You might have heard the saying that every seven years, all the cells in your body turn over, making you — in a sense — a ‘completely new person’. But that made us ask, “why doesn’t our skin follow suit?” I mean, shouldn’t we be able to shed those dead skin cells, creating a new, acne-free blank slate?
Well… not really. Because cell turnover is affected by a variety of factors, you can’t always guarantee that your skin will become clear with the simple passing of time.
Breaking down the basics.
Skin cell turnover is the process of creating new skin cells to replace existing ones. Skin cells are constantly exposed to wear and tear (UV, sun, wind, dryness, etc.), so the body needs to constantly produce a new supply of skin cells. During the cell turnover process, cells move up from the deepest or bottom layer (called the basal layer). As the cells move up to the top layers, they harden and die off, and your body replaces the dead skin cells with new ones. This process is called natural exfoliation and it is a continuous process that lasts for the entirety of your life.
What slows cell turnover?
Skin cell turnover is affected by a variety of factors, including diet, hormones, stress, sun damage and overall health. Age is another big factor in determining cell turnover. As we age, it takes longer to replace old skin cells with new ones. On average it takes 40-60 days for your epidermis to completely turn over, but that timeline lengthens as we get older. And when it takes longer for your body to replace existing skin cells with new ones, dead skin cells can then linger on the skin and create a “dull” appearance.
How does acne play into this?
A slower skin cell turnover cycle can also affect your risk of developing acne. Acne can develop when a combination of dead skin cells and sebum collect and get trapped inside hair follicles or pores. As the skin cells and oil build up inside the follicle, it can get clogged, causing breakouts to occur. Whiteheads and blackheads form when the pores are clogged.
What can I do to promote healthy skin turnover?
Promoting a healthy skin cell turnover process is important in treating acne as well as hyperpigmentation, dull and uneven skin tone. Dr. Robin Schaffran, BalmLabs’ Co-founder and Chief Dermatologist, recommends chemical exfoliation (ClearBalm Power Elixir) over physical exfoliants that contain friction-inflicting ingredients (ie microbeads), which can cause microtears on the surface of the skin. Chemical exfoliants promote natural turnover by breaking down the glue that bonds cells together.