Index Peeling

Enzyme Peel

Enzyme Peel belongs to superficial peel treatments. Instead of acids, its active agents are enzymes. Enzyme peel is a rather gentle procedure, suitable for all skin types, including sensitive couperose-prone skin.

The enzyme peel treatment gently cleanses skin of protein impurities, secretory products of sebaceous and sweat glands. It also removes dead cells of skin’s horny layer. The result is smooth and polished skin with much improved texture and even tone, which looks radiant and healthy. The treatment requires no recovery period; it causes no skin flaking or hyperemia.

The enzyme peels are good for young skin as they help to cleanse, moisturize, and protect it. In case of withering skin, such peel treatments stimulate skin renewal and regeneration; improve its firmness, texture, and tone. Besides, the enzyme peels combat hyperpigmentation and acne. They can be performed even on sensitive skin, which is prone to inflammations and allergic reactions, as well as on skin with couperose or rosacea.

Properties of Enzymes

Enzymes, or ferments, are special proteins that either catalyze (accelerate) or inhibit (slow down) biochemical reactions in living organisms. More than 5,000 enzymes that are known today are responsible for all biochemical reactions in cells. They are generally classified into 6 classes according to the type of reaction they catalyze:

• oxidoreductases – speed up oxidation-reduction reactions;

• transferases – catalyze the transfer of particular functional groups from one molecule to another;

• hydrolases – catalyze the hydrolysis, i.e. cleavage of chemical compounds by reaction with water;

• lyases – catalyze decomposition of chemical bonds when no water is present;

• isomerases – cause changes of the structure of a molecule while its elemental composition remains unchanged;

• ligases (synthetases) – catalyze synthesis reactions.

In cosmetology, enzymes that belong to hydrolases are used more often (e.g. proteases break peptide bonds, carbohydrases break down carbohydrates, while lipases are responsible for the hydrolysis of fats).

How Enzymes Work

The horny layer of the epidermis contains proteolytic enzymes (proteases), which belong to hydrolases. They regulate the speed of chemical reactions in tissues and actively participate in epidermis renewal as they break down proteins into peptides and amino acids. The proteases in the epidermis are responsible for differentiation of keratinocytes, creation and destruction of desmosomes (‘mechanical’ intracellular junctions), formation of lipids found in the intercellular cement, ceramides in particular. The aging process is associated with reduction in protease activity, which leads to water loss, decreased speed of formation and renewal of the structural elements of the epidermal cells. As a result, the horny layer becomes thicker, cutaneous grease and impurities are accumulated on skin surface, the texture becomes uneven and the skin tone dull and grey.

The proteolytic enzymes in the enzyme peel solution weaken corneocyte adhesion by breaking functional chemical bonds of the desmosomes and by doing this facilitate desquamation of horny scales. They are also responsible for the cleavage of keratin (skin’s protein). The horny layer of the epidermis is how deep the enzymes from the peel solution actually penetrate, as their size and charge prevent them from getting deeper into skin. The removal of the outermost layer stimulates production of fibroblasts and renewal of skin cells.

The proteases are the most active at рН 5 – 5,5 (slightly acidic). Antiproteases in human skin influence the enzymes of the peel solution by changing them or inhibiting their activity. They can also make bonds with the enzymes from the peel solution, forming compounds with proteolytic activity. In this case, they become irresponsive to other protein inhibitors and can stay active. When a compound is formed, its antigen origin might not be detected.

Types of Enzymes Used in Peel Solutions and Masks

1. The enzyme peel solutions contain enzymes of plant, animal, and bacterial origin that are similar to skin proteases. Plants proteases are found in papaya, pineapple, coconut, kiwi fruit, fig, mango, pumpkin, lemon, pomegranate, blueberry etc. The main plant enzymes used in the enzyme peel solutions include papain, bromelain, ficin, and actinidin.

Papain is a proteolytic enzyme of plant origin that is derived from latex fluid of the papaya fruit. It catalyzes the hydrolysis of proteins into amino acids, possesses antimicrobial properties, and removes dead cells of the outermost skin layer.

Sorbain – these are combined enzymes of lemon and papaya that remove dead cells of the horny layer and, as a result, stimulate skin cell renewal.

Bromelain is a plant enzyme with proteolytic activity present in the pineapples. It breaks down peptide bonds between amino acids inside proteins. It removes dead cells from skin surface, has tremendous immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, anti-edematous, wound healing, and lipolytic effects.

Ficin is a proteolytic enzyme of plant origin found in the milky sap from stems and leaves of a fig tree (Ficus sp.). It is capable of hydrolyzing native collagen and cleaving proteins. It removes dead cells and stimulates collagen production.

