Skin Turnover (Thank Science)

When I saw this Pickles cartoon

about how much skin turnover we experience each year, I had to investigate. Forty pounds of dead skin cells just didn’t sound right.

Pickles -skin

Nothing against the cartoon strip, it’s hilarious. I simply insist on accuracy. Maybe I’m a little OCD. Anyway, it turns out I was right about the figure being wrong, although it isn’t as far off as I thought.

The Internet is a wonderful thing. You can find whatever you are looking for, even if it’s wrong. So I found when I went googling for answers to the skin question. I found amounts ranging from half an ounce to 20 pounds of dead skin a year. Science Daily (drawing from the American Chemical Society) provided the most reasonable sounding answer. It seems that we shed our “entire outer layer of skin every 2-4 weeks at the rate of 0.001 — 0.003 ounces of skin flakes every hour.” By my figuring, that comes out to between 0.55 and 1.64 pounds per year, or roughly a pound a year. Science Daily also reports that we lose about 500 million skin cells a day, which would be about 7 million cells in 20 minutes, rather than half a million. Hey, it’s only a cartoon, right?

That still sounds like a lot of dust for a household of shedding people, but not all of it ends up on your furniture. Many of the dead cells go down the drain when you shower or do laundry. Some blow away outdoors. Of what remains on every surface in your dwelling, it’s nice to know, according to Science Daily, that it is useful in reducing ozone levels, however slightly. As an added bonus, you are providing sustenance for multitudes of dust mites. Isn’t nature amazing!

I am thinking of making “Thank Science” a regular feature, if I run across enough scientifically inspirational material. We shall see how that works out.

Title image credit: Frontiers.

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