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When it comes to exfoliation, chemical (i.e. hydroxy acids) and physical (scrubs, cleansing brushes, etc.) methods get most of the attention. But there’s a third option—enzyme-based exfoliation—that has a slew of advantages over its skin-smoothing siblings. According to dermatologist Dr. Jessie Cheung of Willowbrook, Illinois, “Enzymes work by accelerating the chemical reactions necessary to renew the skin. Often derived from papaya, pumpkin or pineapples, they target the keratin protein in the top layer of dead skin cells to reveal fresh, glowing skin.”
Found in just about every type of product, ranging from cleansers and moisturizers to masks and peels, it’s easy to add an enzyme-based exfoliator to any skincare routine. “If you don’t notice any irritation, these products can be used daily,” says Dr. Cheung, who adds, “Enzymatic exfoliation is a nice alternative to physical exfoliation, especially for those with sensitive skin.” Are you ready to get your enzymes on? Here are our top product picks…
Cleanser: Dermalogica Daily Superfoliant ($58)
This brand-new powder-based cleanser features the enzyme-based resurfacing of the brand’s beloved Daily Exfoliant plus purifying charcoal and pollution-fighting antioxidant ingredients to help keep discoloration and premature signs of aging at bay. Simply mix a bit of powder with water in your palm to create a paste and you’re on your way to smoother, softer, more radiant skin.
Scrub: Exuviance Triple Microdermabrasion Face Polish ($72)
With this supercharged skin-smoother, you get chemical, physical and enzyme-based exfoliation in one tube. Formulated with professional-grade microdermabrasion crystals, glycolic acid and papaya enzymes, the secret to optimal resurfacing results is gently massaging into damp skin for 30 seconds, then leaving the scrub on for up to two minutes (just once or twice a week). It’s just what the doctor ordered for clear pores, even skin tone and an unparalleled glow.
Mask: Jan Marini Skin Zyme Mask ($60)
Though designed to be used in tandem with the Clean Zyme Face Cleanser, this gentle yet effective mask works wonders on its own. Packed with papaya-derived enzymes that polish the skin without irritating sensitive spots, all skin types can achieve perfectly-polished skin in just 20 minutes.
Moisturizer: Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Night Cream ($155)
If the scent alone doesn’t hook you, this moisturizer’s skin-smoothing and radiance-enhancing results will. Designed to give your skin’s natural renewal process a helping hand, it contains a patented blend of three enzymes, replenishes essential lipids and offsets the detrimental effects of pollution with antioxidants. In addition to improvement in fine lines, wrinkles and skin texture, get ready to wake up with a gorgeous glow!
A few words to the wise… Dr. Cheung advises approaching enzymes with caution if you have a sensitivity to the fruit source. “Papain, which is the active exfoliating ingredient derived from papaya latex, can be allergenic,” she explains. “And avoid DIY enzyme treatments because applying the raw actives for a prolonged period of time can be irritating.”
NOTE: Exuviance products were provided for review. All opinions are my own.