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First of all they all, they’d made a tasty fruit salad… But now back to skin care, these are the typical fruits mentioned, when people are asked about fruit enzymes. So, what’s the deal with enzymes, I hear you ask.

What are enzymes and what do they do?

Probably the first time you heard about enzymes was in biology class or you may recognise the term enzyme from the supplement aisle, as they’re often used as digestive aids.

Enzymes are proteins that all living organisms produce and they facilitate chemical reactions. That is they help everyday bodily functions such as digestion. Most chemical reactions would not be possible without enzymes given the temperature and PH conditions in living cells.

Not all enzymes are the same, some work for our gut, some work for our skin, some for breathing, but what they all have in common is that they’re so called catalysts. That is, they help speed up the chemical reaction, but they themselves do not undergo the reaction.

Sometimes, enzymes need an additional chemical component. These are known as cofactors. A cofactor can be an inorganic or an organic non-protein molecule. The former are mostly derived from minerals like magnesium or zinc and the latter are known as coenzymes. A coenzyme often used in anti-ageing products is Q10.

Enzymes are catalysts, in other words, they themselves don’t undergo a reaction and are not consumed themselves. This property means that there are no side effects nor any residual bi-products. This is also one of the key reasons why enzymes are used in skin care products.

For many years, the beauty industry has been using enzymes for their various beneficial properties. Perhaps enzymes extracted from pumpkins have the longest history are used for resurfacing and smoothing skin. Enzymes are also used in formulations to slow ageing and fight acne.

In recent years, other enzymes, mostly derived from fruit are taken the top spot, especially if you’re looking for smooth-as-a-baby and glow-from-within skin but without the irritation that accompanies the classic exfoliation at times. These are mostly fruit enzymes that speed up the breakdown of proteins. They’re called proteases.

Fruit enzymes

Mostly found in tropical fruits, fruit enzymes help to help break down old dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. While physical exfoliation needs some kind of mechanic, eg you brush off dead skin cells or chemical exfoliation, where the glue is dissolved so that the dead skin cells can be whisked, enzyme exfoliation helps to break down the protein keratin.

Pineapple, photo by Nvr Endng Anupam

Popular types for enzymes are

  • Actinidin is found in kiwi, mango, banana
  • Bromelain is sourced from pineapple
  • Papain is found in papaya
  • Ficin is extracted from figs

You probably had already experience with enzymes. Did you notice a prickly, tingling sensation after you’ve eaten a piece of pineapple or kiwifruit? That’s how it feels when actinidin or bromeliad breaks down the protein.

Are fruit enzymes right for you?

We all know how important regular exfoliation is for a smoother, brighter, and even more youthful complexion. With fruit enzymes, you got another tool that you can wield against uneven and dull skin, without the need for rubbing, which makes them gentler on the skin.

But fruit enzymes have more going for them: They also have calming and anti-inflammatory properties, so they can be used by all skin types. Also, the enzymes are stable over a wide PH range in contrast to the classic exfoliants AHAs and BHAs. So, they don’t need to be as acidic as AHAs and BHAs to be effective. But on the other hand, they can break down easily when exposed to air or not at the right temperature.

In general though, even if enzymes are considered a milder alternative to AHAs and BHAs, it always depends on the concentration and product formulation.

Can enzymes replace the other exfoliants?

For mature, dry, or sensitive skin types, exfoliating with enzymes is beneficial. However, acne-prone or oily skin types may still get more by sticking to the big guns. Enzymes exfoliate by dissolving the protein keratin but are not as good at exfoliation within the pore. But that’s exactly what you want to do: Go into pores and clear out the natural oils, dead skin cells, and other debris.

If you’re aiming to pick just one, why not consider that they might work better in combination? Say, you could choose a vitamin A product for speeding up the skin cycle in general and an enzyme exfoliator for dissolving dead skin cells sitting on the surface of your skin.

Take away

When I think of how enzymes work, my mind always travels back to a school experiment: We had to try and make jelly with a variety of fruits and of course, our group had to add some raw pineapple. Bromelain, which is a protease enzyme in pineapples digested the gelatine and our jelly never set properly. That’s the same principle when you use a meat tenderiser to prepare it for grilling. It makes every bit so soft and melt-in-your-mouth.

The enzymes are superheroes in their own right: you can use them for gentle exfoliation, make a facial mask to treat a host of issues such as redness and inflammation, or ad a pinch of them in your morning smoothie to help with digestion.

As always in skin care, seeing results takes time and consistency. Also don’t forget the basics and always protect your skin against UV.

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