Skin Cycling & Slugging: What is and How to with the Best (Safer) Products

I’ve been skin cycling before TikTok made it cool. I didn’t even know it had a name! In fact, I frequently answer questions about what I rotate and why – so I figured it was a great time to walk you through it here. And, bonus – it also includes my hack for safer skin slugging.

What is Skin Cycling

Skin cycling has taken the beauty space by storm over the past year! With over 130 Million TikTok views, this technique has helped countless people start, re-do, and optimize their skin care routine. It is simple because it’s literally a step-by-step process.

“The concept applies to a nighttime skincare routine which involves using active ingredients only on certain days, and following them with ‘rest’ days,” explains Dr Alexis Granite. “A four-day cycle is the most popular, which typically comprises using active ingredients for two nights of the week, followed by two nights of rest – and repeating.” [source]

Where the traditional Skin Cycle is 4 days, we modify without the use of Retinol and add a Prep step – because all proper skincare routines need Wash, Prep, Treat and Protect steps. All Skin Cycling recommendations I’ve seen are skipping a critical prep step! Prepping the skin allows it to absorb the serum that follows better. Think of a dry sponge absorbing a lotion – it just sits on top. While one that is already moist will allow the lotion to melt in. That’s what we want!

That said, these skincare routines are for those who really want to dial-in their skincare. It’s not for beginners and not necessary! If you want help coming up with a more simple routine for you, I’d be happy to help – e-mail me: stacy@realeverything.com

Why No Retinol

Retinol used to be a tool used by professional dermatologists. Over time it has become a popular ingredients in over-the-counter skincare products. Many consumers believe this is because it’s safe. However, this is permissible because the laws and regulation around personal care products overall hasn’t been updated since 1938 – before it was a known ingredient. All 5 ingredients with a retinol base rated a high risk by EWG’s Skin Deep database. In fact, data from an FDA study indicate that retinoid ingredients may speed the development of skin tumors as well as lesions on sun-exposed skin. Regular application may contribute to excessive Vitamin A intake, creating both developmental and reproductive toxicity risks as well as use restrictions.

Instead of using Retinol, in our Skin Cycling routine we’re using EWG Verified Beautycounter Countertime line, which has the lowest risk identified by EWG.

 

What is Skin Slugging

Another popular TikTok trend, Skin Slugging is also making the rounds with over 17M videos. The concept is to slather an occlusive “slime” (like from a slug, I imagine is where it comes from) on top of your skincare routine to lock-in moisture at night. This is a great concept, except that truly occlusive ingredients will then clog the pores. Our skin needs to breath to allow proper cellular turnover.

Not to mention, the problem with most skin slugging is that a) using a petroleum-based product is not something I recommend. But, as I outline in my 8 Reasons Petroleum Jelly has NO place in Your Lives and What to Use Instead, I do have another alternative that I am incorporate into the skin cycle below! And b) it’s not right for all skin types. I find that dry skin benefits from Slugging twice a week when combined with an Overnight Resurfacing Peel (allowing the skin to exfoliate first), then nourish with a serum, before locking that in with a breathable balm.

How to Skin Cycle & Slug

The idea is that adopting a skin cycling routine can help prevent the skin barrier being compromised due to overuse of active ingredients – plus, it’s a great way to create a consistent and effective routine that helps the skin work optimally. The New York-based dermatologist behind the concept is Dr Whitney Bowe, who shared her vision for the ultimate skin cycling routine on TikTok.

Bowe said she is planning a study to test and measure the results of skin cycling as well. She said she started developing her skin-cycling routine a couple of years ago when she noticed people were taking a “kitchen-sink approach to their skin care.” Her patients were layering ingredients that weren’t “designed to work well together” or buying products with the highest percentage of certain ingredients, opting for a “more is better” approach. [source]

For my recommended slugging, you will wash, prep, and treat the skin as usual. Then, instead of a water-based lotion you’ll use an oil-based balm (Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm uses vitamin E-rich Mango Butter). Put a pea sized amount of balm in your palm, rub together to distribute evenly on hands, then press into face. Don’t rub, just allow it to sit on skin as an overnight mask.

My Recommendations with the Best Safer Products

My experience with thousands of clients with whom I have worked with aligns more with the concept outlined in a New York Times article:

Dr. Kikam prefers a five-night cycle. Hesitant about recommending back-to-back active ingredients, she urges people to take an extra recovery night between exfoliation and retinol nights… Dr. Hirsch has a more conservative stance on active ingredients. Dr. Hirsch tells patients not to chemically exfoliate if they’re already using a retinoid regularly. [source]

I think by avoiding Retinol, instead using a less harsh RetiNatural for the same results, we can then add in other exfoliants into our routine – like AHA-based Toner and Overnight Peel to optimize results without overwhelming the skin.

