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Skin cell turnover plays an important role in maintaining the skin’s youthful-looking appearance. It's also a factor in skin issues like acne, dryness, and rough texture.

The skin is continuously renewing itself. As dead skin cells are shed from the outermost layer of its surface, they expose fresh, new skin cells (produced in a deeper layer of the skin to replace existing skin cells) getting progressively closer to the surface, until these in turn die and they too are shed. This natural skin renewal process is called skin cellular turnover.

As we (and our skin) age, this rate slows and can result in a build-up of excess dead skin cells that contribute to dull skin, uneven tone, and texture. It’s therefore important to encourage cell turnover as part of your skincare routine to maintain skin smoothness, radiance and a youthful-looking appearance.



Beyond the influence that cell turnover has in skin's visible appearance, the underlying biological purpose is to provide protection against the UV rays of sun exposure, environmental aggressors, and external irritants. Every skin cell has an individual, pre-programmed clock that determines its life span. If all skin cells ran to the same schedule, our skin would shed all at once, like a snake's!

As cells reach the surface and are sloughed off, those in the deeper layers of the skin receive a message to produce new skin cells to replace the ones that have been shed.


In young adults, the skin cell turnover cycle takes around 28 days all up—about 14 days of this for a cell to progress from where it was produced lower down to the surface, and then a further 14 days or so at the surface performing its environmental protection duties, before becoming detached and shedding. The length of the skin cycle can be affected by multiple factors: age, sun exposure, skin disorders, stress, sleep patterns, overall health, hormones, and professional procedures such as deep chemical peels or laser resurfacing.

Amongst skin cells' protective functions is their ability to carry water, pigment (melatonin), and lipids with them as they progress towards the surface. When the rate of turnover slows, so does the supply of these protective agents to the skin’s surface, and this can in turn can lead to skin dehydration, discolouration, dry skin, and impaired moisture barrier function.

NB: It’s important to note that there is a difference between exfoliation and promoting skin cell turnover (although exfoliation can help achieve this goal). Exfoliation involves removing old, dead, skin cells using chemical exfoliants or physical scrubs, while enhancing the turnover process occurs at the cellular level.



Cell turnover slows over time, and it's possible to use your age to estimate how long it takes for your skin to renew itself. For example, a 50-year-old’s skin could take up to 50 days to complete its cellular turnover cycle—whilst more mature skin can take as long as 90 days.

If you're concerned about visible signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, discolouration, or dullness, increasing skin cell turnover with your daily skincare regimen is an important step in helping to eliminate the build-up of old and dead skin cells that contributes to these concerns.


A root cause of blemish-prone skin is the clogging of pores with excess oil and dead skin cells, creating environments where bacteria can grow and thrive.

The rate of skin cell renewal plays a role in blemish-prone skin too. Skin cells divide faster in the basal levels of acne-prone skin. As the resulting fresh cells make their way towards the surface, they can become stuck in the sebaceous hair follicles that function as pores connecting the dermis layer to the epidermis.

Dead cells that remain on the skin’s surface instead of being shed in a timely manner can also clog pores and contribute to blemish formation. Encouraging the skin cell shedding process is therefore an important component of any anti-acne skincare approach.

How to Boost Skin Cell Turnover with SkinCeuticals

Maintaining efficient skin cell renewal with regular and proper exfoliation is important. By mimicking the skin's natural process, skincare can help enhance both the thickness of the skin and its responsiveness to active ingredients, strengthening the skin's moisture barrier to provide essential protection. Our exfoliating products are designed to be gentle yet effective for promoting the skin cell turnover process.

  1. Exfoliating cleansers: Promoting skin cell turnover can be as simple as washing your face with a specially formulated cleanser every morning and night. We offer an array of exfoliating cleansers for a variety of skin types and concerns, including Glycolic Renewal Cleanser (for dullness and rough texture), Blemish and Age Cleansing Gel (for mild acne-prone skin), and Micro-Exfoliating Scrub (for physical exfoliation). Learn more here about the difference between chemical and physical exfoliants.
  2. Retexturing Activator: This dual-action daily serum simultaneously exfoliates and hydrates the skin as it optimises the skin’s amino acid supply to reinforce the skin's moisture barrier. Suitable for refining skin texture in all skin types, it offers the power of 20% glycolic acid without causing discomfort to sensitive skin.
  3. Blemish + Age Defence: Ideal for ageing, mild acne-prone skin, this oil-free serum features a blend of alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids for even, effective exfoliation to reduce clogged pores while improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.
  4. Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight: Formulated for evening use, this high-potency 10% glycolic acid exfoliating cream promotes skin cell turnover to improve skin brightness, clarity, radiance, texture, and tone—and contains a triple-action soothing complex to help support the skin moisture barrier.
  5. Retinol: A dermatologist-recommended mainstay for enhancing skin cell turnover, this ingredient is effective at preventing premature skin ageing and blemishes from developing, as well as improving visible signs of ageing. SkinCeuticals offers three night-time retinol serum concentrations to suit new and experienced users of retinol, along with a cream specifically designed to target visible signs of neck ageing.
serum texture

Broad spectrum sun protection: Whenever using an exfoliating or other skincare product that promotes skin cell turnover, the skin becomes more vulnerable to damage by the sun's rays. It’s therefore imperative to use a high SPF, broad spectrum sunscreen daily to prevent premature signs of ageing and prevent further sun-induced skin changes.

To learn more about cell turnover and discover the ideal skincare regimen for your unique skin issues and skin concerns, use our online Routine Finder, or schedule an appointment with a SkinCeuticals Skincare Professional for a one-on-one consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

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