Have you ever looked at your skin and wondered why it can have a glorious glow one minute and look dry and dull for no apparent reason the next? While it’s completely normal for skin to be unpredictable, there’s actually some science behind why it changes. It’s called the skin cycle and we’re going to take a closer look at how it works, help you understand why it happens and how it affects your skin. Let’s dive in.
What Is The Skin Cycle?
The skin cycle is a critical process by which healthy skin cells replace dead ones after a certain period of time. Here’s how it works: A new skin cell is born within the deeper layers of the epidermis and begins its journey to the skin’s surface. As it makes its way up to the outer layer, it joins your skin’s barrier as it matures, becoming a part of the function that protects your body from toxins while locking moisture in. By the time it reaches the skin’s surface, and full maturation, it flakes off and the process begins all over again1.
How Long Is The Skin Cycle?
The average adult skin cell goes through a 28 days skin cycle, from the time it’s formed deep within the dermal layers until the time it reaches the skin’s surface (before it dies off and sheds)2. As this mighty cell goes through the 28-day process, it enters four phases:
Dry: You may notice that skin is naturally drier than normal during this phase, so it’s important to up your hydration both inside and out.
Improving: Your skin will likely still feel a little dry in this phase so you’ll want to support skin’s internal hydration and protective processes to support healthy cell turnover.
Glowing: In this phase, your skin looks its best—it’s more hydrated, pores are smaller, oil flow is regulated and complexion is even.
Oily: When your skin goes through the oily phase, you may notice enlarged pores making you more prone to redness and breakouts.
To make things even more complicated, not all skin cells reach the same stage at the same time. And this could be the reason you experience dry patches or oily breakouts at different times throughout the cycle.
Why Does Your Body Have A Skin Regeneration Cycle?
Your skin is the largest organ in the human body, made up of all kinds of different components, including water, protein, lipids, minerals and vitamins. It’s main job? To protect you from the constant attack of infections and germs3. And it’s continuously replacing old cells with new ones to keep your body on top of its game.
What Does It Mean For My Skincare Results?
Knowing you have a skin replacement cycle of 28 days gives you countless opportunities to take care of your skin properly so it can be at its healthiest. When choosing the right products for your skin, just be mindful of the other factors at play, like hormones, nutrition, sun exposure and stress. Play your cards right through the cycle by maintaining healthy habits so you can keep your skin feeling smoother and more youthful. Here are some suggestions to help through every stage of the cycle.
Dry: Because skin is particularly parched in this stage, you’ll want to boost hydration, so products with ingredients like Vitamin E can be especially helpful.
Improving: Because your skin is still going through it with the dry stage, it’ll still be a little on the dull side. Add an exfoliator in the mix to gently slough off some of the dryness and make way for the coveted “glowing” phase.
Glowing: In this stage, life is good. Your skin is firmer, your pores are smaller, your oil-levels decrease and your skin has more colour. All you need to do in this phase is protect the microbiome4. Look for products that contain Vitamin C to give your complexion even more of a radiant boost.
Oily: As skin cells hit this stage, they go through the opposite: excessive shine, enlarged pores (which can lead to breakouts) and an imbalance of the hydrolipidic layer5. Keep exfoliating to a minimum and add a product with retinol or salicylic acid to help keep the oil under control.
By effectively understanding the skin cycle and how it affects your skin, you’ll have more control over how it looks. And with the right skincare products, you can even help your improve skin’s youthful appearance, even as you age. As always, it’s recommended that you consult a dermatologist before starting any new skincare routine, especially if you suffer from any conditions that affect your skin.
- Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. Epidermis and Its Renewal by Stem Cells.Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26865/
- American Skin Association. (2020). Healthy Skin. Retrieved from: https://www.americanskin.org/resource/
- Pereira, R. F., & Bártolo, P. J. (2016). Traditional Therapies for Skin Wound Healing. Advances in wound care, 5(5), 208–229. https://doi.org/10.1089/wound.2013.0506 . Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4827280/
- $ Grice, E., Segre, J. The skin microbiome. Nat Rev Microbiol9, 244–253 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrmicro2537
- Maia Campos PMBG, Melo MO and Mercurio DG (2019) Use of Advanced Imaging Techniques for the Characterization of Oily Skin. Front. Physiol.10:254. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00254. Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2019.00254/full