Actinidin is a plant enzyme with proteolytic activity derived from kiwi fruits. It breaks down peptide bonds between amino acids inside of proteins. It reduces the amount of dead skin cells on skin’s surface.

Arbutin is a tyrosinase inhibitor extracted from the leaves of bearberry, red bilberry, pyrola, and Caucasian whortleberry. It inhibits the synthesis of melanin. Arbutin's properties are similar to kojic acid. It provides a skin whitening effect.

2. The enzyme peel solutions also contain proteases of animal origin such as pepsin, trypsin, chymotrypsin, pancreatin, and lysozyme.

Рерsin – A proteolytic enzyme, which belongs to hydrolases, is extracted from the glandular layer of stomachs of hogs, sheep, and calves. It breaks down proteins into peptides.

Trypsin is a proteolytic enzyme classified as a hydrolase, which belongs to serine proteases. It cleaves peptides and proteins. Trypsin is extracted from the pancreatic glands of the cattle.

Chymotrypsin is a proteolytic enzyme that catalyzes the cleavage of proteins and peptides. It is produced from cattle pancreas.

Панкреатин is an enzyme with proteolytic, amylolytic, and lypolytic activity. It is extracted from the pancreas of hogs and cattle.

Lysozyme is a hydrolase with antibacterial properties that is capable of destroying cell walls of bacteria and the intercellular cement. It is produced from hen egg white. It has bactericidal and anti-inflammatory effects and stimulates the immune system.

3. The proteases of bacterial origin are the most active ingredients. They include subtilisin (subtilopeptidase) and sutilains (Travase).

Subtilisin is a hydrolase that catalyzes the hydrolysis of proteins and peptides as well as compound ethers and amides of N-protected amino acids. It is more efficient than papain because it breaks down more types of peptide bonds. This enzyme is produced by Bacillus subtilis and other bacteria related to them in the process of fermentation.

Sutilains (Travase) – a protease produced by bacteria Bacillus subtilis, which has a considerable softening and peeling effect. It is often used as an ingredient of whitening cosmetic products.

4. The enzyme peel solutions and masks also contain milk proteins (Casein, Calcium caseinate, Lactalbumin, Lactoglobulin) and enzymes (Alkaline Proteinase I, Alkaline Proteinase II, Proteinase I, Proteinase II, and Acidic Proteinase).

Casein (caseus) is a compound protein (phosphoprotein) prepared from caseinogen by fermenting milk. It moisturizes and softens skin, facilitates the processes of regeneration. Calcium caseinate is found in milk in the form of calcium salt.

Lactalbumin and Lactoglobulin are proteins obtained from whey made from the milk of mammals. They contain all amino acids.

Alkaline Proteinase I – the structure of this enzyme is quite similar to the structure of proteinase in blood plasma. It catalyzes the hydrolysis resulting in cleaving proteins to peptides and amino acids. Found in fresh milk, can be produced by bacteria.

Alkaline Proteinase II – this enzyme has properties similar to those of thrombin, a protease found in blood.

Proteinase I is an enzyme that cleaves peptide bonds formed by lysine.

Proteinase II is an enzyme that cleaves peptide bonds formed by arginine.

Acidic proteinase has properties that are similar to the properties of enzyme rennet (chymosin), which is responsible for the partial hydrolysis of milk’s casein. It is also similar to cathepsin, a hydrolase that catalyzes the hydrolysis of peptide bonds.

Cosmetic products may also contain other enzymes such as endonucleases that protect from UV rays and repair DNA; superoxide dismutase and defensin that protect from the damaging activity of free radicals, activate the immune system and regenerative processes; coenzyme Q10 that catalyzes regenerative processes, acts as an antioxidant, and is also responsible for energy metabolism and oxygen saturation.

The enzyme peel solutions often contain kaolin (white clay), vitamins, minerals, plant extracts, milk proteins, and plant-based proteins.

Indications and Contraindications


• Pigment spots
• Acne and post acne marks
• All skin types, including sensitive couperose-prone skin
• Suitable for people with wheatish complexion
• Superficial wrinkles and fine lines
• Clogged pores (comedones, miliums)
• Uneven texture and dull skin tone
• Loose skin
• Skin debris
• Skin that has been exposed to the sunlight and is showing the signs of photoaging
• Preparation for more serious skin treatments.


• Intolerance of any ingredient of the enzyme peel solution
• Exacerbation of skin disorders
• Pancreatic diabetes and other diseases that lead to lowered immune functioning
• Any damage to skin surface
• Active herpes episode.

