Why do skincare products contain enzymes and what’s their purpose?

One mention of the word enzyme, and we’re getting flashbacks to high school biology lessons. While we know enzymes serve a purpose in our bodies, what exactly are they doing in our skincare products? Most enzymes in skincare are taken from fruits, like papaya or pineapple, and they help to give us that widely coveted glowing complexion. Keep reading to discover how this works.

What exactly are enzymes?

Enzymes are proteins that act as a catalyst, speeding up chemical reactions. Our bodies produce enzymes to speed up reactions in the body, during processes such as digestion. The enzymes found in skincare formulations are botanically sourced, and the most common versions are bromelain, actinidin, papain, and ficin.

Why use enzymes in skincare?

When used in skincare, enzymes help to break down dead skin cells that are found on the surface of the skin. They work as an exfoliator, ridding the skin of old cells, and revealing the newer cells beneath. As a result, the skin is more vibrant and provides a better base for the absorption of other products. Additionally, enzymes speed up cellular function, and they help to protect the skin from environmental damage. Consistent use of products that contain enzymes will result in smoother and brighter skin.

Enzymes are a milder alternative to acid exfoliators (AHAs and BHAs), so they’re a better option for exfoliating and brightening sensitive skin. AHAs and BHAs are potent ingredients, that deliver faster results, but they are more likely to irritate the skin. 

While acne-prone skin may benefit from a stronger exfoliant, like salicylic acid, products containing enzymes are gentler, making them suitable for all skin types. They can also be used by pregnant ladies, whereas AHAs and BHAs are best avoided during pregnancy.

While enzymes are gentler than acids, they still need to be used with caution. Products containing a high concentration of enzymes should only be used every few days. 

The bottom line

Enzymes are sensitive, so they need to be stored carefully. Drastic changes in temperature or pH levels “denature” the enzymes, which will leave them inactive. The best way to store skincare products that contain enzymes is to keep them in a cool, dark place, and ensure the packaging is well sealed to prevent contamination.

Enzymes can also be used to lighten hyperpigmentation and scars, as well as help remove ingrown hairs. As such a gentle and versatile ingredient, it’s a welcome addition to anyone’s skincare routine.