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Exfoliation: is regimen overkill possible?

Is a Solution for:
Sagging Skin
November 6, 2007 Reviewed by Marta 4 Comments
That exfoliation is important to the skin is a no-brainer. Removing build up of dead, damaged skin cells stimulates the regeneration of new cells improving the skin’s appearance, feel and texture. But can there be too much of a good thing?

I decided to research the impact of frequent and long-term exfoliation. There is some compelling evidence that over exfoliation (I mean deep exfoliation such as glycholic peels or microdermabrasion) will ultimately exhaust the skin's long-term capacity to regenerate. This is because successive stripping of the skin cells eventually leads to something called the Hayflick Limit.

In the 1960s, Dr Leonard Hayflick found that lung tissue appeared to die out after the cells had divided a certain number of times (roughly 50). As the cells approached the end of their division limit, the cells would take on the appearance of old tissue. This included age pigments (lipofuscin) which are also found in aged hearts and brain cells. With each division, a cell becomes less likely to divide again, until finally it stops dividing altogether and becomes what is called senescent. Cell senescence is the final step before cell death. Senescent cells are still alive and metabolically active, but they’re no longer capable of dividing. More importantly, though, senescent cells exhibit all of the characteristics of old age, such as wrinkles.

When the skin is stressed - ie by a peel - it starts to speed up the cell reproduction. Unfortunately the cells don't regenerate indefinitely. Since there is effectively a cellular clock (50 divisions until the Hayflick Limit is reached) then with each peel time is ticking by.

The Hayflick Limit hypothesis was disputed for a time. However, it is now largely endorsed by other scientists. There are various ideas about how to override it, but in practice they remain futeristic. In the meantime, deep peel in moderation.
  • September 24, 2017

    by Meghan

    The Hayflick limit only applies to fully differentiated cells eg. Keratinocytes . The Hayflick limit does not apply to epidermal stem cells which can multiply indefinitely therefore you cannot exhaust the the skins ability to regenerate.

  • June 18, 2017

    by Hollie coote

    I wonder if prp and dermal needling with ha solution help this cell death from happening?

  • June 3, 2015

    by Janice

    Thank you so much for alerting me of the dangers of over-exfoliation. I knew that too, much exfoliation leads to inflammation. However, I was not aware that cells can stop dividing. I guess I will stick with my daily Clarisonic usage & save the over the counter topical peels for extreme special occasions. I was wondering if at home dermaplaning, using the Brow Shaper by Lilibeth of New York on the entire face, qualifies as an exfoliation method capable of achieving the Hayflick limit. The Brow Shaper gently removes facial hair and removes dead skin at the same time. It's only removing the dead surface layer & not penetrating the skin. In your opinion, do you think it is feasible to use a few times a week without the Hayflick limit risk? I look forward to hearing back soon. Thanks again...

  • April 20, 2011

    by Ishay

    I agree with your that too much exfoliation may not be good for the skin. However if you find a method that exfoliates without harming the healthy cells and takes off whatever is unnecessary for your skin any more, it will never cause too much exfoliation. Try an ancient method that used for centuries. I have been using it over 35 years. My skin is in perfect health. It is called the Baiden Mitten. Thanks

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