Enzymes In Skincare: What They Do And How To Use Them

I swear the word enzyme takes me back to high school biology class, where I sat in the back wondering when the hell I’d ever get to use my random, newfound knowledge on enzymes in real life scenarios? Enter: skincare.

(Side note: taking science classes in high school would generate much more student interest if beauty were to be thrown into the equation #justsayin’…)

What Are Enzymes?

Enzymes in living organisms generally act as catalysts to aid in facilitating chemical reactions in the body and are needed for metabolic pathways such as our digestion to function properly. Enzymes in skincare are also used in products to promote gentle/effective exfoliation and get the baby soft skin of your dreeeeaams.

Lauren Burton from Advanced Skin Technology breaks it down further for us, stating, “enzymes are protein molecules that encourage a chemical reaction. Most commonly enzymes are used for their exfoliation properties however, other enzymes have the ability to protect the skin from environmental stress and free radical damage.”

Enzymes In Skincare What They Do And How To Use Them Sodashi Enzyme Face Polish Aspect Fruit Enzyme Mask Cosmedix Pure Enzymes Cranberry Exfoliating Mask Vanessa Megan Prebiotic + C Skin Polishing ExfoliatingEnzymes In Skincare What They Do And How To Use Them Sodashi Enzyme Face Polish Aspect Fruit Enzyme Mask Cosmedix Pure Enzymes Cranberry Exfoliating Mask Vanessa Megan Prebiotic + C Skin Polishing Exfoliating

Why Should We Use Enzymes In Skincare?

Basically, enzymes help to break stuff down. They help to break down the food that we eat and they also help to break down old skin cells hanging on the top layer of our skin that we could really do without.

We really should all be getting rid of those old skin cells a little more often than we do. Why? Because cellular build up is the key culprit in a whole range of skin conditions we don’t need including: premature ageing, dehydration and acne breakouts. More importantly, exfoliating dead skin cells promotes cell regeneration and can improve the way your skin better absorbs other treatments, serums and ingredients.

So if commonly stronger acids used for exfoliating the skin give you unwanted skin irritation or generally just don’t work for you, then perhaps opting for exfoliating with enzymes could be the best way to go.

Enzymes in skincare are usually derived from natural sources including fruits and plants such as banana, honey, pumpkin and ginger. However, some of the most common ones include:

Papain: found in papaya

Bromelain: found in pineapple juice

Ficin: found in figs

Actinidin: found in papaya, banana, mango, kiwi

What Skin Types Benefit Most From Enzymatic Exfoliation?

Enzyme exfoliation is generally thought of as suitable for most skin types as it seems to be a much gentler way to exfoliate and brighten the skin, compared to stronger chemical forms of exfoliation. Although people with sensitive, normal, dry and of course, women who are pregnant are thought to benefit most.

Lauren Burton tells us “popular exfoliating enzymes, like bromelain (from pineapple) and papain (from papaya) that are rich in alpha hydroxy acids are most suitable for rough or aging skins looking to smooth texture, while other enzymes, including blue algae, plankton and mustard seed are suitable for all skin types as they support the skin’s natural recovery process, calming stressed skin and minimising the signs of aging.”

So, how do you exfoliate your skin? If you’re thinking of giving enzyme exfoliation a try below are a few of my favourite products.

Sodashi is my pregnancy go-to brand. It’s gentle, effective and every product makes you feel like you’re getting a little spa treatment at home. This face polish is rich in natural enzymes including pomegranate and is made with finely ground rice, so you can feel it gently polish your skin while still respecting your barrier. You also don’t need to leave it on for a recommended number of time which is amazing for short on time peeps - but letting it infuse on the skin for one minute let’s it work a little harder. I’m obsessed. 

You will notice softer, brighter skin after one use. This enzyme mask is perfect for sensitive skin and I even like to use it following a lactic cleanser whenever I DIY facial at home. I do recommend leaving it to dry on the skin for at least ten minutes though, before trying to peel it off. And after writing about beauty for a gazillion years I still think it’s my favourite enzyme exfoliator on the market. 

Stronger than your average enzyme mask, this product does slightly tingle when first applied and has the propensity to leave skin a little red so I’d tread with caution. It’s made with a combination of lactic acid and cranberry enzymes so might be a little strong for some. However, the results are worth it because it leaves your skin brighter, softer and way dewier than when you began. Plus, it won’t dry you out at all.

This is a beautiful natural enzyme exfoliator if green beauty is your jam. I wouldn’t keep it in the shower though because it’s literally a powder polish you shake into your hand, mix with a little water to turn it into a paste and rub on your face. Water will get stuck inside it and ruin the product if you like to cleanse in the shower… you have been warned. Anyway, it doesn’t have much of a scent either because it’s ingredients are minimal, although it will still help remove old skin cells, freshen up your complexion and brighten your face. Great for pregnancy too!