Dermatologists Explain Why Cellular Turnover Is Key for Healthy, Youthful Skin

Plus, we've included skincare products that help promote it.

If your skincare goals consist of reducing signs of aging (like fine lines, wrinkles, and dullness), then chances are you've heard of cellular turnover. If not, take a look at the back of your favorite anti-aging skincare products or read their product descriptions online; you'll likely see that they promote this process of cellular turnover. While the claim sounds good in theory, what does it mean?

After speaking with dermatologists, we learned that cellular turnover is very important to the overall health of our skin. Keep reading to learn more about cellular turnover, its benefits, and the types of skincare products that will stimulate the process.

What Is Cellular Turnover

"Cellular turnover is the biological process of shedding dead skin cells to replace existing skin cells with younger healthy cells," says Annie Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology. "If cellular turnover does not occur, you can have buildup, and the skin will not be as tight or shiny."

Cellular turnover is a process that happens naturally. However, as we age it slows down. Dr. Gonzalez says that skin turns over about every 14 days when we are children. "By the time you reach your 20s, skin cellular turnover reduces by 24 to 30 days," she says. And by the time we are in our 40s, our cells turn over every 45 to 60 days and extend to every 60 to 90 days as we continue to age, according to board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD.

In addition to aging, sun exposure, stress, and hormones affect this skin cycle, as well. "There is no right time to incorporate products that promote cellular turnover," says Dr. Gonzalez. "However, mid-20s would be a good idea to incorporate ingredients that increase cellular turnover, especially if you suffer from breakouts or pigmentation."

Benefits of Cellular Turnover

Because cellular turnover helps produce healthy, new skin cells, Dr. Hadley says it helps keep skin looking vibrant and youthful. "Cellular turnover reduces your risk of developing acne, and reduces the appearance of large pores, wrinkles, fine lines, and excess pigment," adds Dr. Gonzalez.

When cellular turnover becomes stagnant or slows down, concerns such as uneven texture, tone, milia, and acne can occur due to the accumulation of dead surface skin cells.

How Cellular Turnover Differs From Exfoliation

You're probably aware that exfoliation helps to remove dead surface skin cells to unveil a glowing, more smooth complexion. While the processes of exfoliating and cellular turnover are similar, exfoliation differs because it's the process of removing old skin cells through a tool, scrub, or chemical, explains Dr. Gonzalez.

"On the other hand, cell turnover happens naturally and is affected by various factors, including sun exposure, stress, hormones, diet, and overall health," she says. According to Dr. King, another way to think of it is exfoliation can help increase the natural process of cellular turnover.

Skincare Products That Promote Cellular Turnover

When you're shopping for skincare products that promote cellular turnover, look for ingredients such as retinol, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), like lactic acid, and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), like salicylic acid. "Retinol, AHAs, and BHAs can help remove the top layers of the skin and promote cellular turnover," says Dr. Gonzalez.

For those who can't use retinol due to its high potency, bakuchiol is a plant-based alternative that's great for sensitive skin types. The iNNBEAUTY Project Slushy Serum Moisturizer Crush ($22, is infused with bakuchiol and hyaluronic acid to visibly improve the look of fine lines and large pores. Dr. Gonzalez says niacinamide and hyaluronic acid also help stimulate cellular turnover, which are skin-benefiting ingredients all skin types can use. The EADEM Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum ($68, is a great formula that infuses niacinamide, vitamin C, and fruit enzymes to resurface the skin and fade dark spots.

So the next time you're out skincare buying, keep an eye out for these ingredients to keep your skin healthy, plump, and glowing.

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