The Versatile Uses of Enzymes in the Treatment Room

The Versatile Uses of Enzymes in the Treatment Room
Beyond the typical papaya, pineapple and pumpkin enzymes, occasionally we see other enzymes in products that have even more powerful benefits of soothing and skin softening.

Most of the enzymes used in skin care products are proteolytic, meaning they break down proteins in the skin and body. These proteolytic enzymes are mostly sourced from fruits and vegetables such as: papaya, pineapple, pomegranate, kiwi, blueberries, cranberries, green tea, fig, apple and pumpkin. They are a type of protein that breaks down other proteins. In skin care, fruit enzymes are meant to help break down those keratins and facilitate the shedding of dead skin cells. Enzymes are gentler and just as effective than other chemicals in skin care products.

Beyond the typical papaya, pineapple and pumpkin enzymes, occasionally we see other enzymes in products that have even more powerful benefits of soothing and skin softening. Others have antioxidant effects, although they usually won’t have the ability to exfoliate. Let’s take a deeper dive into enzyme versatility in the treatment room.

Proteolytic Power

Exfoliation is the most common reason to use enzymes in the treatment room. Enzymes aid in the removal of dead skin cells, which allows for the skin to regenerate more quickly, and can also help with a variety of skin issues including premature aging and acne. Enzyme exfoliation cleans and unclogs pores resulting in skin free of blackheads, roughness and blemishes. The other benefit of enzyme exfoliation is that it allows other skin care products to penetrate into the skin more quickly and thoroughly, which improves their overall skin function.

Other enzyme benefits include their ability to increase skin elasticity and plumpness by maintaining natural moisture in the skin. Enzymes not only speed up cellular function, but can also fight against free radicals and oxidation, protecting skin from environmental damage.

Related: How to Exfoliate with Enzymes & Acids to Shed Dry Winter Skin

Enzymes vs. Acids

In backbar and retail products alike, there are product lines that mix enzymes with exfoliating acids. This makes the products stronger, which can cause sensitivities and irritations with some more aggressive treatments and modalities.

Exfoliating acids include alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which are found naturally in sugar, milk and plant-based products. Popular acids include lactic, glycolic and salicylic. These exfoliators work to dissolve dead skin cells and speed up the skin’s natural cellular turnover to uncover the newer, fresher cells underneath. Exfoliating acids can also tackle a variety of skin concerns.

Enzymes can differ from acids in a number of ways (See Exfoliation Guide Sidebar). Enzymes are more gentle than AHAs because they affect only the outermost layer of skin. AHAs and BHAs strong potency can bring more dramatic results, but can result in potential irritation.

The pH of enzymes and acids also matters. Chemical exfoliants based on AHAs like glycolic or salicylic acid can be very pH-dependent. If the product is formulated at the wrong pH or if the skin is too alkaline, the exfoliation will not be as thorough. Enzymes, on the other hand, function at a wider pH range since they work specficially on the surface of the skin, so formulation and product order don’t have to be as big of a concern.

Enzymes are less exfoliating than acids like glycolic, lactic or salicylic acid by a magnitude, so they are more appropriate for skin that is highly sensitive, reactive, medically compromised or thin and prone to over-exfoliation. Introducing enzymes into treatments is a great idea for those who are also pregnant or breast feeding, and are especially useful for advanced modalities and more aggressive treatments.

Read more about the versatility of enzymes in the treatment room in our Digital Magazine...

Shawna Rocha is the owner of Awaken Day Spa in California and Washington. She loves helping clients with compromised and sensitive skin. Since becoming an esthetician, Rocha completed multiple advanced courses in Oncology Esthetics and Immuno-Esthetics, and she specialized in training in sensitive skin and holistic therapies. She holds several certifications, including one in NCEA and has become the director of education for Hale and Hush Skincare.

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