How to Increase Skin Cell Turnover Rate

How to Increase Skin Turnover Rate

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We’re always encouraged to use products that ‘increase skin cell turnover’ to get smooth skin. At times, it sounds like a hyped skincare trend that is so overly used that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. I mean, why are we supposed to obsess over getting rid of our own skin? Actually, it does make a lot of sense!

We all know that faster skin turnover is good for the skin. But learning how skin turnover actually works is about more than justifying our purchases. Understanding the process of skin turnover will help you take better care of your skin and better utilize your products to achieve clear skin.

Below is everything you need to know about skin turnover, how it works, and the best skincare products to accelerate skin turnover rate.

What is Skin Cell Turnover?

Cell turnover or skin turnover is the continuous renewal of the outer layer of your skin (1). The old cells on the surface of the skin shed off as the new layer of cells pushes upwards. On average, this process takes 4 weeks to complete.

The whole cycle is called the cell turnover rate. And this rate depends mostly on your age (2). For example, the skin turnover rate for a newborn baby is much faster compared to adults.

In young adults, the process takes about 28 days. For mature skin, the rate can take as long as 40-60 days. As you get older, the skin cell turnover slows down considerably (3).

Why is Skin Cell Turnover Important?

Skin turnover is important in having healthy, smooth, and youthful skin. In healthy skin, a regular turnover rate works like a well-oiled machine where old cells shed off and are replaced by new healthier ones.

When the turnover rate slows down as you age, the dead skin cells stay longer on the surface of the skin. This causes dullness, roughness, clogged pores, acne, and several other skin issues including hyperpigmentation.

Cell turnover is like an automatic process. It happens even if you don’t do anything. And it sounds like teens or young adults should be completely happy with their skin’s renewal process. But that’s usually not the case. That’s where factors like genetics and lifestyle come in.

Even if you have a regular cell turnover cycle, you may be genetically “blessed” with enlarged pores and oily skin. In that case, your regular cycle may not be fast enough to get rid of excess sebum building up inside your pores and causing blemishes.

Similarly, if you don’t wear sunscreen and spend excessive amounts of time under the sun, you’ll be damaging healthy collagen way faster than your skin produces new ones. That’s why increasing the cell turnover rate is important.

How To Speed Up Skin Cell Turnover

The things you can do to accelerate the skin turnover rate are mostly limited to your skincare attempts. And there are two ways your skincare helps.

1. Exfoliants

The most effective way to increase the cell turnover rate is by exfoliating your skin. Look for skincare products formulated with chemical exfoliants.

Try alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid, beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid, or poly-hydroxy acids (PHAs) like lactobionic acid.

Exfoliation removes the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. In doing so, it reveals smoother and healthier skin by stimulating cell turnover.

As the top layer of your skin is more exposed after the exfoliation, the skin will start producing new cells to compensate.

Physical exfoliation, where you use face scrubs made with tiny particles, works as well. But it won’t be as effective as chemical exfoliation, which dissolves the bond between the dead skin cells. That way, they shed off easily.

2. Retinoids

Collectively called retinoids, these are vitamin A derivatives used in skincare to accelerate skin turnover rate (4). You can try over-the-counter retinol such as a retinol serum or a prescription retinoid.

Retinoids are directly responsible for collagen production. They work by rapidly renewing the skin, revealing a healthier layer.

These are the 2 options you can try at home to stimulate skin turnover. Remember that there are in-office procedures like chemical peels and laser treatments as well, which give dramatic results.

There are several ways you can incorporate exfoliants or retinoids into your skincare routine. The question of how often to exfoliate to speed up skin turnover will depend mostly on the product choice.

If you start with retinol or an exfoliator such as a glycolic acid serum, you’ll probably have to start using it 2 times a week until your skin adjusts to it. Or if you prefer, you can go slow and steady by using a daily peel pad, an exfoliating toner, or an exfoliating cleanser.

So decide on the active ingredient first. Then pick the right product type you’re comfortable with and watch your skin get smoother and smoother.

If you don’t know where to start, below are some of the best products to speed up skin cell turnover.

The Best Products to Increase Skin Turnover Rate

1. Paula’s Choice Resist Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA

Paula's Choice Resist Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA - Skin Cell Turnover

The exfoliating treatment is formulated with a combination of alpha-hydroxy acids. Utilizing glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids, which all have different levels of penetration, the treatment sweeps off the top, dead layer of the skin. Additionally, the peel contains antioxidants to repair free radical damage on the skin. Skin soothers reduce irritation while signal peptides stimulate collagen formation. As a result, the peel helps with enlarged pores, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation.

Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid
Key Benefits: Speeds up skin turnover, brightens
Skin Type: All except for sensitive skin
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, cruelty-free

2. Renee Rouleau Advanced Resurfacing Serum

Renee Rouleau Advanced Resurfacing Serum - skin turnover rate

This is a gentle retinol serum that can help with anything from acne to wrinkles and from dark spots to enlarged pores. Retinol is known for being the ultimate multi-tasker and the mother of all that is anti-aging. As it can be equally irritating, retinol is encapsulated so that your skin has a smoother adjustment period to avoid irritation. Additional benefits include neuropeptides to firm up the skin and retinyl palmitate to enhance the anti-aging effects.

Key Ingredients: Encapsulated retinol, peptides
Key Benefits: Accelerates skin turnover without visible peeling
Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, oily
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Cruelty-free

3. CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum - Best Drugstore Serum to Increase Skin Cell Turnover

If you need an encapsulated retinol serum that’s on the budget-friendly side, this drugstore option works just as well to boost the skin turnover rate. Besides retinol, it packs licorice extract and niacinamide to minimize hyperpigmentation too. It also has hyaluronic acid and ceramides to prevent retinol dryness. It’s very gentle on the skin and is actually one of the best retinol serums for sensitive skin.

CeraVe Skin Resurfacing Retinol Serum -Best Products To Increase Skin Turnover
by Ejollify

Key Ingredients: Encapsulated retinol
Key Benefits: Increases skin turnover rate without irritation, evens skin tone
Skin Type: All
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, non-comedogenic

4. Pixi Beauty Glow Peel Pads

Pixi Glow Peel Pads

Peel pads are the most practical way to get started on exfoliation. Plus, they’re instantly brightening and radiance-boosting. These glycolic acid pads are made with a concentration of 20% to sizzle off the dead skin layer. They also contain the anti-bacterial witch hazel to help with acne, and aloe to calm the skin.

Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid
Key Benefits: Exfoliates, smooths skin texture, brightens
Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, oily
Size: 60 pads
Good To Know: Cruelty-free

5. L’Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 3.5% Glycolic Acid Cleansing Gel

L'Oreal Revitalift Derm Intensives 3.5% Glycolic Acid Cleansing Gel - Skin Cell Turnover

If you prefer exfoliating with a daily cleanser, this one comes with 3.5% glycolic acid as well as salicylic acid. And it contains aloe to hydrate and soothe the skin. The gel glycolic acid cleanser is a multi-tasker that cleanses and exfoliates the skin. With regular use, your skin becomes smoother and more radiant.

Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, salicylic acid
Key Benefits: Softens skin texture, clears up pores
Skin Type: All
Size: 6.7 oz/200 ml
Good To Know: Fragrance-free, non-comedogenic

6. Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner

Caudalie Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Toner

If you have oily skin, exfoliating with salicylic acid will give you better results in terms of treating and preventing acne. This face toner is made with naturally derived salicylic acid to get rid of excess sebum and dead skin cells trapped inside the pores. By dissolving them, the salicylic acid toner provides a deeper level of exfoliation, gives you a smoother skin texture, and regulates oil production.

Key Ingredients: Salicylic acid
Key Benefits: Speeds up skin turnover without peeling, brightens
Skin Type: All
Size: 6.7 oz/200 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free

So this is how the skin cell turnover rate works, how you can speed it up, and some of the best products you can use to speed up the skin turnover rate. As we’ve established, exfoliants and retinoids are the best ingredients for faster skin turnover. But these ingredients are widely known for making the skin prone to sunburn. So it’s important to wear sunscreen regularly to avoid damaging your new, healthier skin layer.



  1. Seim, I., Ma, S., & Gladyshev, V. N. (2016). Gene expression signatures of human cell and tissue longevity. NPJ aging and mechanisms of disease2, 16014.
  2. Farage, M. A., Miller, K. W., Elsner, P., & Maibach, H. I. (2013). Characteristics of the Aging Skin. Advances in wound care2(1), 5–10.
  3. Rodan, K., Fields, K., Majewski, G., & Falla, T. (2016). Skincare Bootcamp: The Evolving Role of Skincare. Plastic and reconstructive surgery. Global open4(12 Suppl Anatomy and Safety in Cosmetic Medicine: Cosmetic Bootcamp), e1152.
  4. Zasada, M., & Budzisz, E. (2019). Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii36(4), 392–397.

Read Next: Best Salicylic Acid Serums For Clear Skin

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