What is Cell Turnover or Skin Cycle?

by The Artistry | Feb 5, 2020

Cell turnover refers to the speed of constant shedding of dead skin cells and the later replacement with younger healthy cells. The process of cell turnover happens naturally and all over our body including our face, scalp, body,  legs, the bottom of our feet etc. Our skin turnover every 28-40 days on average, meaning that every 28-40 days, a new skin cell is born.



Journey of a new skin cell to becoming dead skin cell

A new skin cell is formed in the deepest layer of the epidermis (stratum germinativum). During the course of 28-40 days, it travels up to the uppermost layer (stratum corneum) of the skin. Once the cell reaches this layer, it matures and becomes rough, dry and flaky. The regeneration of new skin will continue to travel up and push the old dead skin out of the way.

Other than happening through internal force, shedding of skin can happen due to the friction created from skin rubbing. Dead skin cells usually take the form of unnoticeable dust- size falling onto our clothes, bed, furniture but the accumulation of dead skin can also be seen when you rub your body with body brush or when you soak your body in a warm bathtub long enough. The new skin cells that “just” arrive the surface of the skin are the best looking. As they sit and wait for new skin cells to arrive, they become dry, rough and flaky causing your complexion to look dull and rough.

Babies and young children have a faster cell turnover rate as they are in the stage of rapid growth. Their skin cell turnover rate is twice as fast as adults hence they constantly have new skin resurfacing. This explains why young children have smooth, soft, luminous skin. As we age, our cell turnover rate slows down. The older skin - dead skin sits on the uppermost layer longer. That's why adults’ skin don’t look quite as "bright" as young children.


Related: Skin in Different Life Stages: Understanding the Female Hormone Cycle


Age skin cycle

Here is a general guide to skin turnover rate at different age.

Age Turnover Cycle
Before early 20s ~ 14 to 21 days
20s to 30s ~ 28 days
40s ~ 45 to 60 days
50 years+ ~ 60-90 days

Hence, taking your skin at 20 as a base, you skin cycle can take twice as long when you reach 40 years old. When you reach 50 years old, it could take 3 times longer for skin cell to turnover.

Other than the age factor, our hormones, skin health, weather such as sun, wind, pollution and stress level can affect the skin cycle as well. 


Related: Finding Menstrual Pain Relief


What can I do to improve my skin tone and texture?

As mentioned, the revelation of skin of the outermost layer is affected by the “pushing” of inner new skin cells or removal of dead skin cells by external friction.

A quick and effective way to achieve better looking skin is to showcase the newer skin cells through shedding the old skin via external friction or suction. Regular exfoliation  such as dry brushing, use of facial or body brush, exfoliation scrub, sonic vibration cleansing, microdermabrasion will be helpful in this aspect.

To slow down the drying out of skin, you can apply hyaluronic acids, when applied on skin, it acts as a protective layer that locks in moisture and strengthens the skin's barrier.

To improve cell turnover speed on the inside, you can try over-the-counter toner or chemical peel with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) such as glycol acid or use topical retinoids. If your skin concerns aren’t just dull skin but include enlarged pores, fine lines and wrinkles, you may try microneedling treatment to cause micro-punctures in the skin to kick start a new skin cycle by our skins’ natural healing mechanism.

If you want to hit that restart button completely, you can consider more powerful energy skin treatments such as HIFU, RF or LED lights which send energy to the deeper layers of the skin to trigger cell regeneration without causing harm to the outer skin, hence fixing skin tone, removing fine lines or lessen wrinkles without any down time. 

The above tips will give immediate and apparent results. In the long run, a healthy lifestyle including healthy diet, regular hydration, regular exercise and getting sufficient daily sleep will help keep our body function properly and cells to regenerate normally.


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