Lesson 4: Derm Knows Best: How Can I Speed Up My Cellular Turnover Rate?

Welcome to our series Derm Knows Best, where a dermatologist takes over the Good Skin Blog to share their expertise on need-to-know skincare topics. This time we’re hearing from board-certified dermatologist and owner of Facile Skin Dr. Samolitis, MD, FAAD. Read on as she explains what the skin’s cellular turnover rate is and which ingredients speed it up.

Yes, you can speed up your skin cell turnover rate, but the first question to think about is why do you want to speed up your skin cell turnover rate? 

Here’s how it works. Skin cells naturally divide and replenish around every 28 days for the average adult. This allows regular cellular repair to occur, keeping the skin smooth, bright, firm, and healthy. As we age, the normal skin cell turnover rate slows down to approximately every 45-60 days, causing a buildup of cellular damage from the environment (in particular, UV light and pollution) and manifesting a dull skin surface with uneven pigmentation.

When we can normalize our skin cell turnover, not only do we see improvement in the skin texture and quality, delivering a smoother, more youthful, luminous complexion, but it’s also beneficial for long-term skin health

One way to speed up skin cell turnover is to accelerate the removal of the dead cells on the surface of the skin with exfoliation. As these cells are removed, the epidermal cells known as keratinocytes have to produce new cells to keep up. Regular exfoliation is known to improve the health and function of those epidermal cells but excessive exfoliation (or lack of appropriate skincare in conjunction with more significant exfoliation like chemical peels) can lead to a malfunctioning skin barrier, causing dryness, sensitivity, and the inability for skin to heal properly. A controlled and safe way to exfoliate is with AHAs that gently dissolve skin cells—like glycolic and lactic acid. These acids can even function as humectants and can ultimately improve skin hydration and barrier function if used in moderation. Find both in the Overnight Facial and Brightening Toner.

Another way to speed up skin cell turnover is to use the vitamin A-based skincare ingredient known as retinol. Unlike chemical acids, retinol activates cellular DNA to speed up the skin cell turnover rate. In this way, it also is a valuable asset to aid in the repair of environmental DNA damage and ultimately can even reduce pre-cancerous changes leading to improved skin health in the long term. (Editor’s note: Get these benefits for your face with Press Restart and for the rest of your skin with the Retinol Body Lotion).

Unfortunately, a lot of people initially have a sensitivity to retinol when they first begin using it and sometimes give up on the product due to the redness, dryness, and sensitivity that it can cause upon initial use. To properly allow your skin to adjust to retinol, start with less frequent use—like 2 or 3 days a week—and apply a Rich Moisture Cream afterward to help to prevent irritation. As tolerance builds, most people can use retinol daily. Regular use of retinol over several months can produce optimal effects on skin appearance and health. 

For more skin advice, follow Dr. Nancy Samolitis on Instagram.