Dermatologists Explain Why Cellular Turnover Is Key for Healthy, Youthful Skin

If your skincare goals consist of reducing signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, and dullness, then chances are you've heard of cellular turnover. If not, take a look at the back of your favorite anti-aging skincare products or read their product descriptions online, you'll likely see that they promote this process of cellular turnover. While the claim sounds good in theory, what does it mean?

Are there real benefits to cellular turnover, or is it simply another way to market skincare products? After speaking with dermatologists, we learned that cellular turnover is very important to the overall health of our skin. Keep reading to learn more about cellular turnover, including what is it, its benefits, and the types of skincare products that will stimulate the process.

What is cellular turnover?

"Cellular turnover is the biological process of shedding dead skin cells to replace existing skin cells with younger healthy cells," says Annie Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology. "If cellular turnover does not occur, you can have buildup, and the skin will not be as tight or shiny."

Cellular turnover is a process that happens naturally. However, as we age it slows down. Dr. Gonzalez says that skin turns over about every 14 days when we are children. "By the time you reach your 20s, skin cellular turnover reduces by 24 to 30 days," she says.

Board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD says by the time we are in our 40s, our cells turn over every 45 to 60 days and extend to every 60 to 90 days as we continue to age.

In addition to aging, sun exposure, stress, and hormones affect this skin cycle as well. "There is no right time to incorporate products that promote cellular turnover," says Dr. Gonzalez. "However, mid-20s would be a good idea to incorporate ingredients that increase cellular turnover, especially if you suffer from breakouts or pigmentation."

What are the benefits of cellular turnover?

Because cellular turnover helps produce healthy, new skin cells, Dr. Hadley says it helps keep the skin looking vibrant and youthful. "Cellular turnover reduces your risk of developing acne, reduces the appearance of large pores, wrinkles, fine lines, and excess pigment," adds Dr. Gonzalez.

When cellular turnover becomes stagnant or slows down, concerns such as uneven texture, tone, milia, and acne can occur due to the accumulation of dead surface skin cells.

How does cellular turnover differ from exfoliation?

You're probably aware that exfoliation helps to remove dead surface skin cells to unveil a glowing, more smooth complexion. While the processes of exfoliating and cellular turnover are similar, exfoliation differs because it's the process of removing old skin cells through a tool, scrub, or chemical, explains Dr. Gonzalez.

"On the other hand, cell turnover happens naturally and is affected by various factors, including sun exposure, stress, hormones, diet, and overall health," she says. According to Dr. King, another way to think of it is exfoliation can help increase the natural process of cellular turnover.

What skincare products help promote cellular turnover?

When you're shopping for skincare products that promote cellular turnover, you'll want to look for ingredients such as retinol, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA), like lactic acid, and beta-hydroxy acids (BHA), like salicylic acid. "Retinol, AHAs, and BHAs can help remove the top layers of the skin and promote cellular turnover," says Dr. Gonzalez. A powerful yet gentle retinol serum to try is the Sorella Apothecary All Night Elixir ($70,, which is formulated with retinol, lactic acid, and vitamin C to ward off fine lines, wrinkles, and acne.

For those who can't use retinol due to its high potency, bakuchiol is a plant-based alternative that's great for sensitive skin types. The iNNBEAUTY Project Slushy Serum Moisturizer Crush ($22, is infused with bakuchiol and hyaluronic acid to visibly improve the look of fine lines and large pores. Dr. Gonzalez says niacinamide and hyaluronic acid also help stimulate cellular turnover, which are skin-benefiting ingredients all skin types can use. The EADEM Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum ($68, is a great formula that infuses niacinamide, vitamin C, and fruit enzymes to resurface the skin and fade dark spots.

So the next time you're out skincare buying, be sure to keep an eye out for these ingredients to keep your skin healthy, plump, and glowing.