One of the simplest (yet most effective) ways to take your skincare routine to the next level is with exfoliation. It helps your skin to shed dead skin for a radiant glow - and that’s just two of the many benefits of exfoliation for your skin.
Have you heard of enzyme exfoliation? If you’re finding that AHAs are too strong for you, enzymes might just be the facial exfoliator that you’re looking for. Here’s our guide to this type of exfoliator and enzyme exfoliation benefits.
What Is an Enzyme Exfoliator?
I know what you’re thinking - what are enzymes in the first place? They’re defined as molecules that speed up chemical reactions. In your body, thousands of different types of enzymes play just as many different, yet crucial roles to ensure your body is working as it should.
However, when it comes to enzyme exfoliation, there’s a very specific reaction that we want to happen - loosening of dead skin cells to reveal the radiance hiding underneath! The enzymes found in enzyme exfoliators are usually found in nature - one famous example is the enzyme in pineapple called bromelain.
You might have already heard that pineapple juice makes a great tenderiser - it’s because of the high levels of bromelain in pineapples! However, we’re not advocating for any risky DIY skincare with pineapples here - the amount of natural enzymes varies from fruit to fruit, plus your stomach might appreciate pineapple more than your face will.
Other plant-based sources of enzymes include papain, a unique enzyme that’s showing a lot of promise at reducing the appearance of scars in initial lab tests. You might be able to tell from the name, but it comes from Papaw or Papaya (Carica papaya) fruit, and like bromelain, is an excellent (yet gentle) exfoliator!
Dr Irena Eris Cleanology Enzyme Peeling | $57
This gentle enzyme peel from Dr Irena Eris uses the power of papain to gently exfoliate your skin.
How to Use an Exfoliating Enzyme Peel
Unlike chemical exfoliators, enzymes need to be eventually rinsed off the skin, revealing the new fresh skin underneath the old dead skin cells. How often to use enzyme peel matters, too - as always, a good rule of thumb to start with is once a week.
Because enzyme exfoliators are so gentle, they can be tolerated more frequently than traditional exfoliators - however, starting slow is the best way to gauge how your skin responds to enzyme exfoliation.
Enzyme peels are best used immediately after cleansing and even before toner - depending on the formula, the enzyme exfoliator might need to be massaged into your skin for a few minutes, or left on to let the enzymes work their magic.
Once the enzymes have been in contact with your skin for the proper amount of time (that is, as per the brand instructions!) all you’ll need to do is rinse away and follow with the rest of your beauty ritual.
Benefits of Enzyme Exfoliators
So, why should you choose an exfoliating enzyme peel over a traditional chemical exfoliator like lactic acid? Well, there are a few reasons why - here are our favourite benefits of enzyme exfoliators.
1) Enzyme Exfoliators Are Super Gentle
One of the biggest reasons to use an enzyme exfoliator is that they’re super gentle - they’re even kinder on your skin than the gentlest physical scrub or mildest chemical exfoliant. That’s because enzymes can only act on dead skin cells - they leave any live ones alone, which ensures they’re not leaving your skin irritated afterwards!
2) They Have Long-Term Benefits for Your Skin
One study found that over extended periods of time, the changes that enzyme exfoliators were able to make on the epidermis and dermis were “strikingly similar” to the results that you’d expect to see from using AHAs and BHAs, two groups of chemical exfoliants that are stronger and carry the risk of irritation on the skin.
To put it simply, it was found that enzymes were equally as effective as AHAs when it came to improving the appearance of wrinkles, firming skin, and boosting the dermis’ thickness and strength!
3) Enzyme Exfoliators Don’t Cause Sun Sensitivity
If there’s a major side-effect of AHA exfoliators that you need to be aware of, it’s that they can temporarily make your skin more vulnerable to the sun, making regular SPF usage even more critical if you use AHAs as part of your beauty ritual.
On the other hand, enzymes don’t cause the same kind of sun sensitivity - while you ideally should be wearing sunscreen every single day, it’s a huge benefit that enzyme peels don’t have as much downtime compared to their traditional AHA counterparts!
Declaré Soft Cleansing Enzyme Peeling Powder | $50
This gentle enzyme peel is designed especially for sensitive, reactive skin.
Which Skin Type Are Enzymes Best For?
Because they’re so gentle, enzymes can be tolerated by all skin types - but the skin types and concerns that they really shine for are for those with sensitive skin who want to target concerns related to even skin tone, firmness and wrinkles but also find that retinoids and AHAs are a little too much for their skin.
Another reason to use enzymes is that they’re pregnancy-safe skincare products - not all anti-ageing products, such as retinol, are safe to use while pregnant. We recommend following your GP’s advice when it comes to pregnancy-safe skincare.
Now that you know what makes enzymes such special little skincare ingredients, will you get your beauty affairs in order and start using enzyme exfoliators?
If you're still trying to create the perfect skincare routine, try our skincare quiz!