How To Introduce Retinoids Into Your Skincare Routine

How To Introduce Retinoids Into Your Skincare Routine

Learn the Skin Cycling method for a kinder, gentler way to introduce Aqua A — and any other powerful skincare actives — into your routine.

Vitamin A derivatives are some of the most powerfully transformative skincare ingredients available — enhancing cellular turnover to clear breakouts, smooth wrinkles, increase collagen, boost hydration, revitalize the complexion and more. Our Aqua A Retinoid Renewing Serum delivers the benefits of vitamin A without the irritation, and is gentle enough for daily use thanks to the low-irritation HPR retinoids that power its formula (learn all about those HERE). 

But even with retinoid products as gentle as Aqua A, slow and steady is always the best approach for introducing stronger skincare actives or exfoliants into your routine. Developing a good skincare schedule or “skin cycling” can make all the difference in avoiding irritation from too many treatments or overwhelming your skin with too much too soon. 

What is Skin Cycling?

A skincare schedule divides your week into targeted treatment days for retinoids and exfoliants and rest days for nourishing and moisturizing. This has long been a rule of thumb in skincare, but a new trend called "Skin Cycling,” coined by dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, has brought this practice into the mainstream. We love this trend, and believe the beauty of Dr. Bowe's Skin Cycling method is in its simplicity and accessibility - it's easy to understand, easy to put into practice, and easy on the skin.

If you’re looking for the best way to try Skin Cycling and introduce Aqua A (or any other actives) into your routine — use this skincare schedule as your guide and be sure to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of the page.

Note: this schedule is only for PM, because that’s the only time we recommend using your retinoids! 

Simplified 4-Day PM Skin Cycling Schedule

Perfect for: those newer to skincare and those looking for a pared-down set of products to meet their daily needs.

Note: we recommend double cleansing, especially to thoroughly remove any makeup, SPF, sweat and impurities accrued throughout the day. If you only have one cleanser, it's perfectly fine to use it twice!

Day 1: Exfoliate

Cleanse with Pamplemousse, exfoliate with Honey Love, and moisturize with Bless Balm.

Day 2: Retinoid

Cleanse with Pamplemousse, treat with Aqua A Retinoid Renewing Serum, and moisturize with Bless Balm.

Day 3: Rest + Replenish

Cleanse with Pamplemousse, nourish and calm the skin with Happy Hour Serum, and moisturize with Bless Balm.

Day 4: Moisturize + Glow

Cleanse with Pamplemousse, brighten and glow with Siren Serum, and moisturize with Bless Balm.

Customize Your Skin Cycle Routine!

Days 3 and 4 are the perfect time to add mask treatments into your schedule. We love Mermaid Mask on Day 3, and Meli Glow on Day 4.

Mix up your double cleanses! We love using Kalima on day 4 for a boost of glow power.

Add on a day of deep purification and pore cleansing with Kokoleka! Use her once every other cycle on day 4, or add an additional day 5 to your cycle. For those with sensitive skin add an additional day of renewal before starting the cycle over again.

Aqua A Skin Cycling FAQs

Why double cleanse? 

At Leahlani, we’re big believers in the importance of the double cleanse – one round to remove makeup, SPF & impurities and one round to deep clean and prep the skin. It’s an optional extra step, but it helps prime your skin to maximize the benefits of your other products (and it also feels amazing!).

Exfoliation vs Retinols

A key strategy in creating a good skin cycling schedule is to separate your exfoliation and retinol days to avoid over-stripping your skin. It’s a common misconception that retinoids are exfoliators — they’re not!  Retinols do enhance cell turnover at a faster pace to help generate heavier skin cells — but they do not break down the 'glue' between skin cells  and remove buildup like exfoliants.

How often can I use Aqua A?

Aqua A is gentle enough to be used daily in your PM routine, as long as it's not combined with other strong actives in the same ritual. However, if you’re new to retinoids, we recommend introducing Aqua A slowly - either every other night for the first few weeks to see how your skin acclimates, or with the Skin Cycling method.

Should Aqua A be used in the AM, PM or both? 

Because Retinoids may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, we recommend using PM only — and make sure to wear a daily SPF!

When should Aqua A be applied in my routine?

Apply to clean, dry skin in the PM. Then follow it up with your serums, elixirs, and moisturizers.

Are there any Leahlani products that should NOT be used in the same routine (aka immediately before or after) Aqua A? 

Avoid using any physical exfoliators like Honey Love or Kokoleka in the same ritual as Aqua A. Also steer clear of any other “chemical exfoliant” products with strong AHAs and BHAs when using Aqua A to prevent potential irritation or damage.

Have other questions about Aqua A? Head over to our Aqua A FAQ Page or connect with our estheticians at for further guidance.

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