From uneven skin tone to acne, the gentle, chemical exfoliation that comes from the routine use of enzymes is recommended to create even, smooth, and clear skin. As we age, our cell turnover rate decreases and can result in a dry, rough, or dull appearance to the skin. Enzymes gently digest and remove dead, superficial skin cells, primarily composed of keratin (a protein). This type of exfoliation aids in removing the flaking outer layer to reveal smoother, brighter, fresher skin, and allows an increased penetration of beneficial ingredients into the skin, and stimulates new cell renewal.
What are Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins that initial a chemical reaction, which involves either the formation and/or breakage of chemical bonds. They are also present in every living thing and take part in nearly every aspect of life. The enzymes found in skin care products are chosen specifically for their ability to break down keratin (a protein that is a major component of skin, hair, and nails). Known as proteases (or proteolytic enzymes), these enzymes break down and digest dead skin cells at the surface of the skin.
What are the benefits of using Enzymes?
As we age, our cell turnover rate decreases and can result in a dry, rough, or dull appearance to the skin. Enzymes gently digest and remove the dead, superficial skin cells, revealing smoother, clearer, and younger skin. Because the enzymes work quickly – dissolving dead surface skin within a matter of minutes, they are an excellent choice for those needing instant results. Immediately after treatment, skin will be noticeably softer, smoother and brighter.
Enzymes can also be used as a preparatory facial before anti-aging or acne routines. Dead cells at the surface of the skin can serve as a blockade, hindering the penetration of active ingredients. An enzyme treatment beforehand will enhance a products performance by improving its ability to penetrate the outer layers of the skin.
Enzymes are also beneficial for dermatologic conditions that are characterized by hardened, thickened, or flaky skin – such as psoriasis and seborrhoeic dermatitis.
How do Enzymes differ from other exfoliating ingredients?
Enzymes are a chemical exfoliant – meaning they use a chemical (rather than a manual) action to resurface the skin. Other chemical exfoliants are salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, and retinoic acids (retinol).
Enzymes work on the surface of the skin, dissolving and removing surface skin cells. Salicylic acid also works at the surface of the skin and has the ability to penetrate and exfoliate inside pores – but it only softens keratin rather than dissolving it. Alpha Hydroxy Acids
encourage exfoliation by loosening the bonds that hold dead skin cells together – so that they break away from the surface of the skin more readily. Retinoids work inside the cell – speeding up cellular division and increasing the rate of cell turnover. This causes the dead cells to fall off faster as they are being replaced.
Each exfoliant has a unique mechanism of action – each with its own benefits. We recommend using another method of exfoliation in combination with enzymes in order to enhance results. Oily or Acne prone people would benefit most from a combination of salicylic acid and enzymes therapies whereas people with uneven skin tone and sun damage would get better results with a combination of alpha hydroxy acids and enzymes. Those with mature, aging skin with a loss of elasticity and definition should use retinol in conjunction with their enzyme treatments.
What are the different types of Enzymes?
There are thousands upon thousands of different types of enzymes – and thousands of different sources. Even when you narrow it down to just the specific variety used in skin care products (the proteolytic enzymes), there are numerous options. Proteolytic enzymes can be derived from fruit, herbs, vegetables, animals, bacteria, or fungi.
The most commonly used, and also the most stable enzymes are Papain (usually derived from Papaya), and Bromelain (from Pineapple). Other examples are the vitamin-rich Pumpkin enzymes, the extra strength Fig-derived enzyme (Ficin), hydrating enzymes derived from sour milk, the enzymatic antioxidant superoxide dismutase and a marine-derived enzyme called Zonase which is prized for its ability to differentiate between living skin cells and dead skin cells.