What Are The Benefits Of Enzymes In Skincare?

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In the human body, the biological processes of breathing, digestion, excretion, and a few other metabolic functions are facilitated by chemicals that our body produces in order to maintain a healthy life. That's why enzymes, proteins that act as catalysts in living organisms to facilitate chemical reactions in our bodies, are pivotal in sustaining life, per BYJU'S. Lactase, for example, is an enzyme that aids in the digestion of lactose, a sugar found naturally in the milk of mammals and humans. Because enzymes are necessary for proper digestion, liver function, and heart health, your doctor may request an enzyme marker to measure enzymes and proteins in your blood to detect irregularities in your body.


The lack of enzymes causes hazardous chemicals to build up, which can interfere with normal organ function and prevent the production of essential biological molecules such as carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins, a study published in the journal Scientifica (Cairo) finds. Therefore, people with certain chronic disorders may need to ingest enzyme supplements to boost their immune systems. 

Given the importance of enzymes in the functioning of our body, the substance also plays a pivotal role in maintaining the health of your skin. In skincare, enzymes are proteins derived from botanicals such as plants and fruit, with the most popular ones being proteolytic enzymes that include ficain from leaves, papain from papaya, and actinidin from kiwis and pineapples, to name a few. Here's why using skincare products containing enzymes can do wonders for your skin.


Enzymes encourage skin regeneration

Enzyme-based products expedite skin cell renewal, a process where dead skin cells on the top layer of the epidermis recede to expose newly created cells beneath. This quickening of skin cell regeneration, which usually happens through exfoliation, is highly beneficial for the skin. "The benefits of using enzymes regularly are removal of superficial skin cells and encouraging desquamation (the shedding of the outer layers of the skin)," explains facialist and aesthetician Abi Oleck (via Sunday Riley). In addition, enzymes also help dismantle the accumulation of melanin in keratinocytes, minimizing pore clogging and pigmentation.


Agreeing that enzymes are able to break down the keratin protein on the surface of the skin, Desiree Stordahl, director of applied research & education at Paula's Choice Skincare, tells Vogue, "Enzymes essentially reduce the adhesive properties of skin cells trapped on the surface, thus allowing them to detach more efficiently." In order to dissolve proteins in the skin, they work by latching onto a substrate — the substance on which an enzyme acts — and holding onto it until the chemical reaction occurs.

Enzymes exfoliants are gentle on the skin

Generally speaking, potent acids such as AHAs and BHAs can exfoliate the surface of the skin and inside the pores intensely and effectively, but there's a risk for disruption of the corneocytes of the skin barrier and skin irritation such as swelling and redness. According to Bioelements, chemical exfoliation using enzymes are able to break off the "glue" that holds dead skin cells and excess sebum together to unclog pores. It does, however, exfoliate and brighten the skin as well as minimize ingrown hairs more gently than AHA or BHA chemical exfoliants.


Therefore, enzyme-based exfoliants are a great choice for those with sensitive skin and pregnant women who want to go easy on their skin and avoid disrupting its pH balance, Eilidh Smith, founder and CEO of Skinwork, tells Byrdie. You can start off using an enzyme exfoliant once per week to see how your skin reacts to the product and then increase usage gradually. Beware: just because enzymes are milder exfoliants does not imply you should skip or skimp on sunscreen. After exfoliation, your skin becomes more vulnerable to UV damage and requires sun protection to ward off photodamage. 

Enzymes allow better penetration of products

Not only does an enzyme exfoliation remove the uppermost layers of the stratum corneum to make room for consistent turnover of new cells without upsetting your skin's protective barrier or pH balance but it also clears the way for more effective penetration of active serums for healthier skin, per Infinita Biotech. Bella Schneider, a celebrity esthetician and product creator (via The Klog), also makes the point that, when used topically and orally, enzymes can hasten cellular activity while fending off free radicals and oxidation to shield the skin from environmental harm.


Bromelain enzymes and papaya enzymes, for example, have been found to diminish skin inflammation and even enhance wound healing. Enzyme-based skincare products can also improve the appearance of wrinkles, restore skin elasticity, and enhance the skin's moisture content. When you use enzyme-based products on a regular basis — whether cleansing gels, exfoliants, or masks — your skin will show improvement in tone and texture over time.

Topical DNA repair enzymes can restore damaged skin

According to a study published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, Photolyases, DNA repair enzymes — photolyase — can expedite the removal of DNA damage as a result of UV and ionizing radiation, alkylating agents, and crosslinking agents, alleviate abnormal growth of cells caused by sun damage, and improve the appearance of existing lesions. Findings from a study in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology also point out that many topical skin cancer prevention products contain multiple DNA repair enzymes that are essential for preventing epidermal malignancies. These DNA repair enzymes increase DNA repair rates and offer a more powerful defense against carcinogenesis, the report claims.


To give your skin extra protection from potential skin disorders as well as restore your skin from damage caused by environmental factors, opt for products containing photolyase enzyme derivatives. Regular use of serums, facial peels, and sunscreen containing DNA repair enzymes can significantly decrease UV spots beneath your skin surface and wrinkles and lessen discoloration.

Digestive enzymes can improve acne

Aside from topical enzymes, your skin can also benefit from digestive enzyme supplements, which aid in healing a leaky gut. When your gut is irritated, it can affect your large intestine and trigger an overgrowth of bacteria that results in acne, eczema, and rosacea. "The health of our microbiome and gut can have effects on the health of our skin," says plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn (via Dermstore). He adds, "Decreasing inflammation in the gut, which digestive enzymes may help do, might improve acne for some people."


Papaya, pineapple, banana, and passionfruit enzymes are among the finest digestive fruit enzymes for skin care, as recommended by Skin Beauty Skin Care. While bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, is useful for treating bruises and preventing environmental effects on the skin, papaya enzymes improve skin tone and reduce inflammation. Bananas are a fantastic source of fiber, and their enzymes aid in pushing foreign toxins to the skin's surface for more efficient exfoliation. Passion fruit enzymes, which are loaded with antioxidants, have elements that protect the skin from UV rays and free radicals.

To find out if you qualify for digestive enzymes, consult with your doctor before purchasing any enzyme supplements. Depending on your needs, your doctor may prescribe you prescription-strength enzymes, over-the-counter digestive enzymes, or topical alternatives. Even though enzyme-based products are often safe to use, you should still verify and double-check that the products you buy will deliver the amount of enzymes you need.