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Science of Skin Care: Cell Turnover and Exfoliation

Exfoliation
Do you know why exfoliating is important?

Your body is a symphony of many cycles. You experience a daily cycle of sleep and wakefulness. You may notice your children’s moods mirroring the cycle of moon phases. You may sense your own moods change in response to monthly changes in hormone levels (guys, that applies to you ,too). Your skin also has its own cycle, and encouraging regular cell turnover plays a major role in maintaining youthful, radiant skin.

Natural Cell Turnover

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and one of the major functions of your skin is to provide protection from external threats to your internal balance. But your skin cannot provide the same level of protection if the same cells block, absorb or otherwise “deal with” UV radiation, chemical assaults, temperature changes, etc. day after day, week after week…In the course of providing their protective function, skin cells are damaged, so they must be replaced.

Your body continually produces new skin cells deep within the dermal matrix. These cells migrate upwards toward the surface as they mature. Some mature skin cells undergo a process called keratinization—the conversion of squamous epithelial cells into keratin, or simpler structural proteins. Keratinization eventually leads to cell death, leaving a layer of drier, harder organic material (cell bodies). Approximately 25 to 30 layers of dead skin cells, the result of keratinization, comprise the outer layer you see.

The upper layers of dead cells are naturally sloughed away through contact with objects and the continual upward push from newer cells below. Skin cell turnover is necessary for both skin health and appearance. If dead skin cells are not removed from the surface, they present a risk for clogged pores and bacterial infection, creating ideal conditions for acne breakouts. Accumulated dead skin cells also lead to a dull, uneven complexion.

Unfortunately, natural skin cell turnover slows as you age. A natural process that takes two weeks for babies takes three to four weeks for teens. Once past your teens, your skin generally renews itself once a month (about every 30 to 40 days) but gets even more sluggish after 50, renewing itself only 45 to 90 days.

Encouraging Cell Turnover

You don’t have to depend on your natural cell turnover cycle to keep your complexion bright and help prevent acne flare ups. You can encourage quicker cell turnover internally and topically through diet and specially formulated skin care products.

Your body requires a number of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients for optimal (skin) health, and you can better ensure that you get them all by eating a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins and (Omega) fatty fish. Some vitamins and minerals have been more clearly linked to skin cell turnover, among them, Vitamin A (retinol).

Retinol is one type of alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA), and it is best delivered to the skin topically. However, dosage is important. High concentrations (over 2%) can be drying. Our Re-Fine Milk Lotion is formulated to deliver a gentle dose of retinol, which has been protected from molecular degradation during our cold water processing method.

Manual Override

To increase the rate of cell turnover, you can also take matters into your own hands…literally. Through chemical and manual exfoliation, you can gently slough away the upper layers of the stratum corneum, encouraging newer, plumper cells to the surface.

Chemical exfoliation entails using an acidic peel to remove dead skin cells. Many chemical peels, like glycolic, salicylic and lactic acid peels—only penetrate the most surface layers, making them safe for at-home use. Some chemical peels, including mandelic acid, however, penetrate much deeper and require professional application.

Mechanical exfoliation relies on a gentle abrasive to remove dead skin cells. Mechanical exfoliation aids often include small crystals (like sugar or baking soda), ground fruit pits or micro-bead technology.

Although stimulating cell turnover through exfoliation can bring about a health, glowing complexion, over-exfoliated skin may result in redness, sensitivity and irritation. Typically, you can safely use chemical exfoliants once every week or two and mechanical exfoliants every three or four days (refer to printed directions and product recommendations).

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