Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed your skin is looking dull? One of the reasons why our skin starts to dull is because we shed 30,000-40,000 skin cells per minute! Let's break this down even further. A typical human will shed between 1.8 - 2.4 million skin cells an hour and around 43 -57 million skin cells per day! To further help you understand what this means and why it is so important for healthy skin, the optimal skin cell turnover is every 14-28 days. Within this time frame, your skin should completely turnover, shed, and new skin cells replace the old skin cells. This cellular turnover keeps your skin looking smooth and healthy. The cellular turnover is vitally important because our skin is exposed to wear and tear. The wear and tear could result from pollution, oxidative stress, UV radiation, wind damage, physical injury from scratches or bruises, rashes, bacteria and fungus. To protect our skin from damage and keep it healthy, our body is constantly producing a new supply of skin cells. So, the question is if we are shedding all these skin cells, why would our skin not look bright and refreshed?
As we age, it takes longer for your body to turn over the dead skin cells and replace the old skin cells with new. By the time we are 30 years old, our skin starts to turn over every 28-45 days, 45-60 days by the time we are 40, and by the time we hit our 60s, skin will turnover every 60-90+ days. How does the slowing down of the cellular turnover affect the appearance of your skin? This means dead skin cells are sitting on the surface of the skin. The accumulation of dead skin cells increases wrinkling, sagging, crepiness, acne, hyperpigmentation and other visible signs of aging. Your body is always producing new cells and trying to replace dead skin cells. If the cellular turnover slows, the dead skin cells accumulate on the surface of the skin. To prevent the accumulation of dead skin cells as we age, our skin needs to be exfoliated to help bring new skin cells to the surface. Exfoliation can be impacted by age, hormones, sleep, stress, sun exposure, and the overall health of your skin.
When skin cells are not turning over as quickly as they once did, it also increases the chance of the accumulation of bacteria on the surface layers. This accumulation of bacteria leads to blemishes and acne. Hyperpigmentation can also occur when the patches of dead skin cells start to darken. This is most common in older skin cells which produce excess amounts of melanin. The hyperpigmentation will cause certain areas of the skin to darken leaving the rest of the skin much lighter.
Our skin requires a good amount of maintenance to look, feel and function properly. As the skin's cellular turnover starts to slow down one of the most important steps in your skincare routine should include exfoliation. Exfoliation speeds up the turnover of skin cells to help lighten hyperpigmentation, prevent acne and wrinkling.
There are a number of skincare product ingredients you can use to aid in the exfoliation of dead skin cells. One option is a retinol or retinoid. A retinol does not require a prescription whereas a retinoid does. The retinol/retinoid is derived from Vitamin A. They increase the production of new skin cells and aid in cellular turnover of dead skin cells. The retinol/retinoid reduces wrinkles, skin discoloration and prevents acne.
There are also a number of plant-based acids that can be used to turn over dead skin cells. Some examples of these acids include glycolic, citric, salicylic, lactic, and malic acids.
Glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane and when it is applied to the skin it breaks the bonds between the outer layer of skin cells. This acid creates a peeling effect that helps the skin appear smoother and more even.
Citric acid is a gentler exfoliant derived from citrus fruit. It works by exfoliating the outer layer of dead skin cells to help clean pores, even skin tone, smooth the skin and adjust skin's pH levels.
Salicylic acid is derived from the bark of willow trees. It softens the outer layer of the skin causing dead skin cells slough off faster. This prevents clogged pores and development of acne lesions.
Lactic acid is derived from beet sugar, cane sugar, corn and tapioca. It is used to help remove old, dull cells on the skin's surface by dissolving the bonds that hold them together. This gives you a brighter complexion as well as smoother and softer skin.
Malic acid is a substance found naturally in apples and pears. It helps to exfoliate dead skin cells on the outer layer of the skin.
One thing to keep in mind is everyone needs to exfoliate their skin. When cellular turnover slows down, there are a number of skin issues can present. Even if you have sensitive skin, there are many skincare options that will offer a gentle exfoliation without irritation. If you notice your skin is starting to dull or not look as bright as it used to, look for cleansers that contain citric, lactic, salicylic or glycolic acid. If you would like a more aggressive form of exfoliation, you can use a retinol or retinoid. Other options you have are in office chemical peels, laser treatments and micro-needling. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you should invest in medical grade skincare to provide highest quality skincare ingredients and get on a skincare regimen that will address your skincare issues.