster products, too. If you’re experiencing even a hint of irritation, despite following the label’s instructions to the letter, then you need to stop that item and try something else.
After about a month, if you’re seeing results and no irritation, you can add a second, different booster on an alternate evening. But don’t go overboard—every night shouldn’t be a booster night (even if they’re not being used for the same end goal).
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