All You Need to Know About Enzymes in Skincare

Enzymes are, in my opinion, the quiet achievers of the skincare industry. They might not be as popular or trendy as other ingredients, but they most definitely pack a punch when it comes to exfoliating and renewing the skin!

When I talk about enzymes with a client, I always use the analogy that enzymes are like a little "pac man", munching away at your dead skin cells on the first layer of your skin.

What is an Enzyme?

Enzymes are proteins that digest and can break down other proteins.

For the skin, enzymes digest the protein that glues the dead skin cells and healthy skin cells together. This glue or protein is called Keratin.

The enzymes munch away and digest the keratin that holds dead skin cells and the epidermis together, while gently exfoliating only the dead skin cells.

Are Enzymes and Acids the same thing?

No, enzymes are not in the same family as acids. They both do slough off and exfoliate the skin but in different methods and severity.

The difference between acids and enzymes in skincare


  • Enzymes digest and munch away at dead skin cells only on the surface layer of the skin.

  • Enzymes only digest dead skin cells and leave healthy skin cells alone.

  • Enzymes work more slowly within the skin, which won't irritate or cause sensitivity, which is why enzymes are suitable for all skin types, even the most sensitive ones.


  • Acids can penetrate deeper into the skin, to the pores and turn over cells.

  • Acids work faster within the skin.

  • Acids exfoliate both living and dead skin cells, which is why sensitive skins may see irritation from using an acid.

What is better for the skin then, enzymes or acids?

One is not more beneficial for the skin than the other.

It all depends on your skin sensitivity, your concerns and what you are currently using in your skincare regime.

What skin types are enzymes best suited for?

Enzymes are suitable for all skin types, but work best on Sensitive skins.

What skin concerns are enzymes best suited for?

Enzymes are best used for:

  • Impaired skins
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Preventing free radical damage
  • Ageing skins

What are the most common Enzymes?

You will find in skincare the enzymes are mainly derived from fruit, like blueberries, cranberries and pomegranate.

The most popular enzymes are:

  • Papain - derived from Papaya, this enzyme helps improves overall complexion and smooth the skin.

  • Bromelain - derived from Pineapples, this enzyme helps improve wound healing and smooths complexion.

  • Pumpkin extracts - helps brighten the skin and have antioxidant properties.

Our top picks when it comes to enzyme skincare products:

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Aspect Fruit Enzyme Mask is a potent antioxidant-rich exfoliation mask, carefully formulated to gently eliminate dead skin build-up without irritation or harm revealing a hydrated, brighter, smooth complexion.

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This dual-action exfoliating scrub dissolves dead skin cells while transforming into a rich, creamy, hydrating mask, revealing a polished and silky soft complexion.

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Societe Superfruit Enzyme Exfoliator gently lifts and exfoliates dead skin cells. Superfruits (Mangosteen, Gogi, Noni, and Cranberry) and a special enzyme blend make skin smoother, softer and calmer in minutes.

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Polish away dull surface cells
and pore-clogging impurities with a nourishing combination of cranberry enzymes and lactic acid. This gentle exfoliating mask leaves skin dramatically softer and plump and helps protect your skin from environmental stressors that can impair the skin’s radiance.

About The Author

My name is Sari Pols,
I have been in the skincare industry for over 15 years. My passion lies in ‘Health’. Health for the skin and body. My philosophy is if we have good well-being on the inside, then it shows our vitality on the outside.
I have furthered my knowledge of Skin Anatomy, Skin Concerns, and Fitness. I am a true believer in how to make my clients feel their best both inside and out. My emphasis is on guiding my clients through their journey of skin concerns and conditions. I like to educate my clients and find the potential triggers for their concern or condition, so together we can eliminate the root of the cause. I aim to give personalised consultations with treatment and correct prescribed skin products.

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