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What is the cellular turnover cycle, and why is it important for aging?

At Qyal, all our products are designed to do one thing — speed up the cellular turnover cycle. That’s because nothing else has a more dramatic effect on your skin and how it ages. Learn all about what the cellular turnover cycle is, and why it’s important for aging!

How does the cellular turnover cycle work?

Our skin is made of layers and layers of cells. The three most important are:

  • The epidermis — the outermost layer
  • The dermis — the middle layer
  • The subcutaneous layer — the lowest layer

It’s the epidermis we see on the surface, and this is the layer we’re thinking of when we talk about the condition and appearance of our skin.

model of the skin showing epidermis dermis subcutaneous layers

The epidermis itself is made up of five layers, each with about 10-15 rows of cells. As you might have guessed by now, your skin is really complicated. It also contains a lot of cells. So many in fact, that we shed about 500 million of them every single day. Most of the time, we don’t even notice, but a significant amount of the dust in your home is actually dead skin cells.

Gross fact — every year, our mattresses gain about a pound in weight thanks to our dead skin cells!

Although it seems like we’re losing a lot of cells every day, the rate at which we shed our skin actually slows down as we age. Babies replace the outer layer of their epidermis about every 3-5 days. By the time we’re in our twenties, the same process takes 2-3 weeks. And by our fifties, it can take 2-3 months.

What does that mean for skin? It means as an adult, those old, tired cells hang around for longer and longer, getting drier and duller every day. And that makes your whole complexion look dry and dull.

However, if we can speed up the process of renewing our outermost cells, we can get baby-soft skin again (or at least something closer to it!). To do that, we need to focus on two different steps:

Step 1: Removing the old cells as fast as possible.

Step 2: Encouraging the growth of healthy new cells to replace them.

How to increase cell shedding and improve the appearance of aging

exfoliating skincare product

Getting rid of the old skin cells means one thing: exfoliation. There are two ways to exfoliate, either physically or chemically. Physical (or manual) exfoliation is when you use something abrasive to scrub away the top layers of cells. Chemical exfoliation is when you use a cream or serum to break down the bonds between the outer cells.

Most people use a combination of physical and chemical exfoliation to care for their skin. Here are the most common ways of exfoliating, and the pros and cons of each.

Physical exfoliation methods

The most basic exfoliants are over the counter skin scrub products that contain small particles of abrasive material. The material can be anything from sugar or salt to crushed nut shells or kernels, charcoal, or coffee grounds.

These products got a bad reputation because in the past they relied heavily on microplastics to provide abrasion. However these additives were banned in the U.S. in 2015.

Regular at-home manual exfoliation is a good way to freshen up your skin and help loosen and remove old cells. One of the great things about physical exfoliants is they produce results instantly. However there are other methods of physical exfoliation that deliver even more dramatic results.

Dermabrasion

Dermabrasion is the most effective method of manual exfoliation. It can treat all kinds of skin complaints, including acne scars, uneven texture, and fine lines and wrinkles.  A licensed professional, such as a dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon, must perform the procedure. Dermabrasion usually takes place under local anaesthetic.

Dermabrasion involves using a rapidly rotating tool to scour the skin. As a result, it can take several weeks for the skin to recover and the full results to become apparent.

Microdermabrasion

Microdermabrasion is a less aggressive version of dermabrasion. There are two common methods of microdermabrasion. The first uses a rotating tool to scrub the skin surface. The second method uses a tool that sprays ​​tiny particles of aluminum oxide or sodium bicarbonate to achieve the same effect.

This method of exfoliating is less effective than dermabrasion. However it produces better results than at-home exfoliation, and doesn’t have to be performed by medical personnel.

Laser resurfacing

You might not think of laser treatment as a form of exfoliation, but it is! Lasers work by directing concentrated light beams at your skin to break up the bonds between cells. They can also encourage the production of collagen and speed up new cell development.

There are two common types of laser resurfacing, ablative and non-ablative. Ablative lasers destroy the top layer of skin and heat the layer underneath, which triggers new cell growth. The results from an ablative laser treatment can last up to five years, but the initial recovery can take longer.

