What is Cellular Turnover + Why is it Important? 

Cellular turnover is the process of producing new skin cells to replace existing skin cells and is vital to keeping your skin smooth, healthy, and glowing. Unfortunately, like many biological processes, it’s also something that can slow down and become less efficient as we age.

Our skin is our largest organ and has the task of warding off irritants, whether in the form of UV radiation from the sun, blue light from the ever-present screens in our life, wind damage, or other environmental irritants. To ward off this damage and keep your skin healthy, your body needs to constantly produce a new supply of skin cells.

The Process of Cellular Turnover

So how does cellular turnover work? Every 28-40 days, on average, a new skin cell is “born” in the deepest layer of the epidermis. The cell then travels up through the epidermis until it reaches the uppermost layer of the skin. Once the cell reaches this layer, it is rough, dry, flaky — what we consider a “dead” skin cell.

Aging Skin

Babies and young children have a faster cell turnover rate, which explains why little kids have such bright, soft, luminous-looking skin—their cell turnover rate is twice as fast as adults. They always have new skin cells on the surface. As we age, however, our cell turnover rate slows down. Without cellular turnover, you can get a buildup of skin cells at the surface that can lead to issues such as hyperpigmentation, milia (small white bumps on the skin), and uneven texture.

Acne-Prone Skin

Cellular turnover is also closely linked to acne. In those who suffer from acne breakouts, the cellular turnover process doesn’t seem to be as efficient as those who have minimal if any acne. Acne-prone skin produces more dead skin cells than is typical, and these cells aren’t properly shed.

It’s worth noting that skin cell turnover isn’t the only factor that affects your risk of experiencing acne outbreaks. Hormones, age, and environment can also affect acne — it’s rarely a single-cause situation. With this said, promoting a healthy skin cell turnover process can have very positive results if you have persistent or recurring acne.

How to Encourage Cellular Turnover

While cellular turnover happens naturally, there are certain things you can do to make it happen more quickly. In fact, by disturbing the natural process of cellular turnover, you can actually encourage it to occur more rapidly.

Exfoliation – Chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid interact with the bonds between the dead cells and the skin, which helps loosen the cells and encourages them to fall off. Mechanical exfoliants (think: scrubs) rub the top layer of skin hard enough to physically remove the dead skin cells. In both cases, those dewy new cells will come out on top.

Because of the inability of acne-prone skin to naturally shed dead skin cells, exfoliation is particularly important in helping the process along. Regular use of an exfoliant can inhibit the formation of blackheads and blemishes by keeping the follicles free of blockages.

Timeless Medical Director, Dr. Erin Olah suggests a combination of Timeless treatments paired with medical-medical grade skincare to boost cellular turnover. Regular DiamondGlow treatments paired with chemical peels are an excellent choice. In-between treatments add SkinMedica’s AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser and SkinMedica’s AHA/BHA Cream to your skincare regimen to encourage additional exfoliation.


Retinol/Retinoids – Considered the gold standard ingredient for cellular turnover, retinol and retinoids put the process in fast-forward. With consistent use, these products can encourage cellular turnover and reduce the signs of aging skin. Prescription topical retinoids can be very effective at clearing up mild to moderately severe acne breakouts.

Ellen Burns, RN suggests SkinMedica’s and SkinMedica’s Retinol Complex 0.5 which will enhance skin tone and texture while addressing the appearance of fine lines and coarse wrinkles.

At Timeless Skin Solutions, we are committed to providing physician-led, personalized and science-based solutions to all of your skincare needs. If you are experiencing dull, dry skin, we encourage you to schedule a consultation to see how we can help you reveal your youthful glow.

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