Cellular buildup is a key culprit to premature aging, dehydration and acne breakouts, which is why skin exfoliation at home is an integral practice to maintain optimal skin health. Alpha and beta hydroxy acids are widely used to exfoliate and smooth the skin, but can cause unwanted irritation and are not suitable for sensitive skin types. However, the use of enzymes can be ideal in achieving optimal cleansing and exfoliation of the skin. Enzymes are versatile agents that can be paired with an antioxidant, acid or added into a scrub, to effectively improve the appearance of the skin and help alleviate a variety of conditions.
The skin is composed of several layers with the regenerative process beginning at the basal layer. Basal is a term used to define the base, or bottom layer of the epidermis. As keratinocytes differentiate and graduate to the surface of the epidermis, they become flat, pigmented and keratinized in order to form a corneocyte. The anatomy of the epidermis and its components are ultimately the resilient shield that protects us from the environment and helps maintain internal homeostasis. As the basal layer continues to produce epithelial cells, old surface cells shed away from the epidermis. This process generally takes about two to three weeks naturally with youthful skin. Unfortunately, our skin ages intrinsically and extrinsically due to the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The regeneration process of the skin decreases and fewer corneocytes are shed because the proteins that bind the cells act like a glue to keep the barrier intact (a process known as inter-corneocyte cohesion). This cohesion combined with other variables, leads to thick flaky, scaly skin, dehydration, increased trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), acne formation, and uneven skin texture. To promote healthy looking skin and prevent the signs of aging, skin care professionals must help develop a balance of regeneration, hydration, exfoliation and protection. Together, these factors synergistically aid in maintaining optimal barrier function to help every individual age gracefully.
Enzymes are responsible for many cellular processes. Skin care applications utilize different enzymes to serve different functions. A common medical aesthetic injection procedure utilizes the botulinum A enzyme combined with a protein to reduce facial muscle contractions (for example, Botox®). Hyaluronic filler procedures such as Juvederm® or Restlyane® can be reversed with hyaluronidase, which is another type of enzyme dedicated to breaking down hyaluronic filler. Exfoliation with the use of enzymes is generally achieved with a specific family of enzymes called proteases, or protein degrading enzymes. When formulated with a lower or acidic pH, these cellular enzymes break down the protein bonds that cause inter-corneocyte cohesion and promote the natural shedding of dead skin cells. Protease enzymes can be derived from bacteria, fungi, animals, plants, fruits and vegetables. Some of the more commonly used enzymes in skin care formulations include bromelain (pineapple extract), papain (papaya extract), ficin (fig extract), and actinidin (kiwi, pineapple, mango, banana and papaya extracts).
Retailing products may improve an aesthetic practice. Professionally formulated enzyme products for home use builds the credibility of the skin care provider and gives the client a foundation for beautiful skin that they can build on with progressive skin care treatments. Enzyme exfoliation at home helps prevent dehydration, fine lines and scaly skin. More importantly, by exfoliating dead skin cells and promoting cell regeneration, it improves the absorption of anti-aging, brightening or acne treatment ingredients. Formulated in a cleanser, enzymes are effective at breaking up dirt, oil and makeup without disrupting the skin’s natural pH and moisture content. Although it contains an ingredient that exfoliates, a cleanser is not formulated to exfoliate. A cream or serum with enzymes can contain greater percentages of protease enzymes to rejuvenate the skin at night. Some enzyme products can contain an alpha and/or beta hydroxy acid to enhance exfoliation benefits. Hydroxy acids, like enzymes, dissolve the protein glue that binds cells together and promote shedding to reveal more youthful skin cells. Alpha hydroxy acids are additionally ideal for promoting moisturization and collagen synthesis, whereas beta hydroxy acids are ideal for oil control, breakouts and hyperpigmentation. Enzymes can also be formulated into facial or body scrub products to exfoliate and soften the skin. Using a professionally formulated cleanser and exfoliation product in a home regimen is an effective means to preparing the skin for professional procedures and accelerating the results that can be achieved with improved absorption of anti aging actives.
Professional-strength chemical peel solutions formulated with enzymes can treat a variety of skin conditions and enhance a service menu. Like home care products, these peel solutions can be formulated with hydroxy acids to offer an enhanced exfoliation solution by effectively breaking down the protein bonds of corneocytes and achieving better levels of peel penetration and exfoliation of the stratum corneum.
Enzymes may also be formulated with other plant extracts and vitamins to introduce antioxidants into the skin. One example of an enzyme and acid peel formulation for dry skin can include bromelain protease enzyme and lactic acid to exfoliate and moisturize the skin. For additional anti-aging benefits, agave, seaweed and yam extracts can be added to the formulation for enhanced antioxidant protection. Sun damaged skin may benefit from a formulation containing glycolic acid, citric acid, fruit enzymes and vitamin C for enhanced exfoliation, moisturization and antioxidant penetration. Scientists have proven the many benefits of exfoliation and skin care professionals continue to seek the most effective means to promote a more youthful appearance for their clients. Enzymes participate in the rejuvenation process by exfoliating the skin gently, improving product penetration, smoothing skin texture and fine lines, and refining the pores. As aesthetics treatments have evolved to meet the demands of our clientele, enzymes continue to be a leading ingredient in skin exfoliation and will continue to be a integral part of a clients home regimen to maintain results into the future.
Tina Zillmann is a practicing aesthetician and licensed hair removal professional with expertise on innovative aesthetic treatments and post-surgical care. As vice president and director of Skin Rejuvenation Clinique, Inc. and Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts she is fluent on all aspects of business ownership, product formulations, employee relations and retailing. She has been awarded on television and print as a local skin care expert in San Antonio, Texas and nationally as a public speaker and published writer in the skin care industry. Her endeavors have awarded her with the Female Entrepreneur of the Year award through the National Association of Women Business Owners, the Presidency of Aesthetic International Association from 2009-2010 and Advisory Board Member for the American Electrology Association.