You know how some lizards can lose a tail and grow it back? Or snakes who drop their entire skin at once? Well, we aren’t so different. Humans have our own reptilian regeneration power.
You see, as old cells age, new cells form to replace them—and the old cells are discharged. Most of the organs in your body are constantly renewing, though the amount of time it takes for an organ to completely renew depends in part on the amount of wear they take on. Lots of wear and use means more frequent replacement. Like the lining of your stomach, for instance. Or…your skin!
Your skin is literally the body’s barrier system. Skin is our outer-most layer. Our protector. Our first line of defense against the elements. Being on the front line naturally leads to a fair amount of wear and tear. It can be cut, scraped and banged—but that’s just the start of it! The sun, the wind, the air, pollution—all things in our environment wear on our skin.
Luckily, our skin regenerates—and it does so fairly quickly. If it is damaged, cells race to heal it. And it is constantly renewing to compensate for all the frontline wear and tear. In fact, it only takes 45-60 days to completely replenish itself. Pretty incredible, huh?
So, what does this mean for your skin care regime?
First, a wee anatomy lesson:
Think back to the learning you did as a kid. Somewhere between desperately checking that your pants were pulled up and toilet paper wasn’t stuck to your foot, you should have learned that the scientific word for skin is epidermis. But it’s a wee bit more complicated than that.
In fact, the outer most layer of skin is not the epidermis, but the stratum corneum. It’s the layer of dead skin—the skin that has died and been pushed to the surface to be sluffed off. It is this layer that we are after when we exfoliate, since you don’t want it to build up and clog pores.
It’s also the reason you don’t want to over exfoliate - because you don’t want to rub the next layer of fresh skin rough.
And what is the next layer?
The next layer is that infamous epidermis. This is the outermost living layer of your skin and it is this incredible layer that protects us from the outer environment—all the more incredible since it is also the thinnest layer. The epidermis itself is actually itself made up of four layers of cells tightly packed together. The bottom most layer is where new cells are born.
These cells slowly push their way to the surface, becoming flatter and flakier as they go, until they eventually die and are pushed out altogether. The human body loses about 50 million skin cells a day thanks to the process of the very industrious epidermis.
The epidermis also makes and stores melanin, which protects against the damaging rays of the sun.
They also give pigment and are responsible for black spots (which we’ll talk more about below).
Beneath the epidermis is the dermis—the middle layer of fibrous and elastic tissue. This is where you’ll find blood vessels, nerves, hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous glands and even tiny erector muscles that push hair up (and are responsible for goose bumps too!).
The dermis is also the layer that we can thank for wrinkles.
Wrinkles come from a reduction in collagen and elastin, which are proteins found in the dermis. They keep the skin healthy, elastic and youthful. In fact, collagen makes up 75% of the skin!
After the dermis is the subcutis layer, which anchors your skin to your body (thanks subcutis layer!). This is also the fatty layer which conserves your body’s heat, protects your organs and keeps your skin looking plump and full…and then causes skin to sag with age as the tissue in this layer reduces.
Ok, so how can we apply this knowledge to our skin care routine? First, let’s just pause for a moment and acknowledge how beautiful and miraculous our skin in!
Ok, that’s all. Let’s mush on.
I’ve spoken before about the “honeymoon” phase that people tend to have with treatment routines: first they fall in love with the new regimen because “it really works!” but then, after a few months, their skin is right back to the same issue as before. Sound familiar?
If you’re treating the symptoms but ignoring the cause of your skin problems, you’re going to end up dealing with it over and over again for the rest of your life.
You’ve got to treat the cause!! Not just the symptoms. And lots of products out there are focused purely on symptoms. Why? Because it’s easy and fast gratification that customers respond to.
But here’s the thing: you want your skin to regenerate without the problem! That means getting deep into those layers of skin to figure out what’s going on, so your skin can regenerate itself into a perfectly clear, fresh and glowing version of itself!
How can you figure out what’s causing the mayhem? Well, you could start by taking our free personalized skin quiz which will determine your skin type and suggest a skin regime just for you.
If you want to have truly healthy skin, you’ve got to treat the cause. And keep in mind…
Perhaps the biggest lesson we can glean from knowing how quickly our skin turns over, is to know that while it is quick, it is not immediate! It takes time to heal your skin. So, when you begin doing something good for your skin—like a new skin routine designed just for you—remember: you’ve got to stick with it to see results!
For example, if you begin taking collagen and eating healthy fats for your skin, you’ll won’t see real results for at least 3-6 weeks.
How can we apply this knowledge in specific situations? Let’s look at a few examples.
Ok, let’s take acne. If you’re treating the symptoms (pimples, blackheads and whiteheads), but ignoring the cause, you’re going to just keep dealing with it again and again. If you don’t treat the cause at the deeper layer of skin, it will reproduce itself next month and the month after—with every renewal of skin, the acne will renew too!
What’s going on down there in the dermis? Why are your pores getting blocked?
Could it be that your skin isn’t exfoliating as quickly as it should? This is one cause for blackheads. we know from the above anatomy lesson that the skin grows in layers, with the newest skin on the bottom most layer. As the new skin turns over, it pushes old skin out.
The old skin should shred off (or exfoliate) by itself. Some people hardly ever have to exfoliate, because their skin is very efficient at this process. However, for others, the old skin fails to shred, instead remaining on the surface of the skin, clogging pores and leading to mayhem! Sebum gets trapped inside the clogged pores and it accumulates, causing blackheads, whiteheads and acne.
In this case, the fix is to exfoliate! Scrub that stratum corneum and help that epidermis to glow! Because the problem is right on the surface of the skin, you should see results more quickly.
And if it’s a deeper cause? White heads, for example, are deeper in the skin layers than black heads and thus they take longer to heal. Once you change up your routine, you’ll have to wait for the skin to move through its entire regenerative process.
And if your acne is caused by naturally oily skin? Well, you’ll have to really change up your skin routine—less washing, and products that attract more water to your skin. To read more about causes of acne and strategies to counteract it, check out our article on the topic here.
Once you’ve targeted the cause, and gotten the skin care regimen in place to treat it, remember: it takes time! Let your skin go through a couple renewal processes and just see if you don’t begin to see deep, lasting change!
Black spots are another great example of a problem you really need to get to the root of. If you to use natural, healthy ingredients to get rid of black spots—and really get rid of them, not just bleach them—you’ll have to be patient.
We go into the specifics of how to treat blackspots in this article. Basically, it includes a 3-fold approach.
First, you’ll want to use natural skin care ingredients to prevent the melanin (dark pigment) of the epidermis from forming. BUT, you’ll have to wait for the top layer of hyperpigmented skin to sluff off before the bottom layer of nonpigmented skin can emerge. In part, it just takes time—you have to wait for the natural 45-60 day regeneration process of your skin. However, you can also help it along with an exfoliating cleanser, which is the second part of this approach.
The third thing is sunscreen. UV rays promotes melanin production. So, if you don't use sunscreen, all the hard work your serum does will go to waste when the sun’s UV rays kick up melanin production, making more dark spots on your face.
By incorporating these three strategies together with trusting in your skin’s natural regeneration process, you will see amazing results!
If you want to take full advantage of your skin’s renewal process, you can start by using skin products that are designed specifically for your skin type! Take our skin quiz to get started. We’ll help you understand your skin, so you can really work with it and help fully express itself in it’s natural glow. You really can have healthy skin if you remember it replenishes every 4-6 weeks and work with it!