Enzymes are proteins that are present in every living thing. They assist in the breakdown and transformation of biological processes. For example, enzymes in the stomach aid in digestion and ensure that food is broken down into tiny particles that can be converted to energy in the body.
In skincare products, enzymes help break down and digest dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, 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.
Enzymes are considered one of the ‘smartest’ natural skincare ingredients since they target only dead skin cells, leaving heavy (or good) skin cells alone to reveal healthy, glowing skin.
Different Types of Enzymes
There are thousands of different types of enzymes and just as many different sources. Enzymes used in skincare products (called proteolytic enzymes), can be derived from fruit, herbs, vegetables, animals, bacteria, or fungi. Here are a few of the most commonly used plant-based enzymes found in skincare products:
Pumpkin – listed as protease on the label. This enzyme not only has excellent exfoliating properties, it is loaded with the anti-aging antioxidant, Vitamin A, making it one of the best enzymes for reconditioning the skin and treating lines and wrinkles.
Papaya – listed as papain on the label. This is probably the most common enzyme in skincare products. It contains very powerful and anti-inflammatory properties. Papaya improves cell regeneration and because it is also rich in Vitamin C, it helps stimulate the production of collagen to keep the skin firm as well as exfoliated.
Pineapple – listed as bromelain on the label. Considered the strongest type of enzyme in skincare products. This enzyme is an effective exfoliant as well as an anti-inflammatory.
Cranberry – listed as vaccinium macrocarpon on the label. It contains high levels of polyphenols, flavonoids, vitamin C, and fatty acids, making it a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that fights free radicals to help prevent wrinkles, reduce redness, and restore signs of damaged skin.
Green Apple – listed as malic acid on the label. Malic acid is found is many fruits, but it is most abundant in green apples. I t contains alpha hydroxy acid to exfoliate the skin making it one of the most powerful natural exfoliants for mature skin or for those with significant UV damage. Those with hyper-sensitive skin should avoid malic acid.
Kiwi Fruit – listed at actinidin on the label. Kiwi’s contains very high doses of Vitamin C – a powerful agent for brightening the skin. Kiwi fruit extract improves skin radiance, reduces appearance of fine lines and helps fade dark circles under the eyes.
DID YOU KNOW?
Enzymes offer a more gentle way to exfoliate the skin than AHAs (alpha hydroxyl acids). AHAs will go deeper into the skin, but these acids have a low pH, which can leave the skin irritated. Enzymes have a higher pH, making them a gentler option you can use every day – it also makes this form of exfoliation safe for sensitive skin.