Why Skin Cell Turnover is Important For Skin Health And Appearance

Written by Madeleine Gantz, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist on November 14, 2023 No Comments

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Our skin is more than just a protective barrier; it is a dynamic organ constantly renewing and regenerating itself. One of the key processes that keep our skin looking fresh and healthy is cell turnover. In this blog post, we will explore what skin cell turnover is, how it benefits our complexion and overall skin health — especially in aging and acne-prone skin — and what patients can do to boost this essential process.

What is Skin Cell Turnover? Explaining the Skin Regeneration Process

Skin cell turnover, also known as epidermal cell turnover or skin regeneration, is the natural process by which skin sheds dead skin cells and replaces them with new ones. This turnover process occurs in the outermost layer of skin, called the epidermis. The epidermis is made up of multiple layers, with the bottommost layer being the basal layer, where new skin cells are born. As these new cells develop, they migrate upwards through the epidermal layers, eventually reaching the surface.

The entire cycle from the birth of a skin cell in the basal layer to its sloughing off at the skin’s surface takes approximately 28 to 40 days for the average person. However, this cycle can vary depending on factors like age, genetics, and overall skin health. The key to healthy, radiant skin lies in maintaining a well-balanced and efficient cell turnover rate.

How Does a High Cell Turnover Rate Help the Skin?

Maintaining a high cell turnover rate offers a multitude of benefits for skin. Let us delve into some of the key advantages:

Benefits on complexion and overall skin health

Smooth texture. A high cell turnover rate helps keep the skin’s surface smooth by shedding dead and dull cells regularly. This promotes a more youthful and vibrant appearance.

Even tone. By shedding old, pigmented cells, cell turnover can help reduce the appearance of skin discolorations, such as age spots and sunspots, resulting in a more even skin tone.

Faster healing. Skin cells that regenerate quickly can help wounds and blemishes heal faster, reducing the risk of scarring and improving overall skin health.

Benefits for aging skin

Wrinkle reduction. As we age, our skin’s natural cell turnover rate slows down. By stimulating this process, patients can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making skin look more youthful.

Collagen production. A higher cell turnover rate can encourage increased collagen production, a protein responsible for maintaining skin’s elasticity and firmness.

Benefits on acne

Preventing clogged pores. Regular cell turnover helps prevent pores from becoming clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil, reducing the likelihood of acne breakouts.

Post-acne healing. Faster cell turnover can aid in the healing process of acne lesions and reduce the chance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

How Does the Skin Regeneration Process Change as We Age?

As mentioned earlier, the natural process of skin cell turnover slows down as we age. When we are young, our skin regenerates more quickly, leading to that youthful glow. However, several factors contribute to this slowdown:

Decreased collagen production

As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, resulting in decreased skin elasticity and the formation of wrinkles.

Reduced natural exfoliation

The shedding of dead skin cells becomes less efficient with age, leading to a buildup of dry, flaky skin.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal shifts, especially in women during menopause, can affect the skin’s thickness, moisture, and overall health.

What Else Slows Down Cellular Turnover?

Aging is not the only factor that can slow down the skin’s cell turnover rate. Other factors that diminish skin cell regeneration include:

Sun exposure

Excessive UV exposure can damage skin cells and inhibit the natural regeneration process.

Poor nutrition

A diet lacking essential nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants can negatively impact skin health and cell turnover.


Inadequate hydration can lead to dry, dull skin and impede the skin’s natural shedding process.


Chronic stress can disrupt hormonal balance, leading to skin issues and a slowed cell turnover rate.

Lack of sleep

Sleep is essential for skin regeneration. Insufficient sleep can result in a tired and lackluster complexion.

How to Increase Your Cellular Turnover Rate

Fortunately, there are various ways to boost the skin’s cell turnover rate and maintain a healthier, more youthful appearance. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

Physical exfoliation

Use gentle exfoliating scrubs or brushes to remove dead skin cells.

Chemical exfoliation

Incorporating alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) into a skincare routine helps to promote exfoliation and cell turnover.

Proper hydration

Ensure you drink enough water to keep skin adequately hydrated, as well-hydrated skin tends to shed dead cells more efficiently.

Proper nutrition

Consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, particularly vitamins A, C, and E, which support skin health and regeneration.

Getting the right amount of sleep

Prioritize sleep to allow the body the rest it needs for optimal cell turnover and skin repair.


Consider taking supplements like collagen, vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids to support skin health from within.

Minimizing stress

Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to maintain hormonal balance and skin health.

Practicing sun safety

Protect skin from UV damage by wearing sunscreen daily, seeking shade, and wearing protective clothing.

Skin Care Products That Stimulate Cellular Turnover

In addition to the lifestyle changes mentioned above, patients can incorporate skincare products that are formulated to stimulate cellular turnover. Look for products containing ingredients like:


Retinol and prescription-strength retinoids are potent ingredients known for increasing cell turnover, reducing wrinkles, and promoting collagen production.

Vitamin B3 or Niacinamide

Niacinamide can improve the skin’s barrier function, hydration, and overall health while encouraging healthy cell turnover.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that brightens the skin, promotes collagen synthesis, and helps protect against UV damage.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is another antioxidant that has been shown to support skin repair and regulate skin hydration.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (ALA)

ALA is an antioxidant with anti-aging properties that can enhance skin texture and tone.

Hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid helps retain skin moisture, keeping it plump and hydrated, which can indirectly support cell turnover.

Cosmetic Treatments That Stimulate Cellular Turnover

For patients looking for more intensive ways to boost skin cell turnover, consider cosmetic treatments that cause controlled damage to stimulate regeneration. Some of these procedures include:

Laser skin resurfacing

Laser treatments can address a range of skin concerns, from wrinkles and scars to uneven texture and pigmentation.


Microdermabrasion is a minimally invasive procedure exfoliates the skin’s surface, promoting a fresher, more youthful appearance.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels involve applying a solution to the skin to remove dead cells, revealing smoother, rejuvenated skin beneath.


Microneedling creates micro-injuries in the skin, triggering the body’s natural healing response and promoting collagen production.

Skin cell turnover is a fundamental process for maintaining healthy, youthful skin. It contributes to a smoother complexion, even skin tone, and overall skin health. As we age, cell turnover naturally slows down, but with the right skincare routine, a balanced lifestyle, and the help of effective ingredients and treatments, patients can support and enhance this essential process. So, make the commitment to nurture the skin’s natural regeneration, and enjoy the benefits of a radiant and youthful complexion for years to come.

Madeleine Gantz, MD

Madeleine Gantz, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist. She has a diverse educational background, having received a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Lafayette College as well as a Master’s in nutrition from Columbia University prior to enrolling in medical school at Drexel University. Dr. Gantz is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology. She is committed to helping her patients look and feel their very best!

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