What are enzymes?

Enzymes are proteins and vitamins which breakdown molecules into smaller sizes. Inside the body, enzymes are often used as biological catalysts to get energy from food, or speed up reactions.

In skincare, enzymes dissolve dead skin cells and exfoliate the skin. This type of exfoliation is beneficial as it is not “physical” but “chemical”. That is to say, the product will be smooth and slippy, not abrasive like a scrub. This will prevent any micro-tears that gritty scrubs can cause when used roughly.

What kind of skin likes enzymes?

All skin types will benefit from an enzyme treatment to help remove that layer of dead skin cells. Encouraging cell turnover (getting rid of the old skin cells so the young, healthy ones can shine through) will keep skin looking more radiant, youthful, and healthy.

Anyone with sensitive skin should be particularly careful to patch test enzyme treatments to ensure avoiding an adverse reaction.*

When should I use enzymes?

Any exfoliation is best done before you apply product you want to penetrate, like spot treatments, serums, toners, lotions, and moisturizers. I suggest using an enzyme treatment in the evening after you cleanse, then follow it right away with the nourishing product your skin is craving.

Be mindful

Enzymes are tremendously beneficial, but, as you probably suspected, there is a catch. Enzymes are quite picky, and like their natural homes’ pH and temperatures. Cosmetic chemists have made leaps and bounds in using enzymes in highly effective products, though. Keep in mind that a professional-grade enzyme will be more effective than a generic off-the-shelf product, as there are higher requirements for quality control and the product has passed clinical testing.

Make sure you follow label instructions to store the product properly. You want those enzymes ready to go when you want to use it!

Product recommendations

Some products that contain enzymes include:


*Some people find that papain, or papaya enzyme, can cause redness or allergic reaction. If this reaction occurs, consult your skincare professional.