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If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re interested in improving the quality, feel, and appearance of your skin, and most specifically avoiding signs of aging. If so, finding ways to increase the rate of cell turnover in your skin. Cellular turnover refers to the rate at which your skin cells replace themselves. This process involves cells created in the deeper layers of skin that gradually drift upward and change function as they do so, ultimately being flattened and then shed when they hit the outermost layer of the epidermis. The rate of cellular turnover decreases with age; while a 20-something person’s skin “turns over” in about a month, it takes notably longer the older you get, meaning the skin ends up looking older, because the cells live longer and are exposed to more deterioration and damage.
So the three important questions here are: firstly, is it possible, second, what are the pros and cons of trying to increase cellular turnover (i.e. is it safe?), and finally, how—if at all—can it be done? Well, stick with us, because we’re going to examine both those questions here and now.
Is it Possible?
The first thing you want to check with any piece of health or beauty advice is whether or not it’s even legitimate. There’s a lot of pseudo-science and quackery out there in the world, so it’s best to stay vigilant. There isn’t much conclusive evidence here, but there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to merit consideration. In other words, it’s no guarantee, but it could be worth trying. Methods like Retinol application have shown some ability to accelerate cellular turnover.
Is it Safe
And of course, the second question you should always ask: is it safe? The most common method for increasing cellular turnover rate (which we’ll discuss in more detail in the next section), retinol and retinoid creams and serums, has some side effects, like irritation, but these can be controlled relatively easily with sensible use of the product, and are not largely harmful. One concern with increasing cellular turnover rate is that doing so may actually speed up the aging process by increasing damage through random genetic defects. This idea doesn’t seem to hold much water, however, because cellular turnover involves cellular differentiation. Rather than two cells splitting (replication) and creating identical copies which have a chance for mutation, differentiation involves a daughter cell created at the basal layer of the skin and gradually drifting upward, changing it’s function multiple times along the way, until it is eventually shed.
How Can it Be Done?
There are a few supposed ways to increase cell turnover rate, but most of them are not verified. The one way we were able to find that seems fairly reliable is topical application of retinol and other retinoids. Retinoids act in a number of ways to make your skin look younger, but one of them is, you guessed it, increasing cellular turnover.
When using retinoids, you should start at a very small dose for a week, and then increase it slightly until you hit the ideal dose. Also, be sure to moisturize well and consider using anti-irritation creams after using retinoids. Doing all this will significantly decrease or eliminate altogether the irritation retinoids can cause, so you get the benefits without the drawbacks.