What are enzymes and how do they help your complexion? “Enzymes exfoliate the skin with active digestion functions – they literally decompose the buildup on the surface of your skin, whether it’s dirt, dead skin, or pollution – it’s softened and sloughed off by the enzymes,” explains Tata Harper, founder of the eponymous line of natural skin care products. “They’re not necessarily more effective than physical exfoliation, but what’s great about enzymatic exfoliation is that they have other benefits for the skin, too, like being amazing antioxidants, whereas an exfoliating bead is just a bead – it’s washed off when you’re done cleansing.” So, basically, enzymes exfoliate and replenish without feeling like you’re exfoliating (aka no scrubbing necessary). “I love having enzymes in my cleansers and mask because they get the job done without any downsides – no redness, inflammation, or sensitivity to the sun,” says Harper. “They’re great for all skin types, especially sensitive, because they clear the skin in a more gentle and targeted way. If your skin is prone to irritation or extra sensitivity, enzymatic exfoliation is a great solution for deep cleansing and resurfacing treatments because it’s not as disruptive as physical exfoliation.”
Here are our favorite enzyme products:
1. Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask ($55) – This pomegranate enzyme-rich weekly treatment mask feels like jelly and is incredibly soothing on application. It doesn’t dry out your face but instead sloughs off dull skin, while cleaning pores and leaving the complexion soft and glowing. Ingredients are all natural.
2. Sanitas Papaya Pineapple Mask ($30) – Papaya and pineapple enzymes accelerate skin tissue regeneration while gently exfoliating to lift dead skin, oil and dirt. This cream mask soothes, leaving the complexion soft and even-toned.
3. Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel ($20) – I love this cleanser and use it every evening before bed. It’s non foaming, gentle yet incredibly thorough. Papaya and grapefruit extracts are natural exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acids that help prevent build-up that can cause blackheads and pimples.
4. Amore Pacific Treatment Enzyme Peel ($60) – This natural papaya enzyme treatment comes in powder form and works quickly – once you mix with water and apply to skin, it only takes 30-60 seconds to activate. Skin is left smooth and glowing, free of dead surface cells. It also improves penetration of other treatment products once the dead skin is removed. I became a fan of this product last spring, after winter had left my complexion completely lifeless.
5. My Chelle Fruit Enzyme Mist ($29) – Mangosteen Peel Extract, Goji Berry and Guava combine together in this refreshing face mist to heal, protect and stimulate collagen, while providing the skin with an abundance of antioxidants. Great to use throughout the day to give your complexion a healthy boost.
6. REN Glycol Lactic Radiance Renewal Mask ($55) – This award-winning peel includes natural fruit acids and papain (papaya) to gently and effectively remove dead skin cells and decongest clogged pores. It stings ever-so-slightly (those are the enzymes working!) and when you rinse off, the complexion is left brighter and more youthful.
7. Eminence Organics Yam & Pumpkin Enzyme Peel ($46) – Both pumpkin and yams are naturally occurring enzymatic exfoliants, rich in amino acids and antioxidants. This lightweight treatment peels away dead skin cells while reducing pigmentation, fine lines and sun damage. The pleasant pumpkin scent is perfect for fall.
*Note: While it is safe to use an enzyme cleanser of toner daily, we recommend using an enzyme mask or peel no more than 2-3 times per week, depending on skin sensitivity.