Apr 26, 2024 | Blog


Dr Naomi McCullum

Cosmetic Doctor, Student Cosmetic Chemist. Founder, Dr Naomi Skin and The Manse Clinics.


An enzyme is a substance, usually a protein, which acts as a catalyst to bring about a particular biochemical reaction.

What is their purpose in beauty products? 

In skincare, enzymes can be used as exfoliants. They are proteolytic, ie the break down proteins. The proteins they breakdown in exfoliants are the ones keeping the outer and older skin layer attached. So, they work by helping to remove the dead skin cells from the uppermost layer of the skin, the epidermis. This removal process leaves beautiful and healthy skin at the surface. Enzymes in skincare are useful for dull and rough skin.

Is there a lot of research into enzymes for skincare?

There is not enough research into enzymes for skincare yet. Skincare formulators always wish for more skincare ingredient research!
Bromelain (which is a crude extract from Pineapple) has been studied for its medical applications. There is also a study https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18489307/ which demonstrates that significant appearance benefits can be derived from use of exfoliative proteolytic enzymes, and these improvements are strikingly similar to results observed with higher concentrations of AHAs. There’s research showing potential benefits from Pomegranate enzymes, and research about the use of Papain enzyme for skin and wound healing.

Why do you use enzymes in your Dr Naomi Skin formulations?

We chose enzymes for some of the products in our range because we wanted to use gentle but effective ingredients for smoothing and resurfacing fine lines and wrinkles and improving texture by improving cell turnover.

Which types of enzymes do you think work best, and for what indications?

We chose to use Bromelain, Papain enzymes and Pomegranate enzymes in our gentle exfoliant, Smooth Criminal. The purpose in this product is to minimise pores, gently smooth and resurface skin, and of course, brighten. We also use Bromelain in our décolletage product, Hit the Dec, which is being released in 2023. We designed it specifically for the thinner and more sensitive skin on the Neck and Decolletage.

Are enzymes more or less irritating than chemical exfoliants? Chemical exfoliants seem to be more popular

I would say enzymes are growing in popularity and in the amount of attention they get. They may be gentler. Also, they can be used with other exfoliants.


Enzymes used in skincare break down proteins. They act on the proteins holding onto your old skin layers at the surface.

How do you incorporate enzymes into your skincare routine?

They can be used as daily exfoliators, after cleansing. Or they can be used in a skin-cycling routine. In reality, skincare is always bespoke and the user needs to find the ideal routine for their own skin. Most people could use our enzyme-containing product, Smooth Criminal, daily in their routine, but there will be sensitive-skinned people who can only use it twice weekly.
Hit the Dec our décolletage product should be used daily.

What other ingredients do they work best with?

In one of our enzyme products, Smooth Criminal, we feature 3 fruit enzymes and 5% AHAs. This is a great entry level for those customers who are new to actives.
For Hit the Dec, we designed it without AHAs so that it could be used daily, and customers could avoid the over exfoliation/reactions that can occur, particularly with body use. However, we would also recommend (for those whose skin can tolerate it), to add our powerful AHA, BHA essence, Pore Relation to their neck and dec routine 2-3 times weekly.

Do enzymes work for all skin types? Why/ not?

Like all exfoliators, people with sensitive skin need to be more careful. For those customers I recommend trying products first as a wash-off mask and slowly increasing the time on skin if they have no issues.

Is it possible to “overdo” it on the enzymes? Are there known allergies?
Not every product suits every person. Sensitive skin can be so complex. It is always possible for any topical product to cause issues for users. However, with our enzyme-containing products it would be very uncommon.

Do you like enzymes? How do they stack up against other ingredients?
I love them, but would be delighted if a lot more research was done into enzymes, in particular comparing them to
other ingredients. I always wish for more research into every potential skincare ingredient 🙂
Each ingredient we use has its place and are useful for different reasons. We find that enzymes are useful options for exfoliation.



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