Advantages of the Enzyme Peel

1. It is gentler than light superficial peels using fruit acids, although the effects from both are similar.

2. It can be performed all year round.

3. It is suitable for all skin types, even the skin that is prone to irritations and skin with telangiectasias and vascularity spots, because it affects skin’s surface gently and incorporates no abrasive particles.

4. Any skin care products applied after the peel treatment penetrate skin more easily; their efficacy is higher thanks to the removal and shredding of the horny layer.

5. It can be used as an express peel as it has immediate results.

6. No recuperative period is required; there is no skin flaking or hyperemia.

7. It can be performed at home after consultation with a cosmetologist.

8. The enzymes slow down the growth of facial hair and make hair stems thinner. Enzyme hair removal is actually based on this fact.

9. It can be used to exfoliate skin on hands and body.

10. It is a good alternative to chemical peels, if a patient is intolerable to acids or long use of AHAs and other exfoliation treatments finally causes the habituation effect.

11. If there are indications, it can be used during pregnancy and lactation.


An enzyme peel is not the way to get rid of serious skin problems such as deep wrinkles or scars.
Complications are possible, including exacerbation of acne, dermatitis, episode of herpes infection, allergy.
One should be careful not to overuse the enzyme peels as it may lead to reverse effects. Otherwise, one may end up with dry skin and dull face tone due to damage to skin’s natural protection.

Pre-peel preparation

One day prior to the peel treatment one should not use products containing acids and retinol. Hair removal is prohibited. An enzyme peel should not be performed after dermabrasion and laser skin resurfacing until the recovery period is over.

The Protocol

If the enzyme peel treatment is performed for the first time, one should check how sensitive the skin is to the peel solution by applying it to the inner side of a wrist for 10 minutes. If no allergic reaction occurs, than one is allowed to use this peel solution.

1. Make-up removal and tonization (cleansing products and lotions for various skin types).

2. Enzyme peel. The peel solution is applied to skin in the following order: first, to forehead, cheeks, chin, cheekbones, and nose; then, to eyelids, lips, neck, and the décolleté area. When applying some peel solutions, one should avoid the areas around eyes and mouth. The enzyme peel solutions can be used on body. Time of exposition varies depending on the ingredients of the peel solution and the expected results. Normally, it is from 10 to 30 minutes. The enzymes favor warmth and humidity. For this reason, one should cover the face with a damp, warm towel (warm compress) to activate the enzymes. A cosmetologist may perform a facial massage after the peel solution has been applied.

There are ready-to-use instant enzyme peels sold either in a tube or as a powder that need to be dissolved shortly before the procedure. The prepared peel solution should not be stored.

3. Neutralization. When the time of exposition is over, the peel solution is washed off with warm water. If the enzyme peel solution contains acids, an alkaline neutralizer might be required. Then a tonic is applied.

4. One should apply a mask to treat the skin problems in question right after the enzyme peel. Its active agents penetrate skin easily leading to considerably good results. In this case, active serums can also be used.

5. Cream suitable for the patient’s skin type and sunscreen (desirable) to protect skin from UV rays.

Skin Sensations and Reactions during the Procedure

During the treatment, slight tingling and burning sensations might occur. They normally go away when the treatment is over. Hyperemia might occur; it usually subsides within 30 minutes.

Compatibility with Other Treatments

Considerable results are achieved when the enzyme peel is combined with a deep-cleansing facial and darsonvalization. It can be used in combination with superficial chemical peels with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). The enzyme peel treatments prepare skin to more serious procedures (e.g. laser skin resurfacing, microcrystal dermabrasion, medium-depth peels, mezoroller).

Number of Procedures

The course consists of 5-8 treatments performed once or twice a week depending on the skin type. Professional enzyme peels that contain acids should be performed once every 7-10 days. In this case, the course includes from 5 to 10 procedures.

One should use sun protection products with SPF no less than 15 and moisturizing creams during a course of peel treatments.

The Effects of the Enzyme Peel

The result is noticeable immediately after the first enzyme peel procedure. However, the conclusions about its efficacy should be drawn only when the whole course is over.

Photos before and after enzyme peel

week 1-4

The Results of the Enzyme Peel:

• Skin that is cleansed from protein impurities and dead cells
• Radiant, healthy, and fresh skin with even skin tone
• Smooth and soft skin with even texture
• Reduced appearance of fine lines
• Reduced pores
• Post acne is less visible

Possible Complications of an Enzyme Peel Treatment

• Allergy-related contact dermatitis
• Seborrheic dermatitis
• Exacerbation of acne
• Active episode of herpes

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