A Beauty Expert's Guide To Enzymes

by Katey Kristabelle


How can enzymes help your skin? What are enzymes?

Enzymes are tiny molecules found in fruits (think pumpkins, papaya, and pineapple, cranberries) that break down the protein (keratin) in dead skin cells. Enzymes are great for sensitive and reactive skin since they work to break down the proteins found in dead surface skin cells but do not cause any cellular death or turnover for living cells underneath like acids do. Think of enzymes as a less forced form of exfoliation.

Benefits of enzymes for skin

Enzymes help gently break up surface skin cells to promote smoother, softer, healthier looking skin, while also targeting pigmentation and breakouts.

Exfoliation: Enzymes help with the skin’s natural renewal process.

Boost other products: Enzymes are often added to DNA repairing products such as pigmentation reversal, anti-aging, and acne skincare to help signal repair within the skin.

Better absorption: Exfoliation will help your other skincare ingredients work better and penetrate more effectively into the skin.

Gentle for sensitive skin: Enzymes are ideal for those with reactive and sensitive skin to minimize inflammation or irritation while targeting concerns and exfoliating.

Pregnancy friendly: Enzyme exfoliation products can be suited for women who are pregnant and can replace other exfoliating products that contain acids or retinol. Enzyme peels are safe and suitable for people who are pregnant or breast-feeding because the enzymes can be absorbed into the skin—and you don’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals, toxins, or side effects with enzyme peels. (Of course, we always recommend seeing a medical professional prior to getting the treatment).

Works well with other ingredients: Enzymes are compatible with just about every ingredient which can help take the worry out of your skincare routine.

Moisture barrier friendly: Enzymes typically maintain a neutral pH, which can keep the skin's acid mantle balanced and keep your barrier function in best form.

How to use enzymes in your skincare

Like with any form of exfoliation or system that speeds up the skin cell turnover, moderation is key. Start to slowly introduce a new enzyme routine, and like with any new product, it can be beneficial to patch test first to make sure the skin is agreeable. It can be beneficial to work with an esthetician who can recommend an at-home enzyme exfoliation routine that compliments your professional treatments and customizes it to your needs.

If you use other active skincare ingredients such as retinol or acids, it could be best to cycle your skincare products to avoid using these in combination at the same application time or day to avoid stressing out the skin. Less is always more and everyone’s needs and tolerance to skincare is unique.

Fruit enzymes can be delicate and have a short shelf so it could be beneficial to keep products stored in a cool, dry place and make sure they are properly sealed to take care of them.

Most enzyme products are formulated to be applied for short periods of time through cleansers, exfoliators, masks and treatments instead of a leave-on moisturizer. This can be beneficial for those dealing with acne who require gentle, non-inflammatory exfoliation. But in some cases using alpha or beta-hydroxy acids that are both oil and water soluble cycled in an acne routine can help penetrate through to deeper levels of the skin and dissolve congestion.

The takeaway

Enzymes are an effective yet gentle way to exfoliate. They work on the surface to dissolve dead skin and support your skin’s natural renewal without force. Enzymes are perfect for those with sensitive skin or anyone who prefers a less aggressive exfoliation routine.

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