Many people have heard that having a thick layer of “dead skin” on your face can make it look dull and lifeless, and that exfoliating treatments like chemical peels or fruit enzyme masks can help remove it. But what exactly is “dead skin” and why does it stay on the surface of our skin?
Dead skin refers to the outermost layer of our skin, also known as the stratum corneum. It is made up of 15 to 20 layers of dead skin cells without nuclei, which is why it’s called “dead skin.” As these cells shed off, new skin cells from the basal layer are pushed up to replace them, forming a new layer of dead skin cells. Shedding of these skin cells is a normal part of the skin’s renewal process.
The stratum corneum acts as the first line of defense for our skin, protecting it from bacteria and chemicals. The cells in this layer contain keratin, a protein that helps reduce water loss and can even absorb moisture to keep the skin hydrated. Therefore, dead skin plays an important role in maintaining healthy skin. The thickness of the stratum corneum varies in different parts of the body. Areas that experience more friction or contact with the outside world, such as the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet, have a thicker layer of dead skin cells. On the other hand, the skin on our face is generally thinner, ranging from 10 to 20 micrometers in thickness, making it more vulnerable to damage.
The turnover rate of the stratum corneum is approximately 28 days, and as we age, this cycle becomes longer. When the cycle is prolonged, dead skin cells accumulate and create an uneven and thick layer, resulting in dull and lackluster skin.
To achieve healthy and radiant skin, it’s important to regularly remove excess dead skin cells through exfoliation. This helps to restore smoothness to the skin and increases the absorption of skincare products. At home, you can use physical exfoliators like scrubs, enzymes (such as papaya or pineapple), or mild chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid-based cleansers. However, the choice of exfoliant should depend on your skin type and the product’s ingredients.
If you have other skin concerns such as acne, blackheads, or hyperpigmentation, you may need professional treatment to help remove dead skin cells. Treatments like HydraFacial, diamond microdermabrasion, and chemical peels can help exfoliate the skin and promote faster renewal. As different parts of the body and people’s skin have different thicknesses of the stratum corneum, the method and depth of treatment will vary. For instance, a higher concentration of trichloroacetic acid may be used to treat the thick layer of dead skin on the back.
Knowing the importance of dead skin cells and their impact on the skin can help you take better care of your skin. Regular exfoliation can help remove excess dead skin cells and promote a more youthful and radiant complexion.