An expert’s guide to enzymes

All you need to know about this wonder ingredient.
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In recent years, the skincare community has debated the efficacy of chemical exfoliants v physical exfoliants. While physical exfoliants (abrasive washes or cloths used to manually remove dead skin cells) have been the age-old go to, chemical exfoliants (acids that dissolve dead skin cells) have led the pack as of late.

WATCH: Reduce the appearance of blackheads with a powder cleanser. Article continues after video.

While AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids) seem to be most popular within the realm of chemical exfoliation, enzymes are the new ‘it’ skincare ingredient. 

Enzyme masks are often applied during skin treatments. (Credit: Getty)

To investigate what enzymes are, how they work, and what they target, we spoke with brand founder and enzyme expert, Mary Gouganovski. As owner of the beauty brand, Mary Grace, she has a particular in the pineapple-derived enzyme bromelain, which is featured in her newest release, the Natural Blemish Spot Remover.

Natural Blemish Spot Remover (Credit: Mary Grace)

Natural Blemish Spot Remover, $50 at Mary Grace

Harnessing the powers of enzymes, Mary Grace’s Natural Blemish Spot Remover can be used as a spot treatment or all-over serum for acne-prone skin.

Shop now.

Can enzymes treat acne?

Gouganovski says enzymes such as bromelain “provide antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory support for the skin.”

“It also helps counteract the body’s production of prostaglandins and reduce the swelling, pain, and redness often associated with breakouts,” she added.

What other skin concerns can enzymes target?

“Aside from exfoliation, certain enzymes can also serve as an antioxidant by stabilising free radicals caused by UV aggressors and prevent cellular damage in the skin. They can also help brighten and improve the structural integrity of skin by encouraging the production of new collagen and elastin structures for a younger-looking complexion.”

Pumpkin enzymes are another popular option. (Credit: Getty)

Read on to explore all you need to know about enzyme skincare.

What are enzymes?

“Enzymes are proteins, a type of ammino acid, created by living organisms. They produce a specific biochemical reaction in the skin to help exfoliate and gently remove the upper layer of the epidermis without impeding healthy skin barrier function,” Gouganovski said.

While the name ‘chemical’ exfoliant may seem alarming, enzymes are one of the more gentle exfoliation options.

When speaking on skincare ingredients as a whole, Gouganovski recommends a ‘turn and learn’ approach – a.k.a. reading the product label.

“It’s important to remember that not all chemicals are bad chemicals, and that quite a lot of them are naturally derived,” she said.

We know they’re in food, but how can enzymes help your skin?

“Enzymes are amazing for exfoliation! Funnily enough, botanical and food-grade products are commonly used in skincare due to their enzymatic qualities as they have the ability to safely break down keratin structures on the skin’s surface and improve the appearance of scars and pigmentation by smoothing and brightening the complexion.”

WATCH: All you need to know about enzymes. Article continues after video.

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In what steps of one’s skincare routine should they use enzymes?

Gouganovski says enzymes can be used in multiple steps throughout a skincare routine.

“I often recommend using an enzyme-rich cleanser that can prepare the skin by softening keratinised bonds, and a targeted serum to penetrate and treat problematic skin concerns such as scarring, age spots, blemishes and pigmentation.”

How many days a week can you use enzymes?

“Most enzyme-based products are safe to use daily, or every other day for incredibly sensitive skin. I use the enzyme products in the Mary Grace Dream Routine twice daily, and the results have been incredible,” Gouganovski said.

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