Enzyme Exfoliants: Their Key Benefits & The Best Ones To Try

Enzyme-based skincare is trending right now – and with good reason. Acting as catalysts, enzymes work to ‘unglue’ the bonds between dead skin cells, helping to exfoliate and slough away anything that doesn’t need to remain on your face – or body, for that matter. The result? Brighter, smoother-looking skin that’s visible from the off. Better still, if you have dry skin that is prone to sensitivity, enzymes work without disrupting your skin’s pH, which means they’re unlikely to inflame, irritate or cause damage – consider them a gentler alternative to acids. Interested? We share our favourite treatments that will suit every need…
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Brightening Enzyme Mask, £40 | Malin + Goetz 

Best For: Sensitive Skin

Why We Rate It: Dubbed a ‘five-minute fix’, this speedy treatment uses 1% of pomegranate and pumpkin enzymes, alongside soothing ginger and hydrating glycerine – all of which counteract dullness without causing dryness. With just a few uses, you’ll see how well it improves tone, texture and radiance. Suitable for all skin types, it’s never abrasive or harsh, though we recommend leaving it on no longer than 10 minutes to prevent any tingly sensations. Use once or twice a week, depending on your personal skin needs.

Available here

Multi-Deep Clean Cleanser, £21 | Laneige 

Best For: Congested Complexions 

Why We Rate It: Like many on this list, Laneige’s cult cleanser works to exfoliate, shift impurities and remove dead cells to beat congestion. Better still, it does it all with cellulose beads (which are known for their gentle benefits) which suck up dirt at speed. As for the papain enzyme, this quickly refines uneven tone, while the added blueberry extract maintains radiance with a comfortable feeling within the skin as well. It’s a great all-rounder, especially for those with scarring or anyone suffering with redness. 

Available here

Press + Glow Tonic, £23 | Medik8

Best For: Boosting Hydration

Why We Rate It: Constantly recommended by dermatologists, this gentle tonic uses PHAs (poly hydroxy acids) and enzymes to gently exfoliate skin and sweep away dirt and grime that’s built up or trapped inside pores. A safe bet for sensitive skin, it’s much less abrasive thanks to its lack of AHAs and BHAs, which are known for causing sensitisation and premature ageing when overused. It also has the added benefit of aloe vera, which encourages moisture retention, while prickly pear extract encourages cell turnover for a brighter, healthier-looking glow. This one’s ideal for all skin types, but especially those prone to dullness. Extra points for the refillable bottle it’s now available in.

Available here

Papaya Enzyme Peel, £35 | Elemis 

Best For: Mature Skin 

Why We Rate It: Considered the OG of enzyme masks, this remains a bestseller for good reason. Papaya and pineapple enzymes combine in a creamy, satisfying formula that locks in hydration, which is often why it’s recommended for mature skin types – though it’s worth noting that it’s suitable for all. Apply and leave it on for 15-20 minutes to allow the enzymes – as well as strengthening vitamin E and nourishing seaweed actives – to get to work purging your pores of dirt. Once you wash it off, you’ll find your skin appears smoother and brighter, while the antioxidant-rich ingredients will have provided a veil of protection against daily aggressors like pollution which, typically, causes dullness. 

Available here

 

Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm, £29 | Glow Recipe 

Best For: Beating Dryness 

Why We Rate It: There’s a reason this cleansing balm is so popular. Silky in texture, it’s a total treat to apply, while the brightening and soothing formula uses pore-purifying oils and gentle enzymes to grab any dirt and debris, sweeping away every last trace. The mix of papaya enzymes and antioxidant-rich blueberry means your skin is left with a clean, bouncy feel – not to mention renewed radiance. Unlike some cleansers, this won’t leave you feeling stripped or tight, either. Extra points, too, for the vegan, cruelty-free formula that’s free from any alcohols. Finally, as it’s ophthalmologist-tested, it’s safe to use near your eyes without fear of irritation. 

Available here

Enzyme Peel, £60 | Verso

Best For: Anti-Ageing Results 

Why We Rate It: Combining fruit enzymes with collagen-boosting niacinamide, this clever peel works to even out skin tone and give your complexion a more supple feel – without any tell-tale stinging. The organic acids inside contribute to cell turnover, which minimises the appearance of fine lines and boosts better volume over time. It’s ideal for those wanting to unblock pores, too, as it works so well to swiftly remove dead skin cells. That said, it never strips; in fact, it adds moisture back in with turmeric and PHAs. A must-try for those wanting to boost a youthful glow. 

Available here

…A Final Few Notes On Enzymes…

Store Them Right

Experts recommend keeping your enzyme products in a cool, dark place. Changes in temperature – and even not sealing the lids properly – can cause the enzymes to become inactive, so they won’t work as well. 

Introduce Them Slowly

Like any exfoliator, it’s worth proceeding with caution, so start slow. Begin with usage once or twice a week then, providing you can tolerate it, up it as you see fit. While enzymes are deemed gentle, it’s a safer way to incorporate them into your routine. 

Don’t Use Them To Remedy Breakouts

While they work well to break down dead skin cells, resulting in smoother, softer skin, they’re less effective at dissolving oil. With this in mind, experts recommend sticking to salicylic acid-based ingredients for breakouts, and enzymes for scarring or uneven tone. 

 

 

 

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