NOTE: only ever use one AHA/BHA per day. If you use a Peel don’t also use the Mask or Toner.

Here’s my recommendation for dry skin:

How to tell if you have dry skin: if your skin is combination skin (with oily T-zone), if you have rosacea, dermatitis, or any skin condition that causes redness, if your skin feels tight or flakes in any areas, then you likely have dry skin. The key to success in repairing it to be hydrated and glowing means we need to focus on repairing the moisture barrier, when your skin can allow proper moisture in and out your skin will experience less flares of dryness.  Thus, this is why Skin Cycling & Slugging is especially effective for dry skin.

Dry Skin Routine:

Check out the morning recommended dry skin products below HERE!
Check out the nighttime recommended dry skin products below HERE!

To simplify, in the mornings you’re only rotating your serums to support the intended task:

  • All Bright C Serum supports increased cell turnover by synthesizing with collagen for productive exfoliation on day 1.
  • Day 2 is focused on RetiNatural Complex with Radiance serum both AM and PM with the added bonus of the AHA Toner, which provides quick chemical exfoliation before applying the serum.
  • For repair, the Vitamin C-rich serum is back combined with Vitmain E-rich Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm.
  • Then the last day, let your skin calm down with Countermatch’s Intense Moisture Serum before rotating the routine again.

I recommend that most people use Countertime Soft Cream + Brightening Facial Oil in the evenings for the best results. If you have extremely dry skin, you may prefer Countertime Supreme Cream.

In the evenings you’re

DAY 1, AM:

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – All Bright C Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 1

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Overnight Resurfacing Peel
  • Protect – Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream

DAY 2, AM:

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – All Bright Triple Acid AHA Toner
  • Treat – Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 2

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – All Bright Triple Acid AHA Toner
  • Treat – Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum
  • Protect – Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream

DAY 3, AM:

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – All Bright C Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 3

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Overnight Resurfacing Peel
  • Protect – Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm

DAY 4, AM:

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 4

  • Wash – Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum
  • Protect – Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream

Here’s my recommendation for blemish-prone skin:

How to tell if you have blemish-prone skin: you may have blemishes from a dry skin condition that causes flaking of skin to clog pores, from oily skin that clogs pores, from sensitivities that cause irritation, or from internal reasons (like inflammation or hormones) – or a combination thereof. The key to success in repairing it to be clarified and balanced means we need to focus on repairing the moisture barrier. Indeed, when skin cracks it allows bacteria in which results in blemishes. This is why Skin Cycling & Slugging is especially effective for blemish-prone skin.

Blemish-Prone Routine:

Check out the recommended morning blemish-prone products below HERE!
Check out the recommended nighttime blemish-prone products below HERE!

To simplify, we’ve reduced 2 sluggings in 8 days to 1 so that it doesn’t become occlusive for blemish-prone skin. In the mornings you’re adding an SPF-based moisturizer because the mineral-based formula uses Zinc, which is anti-inflammatory. Otherwise, you’re really only rotating your serums to support the intended task:

  • All Bright C Serum supports increased cell turnover by synthesizing with collagen for productive exfoliation on day 1. For blemish-prone skin I recommend this only when combined with the Brightening Facial oil to ensure the skin’s pH isn’t disrupted and moisture barrier protected.
  • Day 2 is focused on RetiNatural Complex with Radiance serum both AM and PM.
  • For repair, the Countermatch’s Intense Moisture Serum is calming combined with Vitmin E-rich Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm.
  • Then the last day, let your skin calm down with that same serum before rotating the routine again.

I recommend that most people use Countertime Soft Cream + Brightening Facial Oil in the evenings for the best results. I do not recommend Countertime Supreme Cream for blemish-prone skin.

DAY 1 & 5, AM:

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – All Bright C Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 1 & 5

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Overnight Resurfacing Peel
  • Protect – Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream

DAY 2 & 6, AM:

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – All Bright Triple Acid AHA Toner
  • Treat – Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 2 & 6

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – All Bright Triple Acid AHA Toner
  • Treat – Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum
  • Protect – Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream

DAY 3, AM:

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 3 

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum
  • Protect – Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream

DAY 4 & 7, AM:

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Countermatch Intense Moisture Serum
  • Protect – Dew Skin or Countersun Daily Sheer Defense

Night 4 & 7

  • Wash – Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser
  • Prep – Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence
  • Treat – Overnight Resurfacing Peel
  • Protect – Lotus Glow Cleansing Balm

If you have very sensitive, very dry, very blemish-prone skin then I’d love to help you 1:1. E-mail Stacy@RealEverything.com and we can customize a routine that’s right for you (free).

 

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