Enzyme formulas are the gentle way to exfoliate – here are 13 ways how


Assessing the latest and greatest in skincare is standard practice at MECCA HQ. In that spirit, I recently put my skin on a protein diet. It didn’t involve guzzling unpalatable shakes to build Dwayne Johnson-like muscle. Instead, the vital proteins I fanatically embraced are enzymes. You may have noticed these mysterious molecules infusing your beauty products of late. What are they exactly? Enzymes help speed up chemical reactions. In skincare, they offer exfoliation and anti-inflammatory benefits, and they could also be the answer to unlocking your brightest skin yet.

As ominous as it sounds, your face is a graveyard of dead skin cells. Proper exfoliation is the only way to handle beauty’s version of a zombie apocalypse. It stimulates turnover, boosts skin’s radiance and reduces the symptoms of acne. Most physical and chemical exfoliants handle the task with intensity, mercilessly blowing away the invaders. Think of enzyme-charged products as their gentler cousin. They dissolve dead skin cells without harming living ones, and without disturbing the protective barrier of your skin. By smoothing your complexion and refining pores, they also pave the way for serums and moisturisers to be effectively absorbed.

Exfoliating formulas

The most satisfying way to sample these skin energisers is a water-activated exfoliant—you can feel these formulas clarifying your complexion. Tatcha poetically describes the consistency of its Rice Polish Classic Foaming Enzyme Powder as “a cloud-like foam”. This cloud has a silver lining too: finely ground rice bran and papaya enzymes promote natural turnover, while Japanese superfoods restore glow. Korean brand AMOREPACIFIC recently released its Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder, a fusion of papaya and green tea enzymes. It’s mild enough to use every day and is especially good for oily skin types who seek some illumination in the morning.

Peeling masks

If you’re not inclined to exfoliate several times a week, then a wash-off peeling mask can deliver equally luminous results. AMOREPACIFIC Treatment Enzyme Peeling Mask uses the same twin enzymes from the powder plus a smidgeon of alpha hydroxy acid for extra gusto. You can use the AMOREPACIFIC pair in tandem; just sub in the mask once or twice a week. If you’re a masking enthusiast, you could even deploy the peeling mask before applying a serum-soaked sheet mask for a double dose of goodness. Unlike the Korean gel-cream texture, Malin+Goetz’s Brightening Enzyme Mask is more like a ginger-scented jelly. It marries pomegranate and pumpkin enzymes with alpha hydroxy acids to dissolve cells, improve clarity and even tone.

Fruit enzymes

Dipping into enzyme-powered products can feel a little like admiring the breakfast buffet at a five-star hotel in Bali. Papaya, pineapple, mango and blueberry are some of the recurring sources for these active ingredients. Pomegranate is at the heart of the skin-renewing Verso Enzyme Peel, beefed up with a measure of alpha hydroxy and poly hydroxy acid. If tropical pineapple is more your jam, you might appreciate Too Faced Pineapple Glow Face Mask, which the brand describes as “a marmalade gel mask”. In contrast, new entity Susanne Kaufmann uses apple, papaya and kiwi extracts in its Enzyme Peel, which evokes the minimalist Austrian spa from where it sprang.

Enzymatic skincare

Turns out you can sample enzymes in a multitude of ways. Mario Badescu’s papaya- and grapefruit-infused Enzyme Cleansing Gel is effective at breaking up dirt, oil and makeup without disrupting the skin’s natural pH. Packed with a potent trio of acids and papaya enzymes, IIISKIN’s Exfolactic Cleanser deeply purifies and leaves skin feeling firm. You can also harness the power of enzymes in a moisturiser. For its Exfolikate Glow Moisturizer, Kate Somerville pooled together three fruit enzymes as well as glycolic and lactic acids to counteract uneven texture and deep-six dulling cells. Exfolikate—and eradicate.

Exfoliating innovations

One of the most novel enzyme applications is Radical Skincare Express Delivery Enzyme Body Peel. Enlivened with a blend of 11 fruit extracts (the whole smorgasbord), this gel is intended to polish from top to toe. Massage it onto dry skin and rinse off in the shower for impressively supple skin. Another unique proposition is Kat Burki PH+ Enzyme Essence, whose fruity formula helps to balance your complexion and nurture it with botanicals. Tanning authority James Read, meanwhile, views enzymes as the perfect way to prepare your complexion before going bronze. His Tan Perfecting Enzyme Peel Mask ensures that a mottled canvas doesn’t get in the way of your golden opportunity. Follow with your favourite tanner and a pineapple mojito.

Words by George Epaminondas
August 2019


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