Keep your skin cells healthy = prevent biggest skin conditions.
Before we can truly care for our skin, we need to understand it - what is your skin made of? Knowing about skin cells and how the layers of your skin work means you will understand why it’s important to get rid of dead skin cells to have that skin glow we all crave. So what are dead skin cells? What can we do about them? And how can they have an impact on your overall skin health? Let’s get started with the basics.
What are skin cells?
Your skin is an organ - in fact it’s the largest organ in your body. It’s just stretched across your body so you don’t always notice it! It’s made up of cells, which are organised into layers of skin. The top layers have a different job to the deeper layers and so are made up of slightly different types of cells. Your skin is not just there to cover your skeleton and hide your internal organs (!), it also works to protect you from the elements, from microbes and irritants. It regulates the sensation of heat, cold and touch and regulates your body temperature.
What are skin’s layers?
Your skin is split into three main layers:
The epidermis - that’s the bit we see - the outer layer which creates a waterproof barrier and gives our skin its colour.
The dermis - underneath the epidermis is this important layer of skin. It is what houses your connective tissue, your hair follicles and sweat glands.
The hypodermis - even deeper is a layer of your skin that is made of fat and connective tissue - this isn’t affected by skincare products but is the link between your skin and the internal workings of your body.
When we talk about skin care, we are normally talking about treating concerns in the epidermis (which includes the skin’s lipid barrier) and the dermis (the deeper layers of skin).
What are the different types of skin cells?
There are lots of different types of skin cells but the ones that are most important for us are the keratinocyte cells - which make up most of the epidermis - that’s the outer layer of skin, which have a tough protein called keratin, which helps make the skin waterproof and tough. They are made in the deeper layers of skin and slowly work their way up and off the skin.
The other types of skin cells we are interested in are in the dermis - protein cells: collagen and elastin, which give the skin its strength and flexibility. As your skin ages, it naturally produces less of these cells which can lead to sagging and wrinkled skin.
What are dead skin cells?
Your skin is constantly shedding dead skin cells - in fact every 24 hours, you shed about a million skin cells! The cells you lose are the keratinocytes - as they work their way up through the layers, they eventually are expelled by the skin. They form the stratum corneum - which is a layer of dead skin cells that sit on top of the skin, waiting to fall off in a natural process called demasqueation. When you are younger the life cycle of a skin cell is about thirty days. However, we we age this process slows down and this can lead to dead skin cells being left on top of the skin and causing it to look dull and lack lustre.
Equally, when dead skin cells don’t shed in the way they are meant to, they can also start to clog the pores of your skin, mixing with the skin’s natural sebum (oil) to create blackheads and whiteheads. These pores can become inflamed or infected when bacteria also gets trapped with the dead skin cells and oil, leading to breakouts.
How should you remove dead skin cells?
A key part of a skincare routine, especially for ageing skin, is helping to remove dead skin cells and aid the demasquation process. While younger skin may not need this extra help, so for example, skin in your twenties, ageing skin needs a helping hand to ensure your skin is healthy and renewing itself.
How do you get rid of dead skin cells?
One word - exfoliation. Using exfoliants is the best way to clear the skin of dead skin cells and to stimulate the growth of new skin cells.
When we think of exfoliants, we may automatically think about abrasive products that literally rub the dead skin cells off your skin. This is a process called physical exfoliation. This isn’t the only way to get rid of dead skin cells and for concerns such as oily skin, breakout prone skin or dry skin, this can actually irritate the skin further. There are gentler physical exfoliants and also chemical exfoliation.
Another option is a chemical exfoliant - this works by penetrating into the skin and dissolving the bonds that hold the skin cells together which encourages demasquation. This is the process used in chemical peels but can also be a gentler process for use at home as part of a regular skin care routine.
What ingredients are good for removing dead skin cells?
When it comes to ingredients for ageing skin to remove dead skin cells, there are three main types found in skincare products, depending on your skin concerns.
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)- don’t let the word acid put you off(!) that’s just a description of the type of molecules in these plant-based ingredients which work as a chemical exfoliator on the skin’s surface to get rid of dead skin cells. They work best for dry to normal skin concerns.
- Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs)- similar to AHAs in the way they work but they have smaller molecules so can penetrate into the deeper layers of skin and into the pores. It makes them a good option for oily and combination skin concerns as it deeply removes dead skin cells.
- Fruit enzymes - you’ll often find these in chemical peels. They are similar to AHAs and BHAs but they won’t increase cell turnover, which means they won’t work to expose a new layer of skin. This is great news if you have sensitive skin.
What’s a good skin routine to get rid of dead skin cells?
Here’s our top tips:
Double Cleanse - we love the double cleanse and it’s great for removing dead skin cells. First, you cleanse to remove surface dirt, makeup and excess oil on the surface of the skin, perhaps using a precleanse. Second, you use a targeted cleanser for your specific skin concerns that can work deeper to leave your skin truly clean.
Doux Foliant aux Essences de LysLily Essences Mild ExfoliatorSkincare50ml: £29.25
If you want an extra physical exfoliation, without using harsh abrasive face scrubs that can cause more damage to the skin, try using Dermalogica’s specially created Exfoliating Face Brush with your second cleanse.
Bronzing Sun Powderlight bronzing powderMakeup01 Light Bronze: £23.50
Tone - Use a toner that is specially formulated to help your skin with hydration and soothing after exfoliation. Once you have cleared the way for hydration, this is an ideal time to use a toner with hyaluronic acid for deep hydration.
Moisturise - finally finish with a moisturiser that is suited to your individual skin. Guinot Age Logic Cellulaire is a premium face cream for ageing skin that has a unique cellular energy complex to boost the work of cell renewal in the epidermis and the dermis.
Age LogicAge Logic CellulaireSkincare50ml: £149.00
Guinot Creme Hydra Summum is also a premium face cream for older skin that has a hydralogic complex for deep hydration, ideal for dehydrated ageing skin types.
Bronzing Sun Powderlight bronzing powderMakeup01 Light Bronze: £23.50
When you start to understand your skin - what a skin cell is and how it works naturally - you can know how to treat your skin to keep it full of energy and youth!
Find the right exfoliation for your unique skin on our Jersey Beauty website - shop now: