People’s obsession with flawless skin and the ever-growing demand for effective and safe skin care products are a driving force behind the surge of new beauty ingredients, products and tools. In particular, the use of enzymes in skincare products was prompted as a safe alternative to exfoliating with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), which later on expanded into more enzymatic formulations. So what is enzyme peel used for and how is it different from other facial peels?
What Is Enzyme Peel
Enzyme peel is a type of chemical exfoliator, which utilizes natural enzymes that dissolve dead skin cells. To clarify, these enzymes are proteins that accelerate chemical reactions within the body and occur naturally. In fact, there are several different types of enzymes, however most skincare formulations utilize protein-degrading enzymes (protease) that are derived from fruits. For example, these are some of the most commonly used fruit enzymes in skincare products:
- Papain – enzyme of papaya
- Bromelain – enzyme found in pineapple
- Pumpkin pulp – one of the most potent fruit enzymes
- Ficin – fig extract enzyme
- Actinidin – enzyme found in kiwi, mango, banana, papaya, pineapple
Similarly, fruit enzymes act like AHAs, but are more mild and gentle to the skin. Because enzymes work only on a skin surface level and exfoliate only dead and damaged skin cells, they do NOT cause damage to the healthy living cells and don’t cause skin irritation or peeling like chemical peels do. That is to say, enzymatic peels are ideal for sensitive, delicate, dry, acne-prone, irritated and dull skin, congested pores or for those who can’t tolerate AHAs.
√ However, be aware that even though you might feel light burning or gentle tingling sensation while enzyme product is on your skin, you most likely will not have any skin redness once the product is washed off.
At a glance:
- Best value: Andalou Naturals Bioactive Fruit Enzyme Mask
- Best natural/organic peel: Eminence Yam & Pumpkin Peel
- Most potent: Peter Roth Pumpkin Enzyme + AHA Mask
Benefits Of Enzyme Peel
One of the main advantages of enzyme face peel is its ability to gently exfoliate skin without causing irritation while providing immediate visible results. Even though an enzyme peel is more mild and doesn’t exfoliate skin as deep as alpha/beta hydroxy peels, it still provides many benefits similar to chemical peels. In fact, enzyme peel for skin is mainly known for its superb brightening and rejuvenating properties. Additional benefits of enzyme peel include:
- Reveals brighter complexion
- Evens out skin tone
- Improves skin texture
- Reduces age spots, sun damage and pigmentation
- Improves appearance of scars
- Minimizes fine lines & wrinkles
- Refines pores
- Improves overall appearance of skin
- Improves product absorption
- Safe for sensitive and irritated skin
- Doesn’t increase sun sensitivity
Enzyme Peel vs Chemical Peel
In addition to wondering what is enzyme peel, very often people are unclear about the difference between enzyme peels vs chemical peels. Even though both peels are considered chemical exfoliators that are used to regenerate and rejuvenated skin, they work on different levels. That being said, enzyme face peels are mild exfoliators that work only on the surface layer of skin and exfoliate only dead cells.
Since natural enzymes provide gentle exfoliation, they can be used by all skin types. But in general, they work better for sensitive, irritated and congested skin, and for those who can’t tolerate chemical peels or didn’t try them yet.
Overall, enzyme peels are considered more natural and safer exfoliating option than chemical peels. However, if your skin is used to chemical peels, then enzyme peels might be too mild for your skin, and you might feel like there is no significant difference after the treatment.
On the contrary, chemical peels provide more intense and deeper exfoliation. Instead of using enzymes, this more aggressive treatment utilizes alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, malic, mandelic) and beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid). In addition to exfoliating dead skin on the surface level, these acids also penetrate into deeper layers of skin, and depending on the concentration of the peel they can exfoliate healthy living cells as well.
Even though chemical peel is an excellent anti aging and skin resurfacing treatment, it can cause few side effects including skin irritation, redness, peeling, and increased sun sensitivity. Moreover, it is not recommended if you have sensitive or dark skin, and while pregnant or nursing.
Enzyme Peel vs Chemical Peel
Utilizes fruit enzymes from papaya, pineapple, kiwi, pumpkin, fig
Utilizes acids (AHA & BHA) like glycolic, salicylic, lactic, mandelic, malic
Exfoliates only dead and damaged skin cells
Exfoliates dead skin cells and healthy skin cells depending on the acid concentration of the peel
Brightening and rejuvenating properties
Resurfacing and anti-aging properties
No downtime to recover
Can irritate skin, cause peeling and longer recovery time depending on the concentration
Doesn’t increase sun sensitivity
Increases sun sensitivity
Ideal for sensitive, dull, irritated, dehydrated and dry skin
Ideal for all skin types especially aging (excluding sensitive skin)
Best Enzyme Peels And Enzyme Masks
Overall, enzymes work well with antioxidants, vitamins and other plant extracts, and are great for skin rejuvenation. Many enzyme skin peels that are currently available on the market are formulated with adding low-concentrated AHAs or/and BHAs. As a result, these hydroxy acids enhance exfoliating benefits of enzyme peels. With this in mind, we divided the following facials into two types of peels – pure enzyme and enzyme skin peels with AHAs/BHAs.
Regardless which peel you are using, chemical or enzymatic, avoid over exfoliating and always follow with intensive moisturizers after the exfoliation.
PURE ENZYME PEELS
Andalou Naturals Age Defying Fruit Enzyme Mask
In addition to utilizing fruit enzymes from the juices of cranberry, apple and lemon, this age defying mask also includes fruit stem cells, CoQ10, resveratrol, and bioactive berry complex that’s packed with antioxidants. Great for aging, dry and dull skin, and for revealing natural healthy glow and brighter skin.
Herbivore Brighten Glow Mask
This skin-brightening mask is formulated with pineapple and papaya enzymes that gently exfoliate dead cells. The mask also includes Brazilian gemstone powder and rice powder, which help to reveal radiant skin and illuminate the complexion. If you have acne-prone or irritated skin, try Herbivore Blue Tansy clarifying mask with fruit enzymes and willow bark.
Image Skincare Vital C Enzyme Hydrating Mask
Gentle resurfacing mask for sensitive, irritated, and rosacea-prone skin. It gently exfoliates with papaya and pineapple enzymes, and also hydrates, nourishes and protects with the help of hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, A and E, antioxidants and other herbal extracts.
Andalou Naturals Kombucha Enzyme Mask
For clogged pores, oily and acne prone skin types try this kombucha exfoliating mask. In addition to pineapple and papaya enzymes this mask also contains skin clearing willow bark, fruit stem cell complex, bioactive berry complex, vitamin C, and other skin balancing components.
Glo Skin Pumpkin Enzyme Scrub
This exfoliator is formulated with both pumpkin enzymes and jojoba beads as physical agent. It gently exfoliates while also promotes firmness and elasticity. Moreover, it also includes soothing ingredients like aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, vitamin E, honey and other nourishing components. Can be used by all skin types, especially aging skin.
Andalou Naturals CannaCell Glow Mask
All-natural enzyme exfoliating mask that helps to reveal radiant, smooth and glowing skin. In addition to enzymes from papaya and pineapple, this peel also includes powerful antioxidants like hemp stem cells, hemp seed oil, vitamin C-E-B5, resveratrol, and soothing chlorophyll. Great for all skin types especially stressed skin.
Radical Skincare Express Delivery Enzyme Peel
Enzyme exfoliator for sensitive, itchy, irritated and dehydrated skin. It is packed with 11 fruit enzymes, fruit acids, antioxidants, hyaluronic acid, algae, and other skin soothing, brightening and rejuvenating ingredients. Additionally, this peel provides deep moisture and improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
ENZYME PEELS WITH AHAS/BHAS
Eminence Yam & Pumpkin Enzyme Peel
This organic anti aging peel not only refines the skin, but also improves the appearance of hyperpigmentation, age spots, fine lines, and reveals more radiant and firmer skin. It is formulated with potent enzymes from yam, pumpkin, pineapple and papaya, as well as gentle AHAs like lactic and glycolic acids. Also, this peel is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, CoQ10, hyaluronic acid, green tea and other powerful botanical extracts and oils.
Naturopathica Pumpkin Purifying Enzyme Peel
Clarifying mask with pumpkin enzymes, 3% lactic acid, cinnamon, honey and pore cleansing herbs. It is perfect for oily, combination and acne-prone skin as it helps to clarify, balance, sooth and brighten the skin, as well as prevent acne breakouts.
Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask
This budget-friendly brightening and resurfacing all natural glycolic peel will leave your skin smooth, renewed and glowing. The active ingredients include pumpkin enzymes, glycolic acid, manuka honey, aloe, vitamin E, fruit stem cells, bioactive berry complex, vitamin C and other brightening and age defying ingredients.
Tula So Smooth Fruit Enzyme Mask
Resurfacing and brightening face mask that reveals smoother ans softer skin, improves the look of pore size, and leaves skin refreshed and glowing. It is formulated with fruit enzymes from pumpkin, pineapple and pomegranate, as well as AHA, BHA, PHA, probiotics, prebiotics, turmeric, and other plant and fruit extracts. Suitable for all skin types.
Peter Thomas Roth Pumpkin Enzyme Mask
3-in-1 professional strength mask that provides exfoliation with pumpkin enzymes, alpha hydroxy acids and physical crystals. It is ideal for congested, dull and aging skin. In addition to exfoliation, this intensive mask also improves the appearance of fine lines & wrinkles, dark spots, as well as promotes clear complexion and glowing skin.
Related: 10 best moisturizers to use after chemical peel
Pros And Cons Of Enzyme Peels
To sum it up, an enzyme face peel is a very popular skin exfoliating solution. It can be done professionally by an aesthetician and is also available as safe at-home treatment. Even so, at-home enzyme peels have lower enzyme concentration and are more gentle than the once done at doctor’s office.
Some of the main benefits of enzyme peel are providing immediate skin brightening effect with no downtime to recover after the procedure, and the ability to exfoliate the skin without causing irritation. Moreover, enzyme peel is a great solution for deep-cleansing clogged pores and congested skin, and easy to incorporate into any skin care routine.
What is enzyme peel good for?
Pros: provides gentle natural exfoliation, brightens skin, no downtime to recover, no skin irritation, reveals smoother skin, doesn’t increase skin sensitivity to UV light, unclogs pores, safe for delicate, irritated and sensitive skin types, safe natural alternative to chemical peels.
Cons: some stinging/burning sensation is possible (while the peel is on), might be too gentle for addressing more serious skin issues like deep wrinkles or acne scars, might feel ineffective if your skin is used to stronger chemical peels.
Related: Difference between chemical peel and microdermabrasion?
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