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The Ultimate Guide to Enzymes in Skincare

Regular exfoliation is really a non-negotiable when it comes to a solid skincare routine. While there’s a dizzying array of exfoliating products and methods to choose from, you can group them into three major types: physical (think scrubs or brushes), chemical (AHA/BHAs), and finally, enzymatic exfoliation. While lesser-known than acids or scrubs, enzymes in skincare are enjoying some much-deserved buzz in the skincare community right now, thanks to their extra-gentle nature and unique benefits. We couldn’t be happier about this! Enzyme exfoliation can work for any skin type and deserves a spot in practically anyone’s skincare routine.

What are enzymes in skincare?

Most enzymes in skincare are derived from fruits like pineapple and papaya. Just like digestive enzymes in your gut, fruit enzymes are able to break down proteins. On your skin, fruit enzymes digest away the keratin protein in the outermost layer of your skin, helping you slough off rough, dull dead skin cells to reveal soft, glowing skin underneath.

Acid exfoliation vs enzymatic exfoliation

Both acids and enzymes work to dissolve away dry, dead skin cells, but enzymes work specifically on the surface of your skin, while acids work deeper into the skin’s barrier. Enzymes also do not disrupt your pH balance, meaning they’re kind to your skin barrier. This is what makes enzymes so gentle compared to other methods of exfoliation. This doesn’t mean we don’t believe acids have a place in your routine. In fact, our enzyme-containing skincare, the Amla Purifying Cleanser and the Enzyme Exfoliant, also include gentler acids like lactic acid that work synergistically with the enzymes, so you can have the best of both worlds.


The benefits of enzymes in skincare

Enzymatic exfoliation can be especially beneficial for those with dry, sensitive, and mature skin types, but all skin types can benefit from enzyme exfoliation. Enzymes in skincare can help smooth texture, brighten skin tone, and clear the way for more efficient product penetration—all while keeping the skin’s natural moisture barrier intact! 

What are the best enzymes in skincare?

The star ingredient in the Enzyme Exfoliant mask, pineapple enzymes (aka, bromelain), have larger molecules that sit on the surface of the skin to smooth and refine. These big guys cannot physically penetrate the skin, which cuts down on any potential irritation, allowing for exfoliation without sensitivity. Bromelain has also been shown in studies to have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin and even promote wound healing, making it great for breakout-prone skin.[1][2]


Similarly, papaya enzymes—another favorite ingredient of ours to formulate with—have also been used medically for years to promote skin repair after surgery or injury. Research suggests these enzymes may cut down on healing time and help fade scarring.[3] Papaya enzymes are found in the Amla Purifying Cleanser for gentle daily exfoliation and brightening. 

How to use enzymes in skincare

The award-winning Enzyme Exfoliant mask is formulated with pineapple enzymes and uniquely offers all three major types of exfoliation in one easy mask. Two to three times a week (or more often if your skin is up for it!), apply a thin layer to a damp face (the warm water activates the enzymes) and leave it on for 15 minutes. Then, wash it off while massaging your skin in circular motions. Small volcanic ash particles help nudge away the dead skin cells the enzymes and acids have already dislodged, giving you soft, smooth, glowing skin.


The Amla Purifying Cleanser is formulated with both papaya and pineapple enzymes for an extremely gentle daily brightening effect. This is the perfect place to start if you want to dip your toes into enzymatic exfoliation. Congratulations, you’ve found your new favorite ingredient!


RELATED: Is Your Skincare Routine Hurting Your Skin Barrier


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC538506/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4998156/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23405827/

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