Coordinated polymerization of actin filaments provides force for cell migration, morphogenesis and endocytosis. Capping protein (CP) is a central regulator of actin dynamics in all eukaryotes. It binds to actin filament (F-actin) barbed ends with high affinity and slow dissociation kinetics to prevent filament polymerization and depolymerization. However, in cells, CP displays remarkably rapid dynamics within F-actin networks, but the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Here, we report that the conserved cytoskeletal regulator twinfilin is responsible for CP’s rapid dynamics and specific localization in cells. Depletion of twinfilin led to stable association between CP and cellular F-actin arrays, as well as to its retrograde movement throughout leading-edge lamellipodia. These were accompanied by diminished F-actin turnover rates. In vitro single-filament imaging approaches revealed that twinfilin directly promotes dissociation of CP from filament barbed ends, while enabling subsequent filament depolymerization. These results uncover a bipartite mechanism that controls how actin cytoskeleton-mediated forces are generated in cells.