Non-ablative lasers only work on lower layers of skin, without damaging the surface. They heat up deeper cells to trigger more growth. Because the outer layer of skin isn’t removed, it can take longer to see the results of non-ablative lasers, but recovery is faster and easier. Most people require multiple treatments to get the effects they want.

Chemical exfoliation methods

applying skincare chemical exfoliant

The two most common types of chemical exfoliants are retinoids and alpha/beta hydroxy acids (AHAs/BHAs). These are all natural ingredients that work by breaking down the bonds holding skin cells together.

Retinoids

Retinoids come from Vitamin A. The most commonly known is retinol, which is available as an over the counter treatment in a range of anti-aging skincare products. Some people use retinoid/retinol interchangeably, but they are different substances. Retinols are a type of retinoid, but they’re far from the only one. The strongest retinoid is retinoic acid. This is only available with a prescription, usually from a dermatologist.

Retinols are naturally weaker than other types of retinoid. Over the counter retinols are also delivered in compound forms, which weakens them even more. Look for retinyl palmitate, retinyl linoleate, retinaldehyde, propionic acid, or retinyl acetate in your skincare ingredients to identify retinols. 

These compound forms are harder for the body to convert into retinoic acid — the most effective form. That means they produce subtler results over a longer period of time.

All retinoids work by breaking down the bonds between surface skin cells. They also penetrate below the top layer of skin to the underlying dermis, where they neutralize harmful free radicals and promote the growth of collagen and elastin.

One thing to keep in mind when using retinols is they are UV-sensitive. That means if you apply retinol and then go out in the sun, the product will be less effective. You also risk increased skin sensitivity to UV light, so it’s advisable to apply retinols at night and to wear SPF 30 or higher sunscreen during the day.

Alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs/BHAs)

AHAs/BHAs are common skincare ingredients valued as powerful chemical exfoliants. These acids are derived from natural sources like fruit, milk, sugar cane, and willow bark. There are many varieties of AHAs/BAHAs, each of which has its own molecular size. That changes the rate at which the acid is absorbed by the skin, and therefore makes them more effective at treating specific conditions.

Alpha hydroxy acids break down the bonds between skin cells, and also boost hydration. This not only speeds up the cellular turnover cycle, but improves the appearance of the newly exposed cells. BHAs work deeper under the skin, where they are especially effective at controlling oil production and unclogging pores.

These acids do increase sun sensitivity, so you should always wear sunscreen while using skincare products with AHAs/BHAs, and for at least a week after discontinuing use.

How to encourage the growth of new cells to improve the appearance of aging

healthy salad food

The second step in the cellular turnover cycle — after removing the top layer of old, dull cells — is to encourage the growth of lots of healthy new cells. If these cells aren’t ready when you exfoliate, you’ll end up with skin that’s pink and tender.

The rate of new cell growth is called proliferation. The most important thing is to support your body as it creates new cells by giving it all the nourishment it needs. That means eating a healthy, balanced diet, and using skincare fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Some skincare ingredients also promote the growth of new cells. Chemical exfoliants like retinols can help encourage the formation of important skin structures like collagen and elastin. Vitamin E and hyaluronic acid help hydrate skin. And cutting-edge ingredients like BioPlacenta provide  key growth factors that tell your cells to increase proliferation.

Final thoughts

The appearance of our skin is directly linked to the rate of our cellular turnover cycle. It affects everything from our complexion to wrinkles, and even acne breakouts. The cycle slows down as we age, but there are ways to work with your body to speed it up again.

The first step is exfoliation, either chemical or manual. This removes the old outer layer. And then you need to nourish and support your skin at a cellular level to promote the growth of healthy new skin underneath.

Qyral’s products are designed to work with your body to naturally increase your cellular turnover cycle. Customized blends of AHAs/BHAs provide powerful chemical exfoliation, while nourishing BioPlacenta, combined with essential vitamins and minerals, gives your body everything it needs to create bright, healthy looking skin.

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