Science Lesson: Enzymes
Enzymes may be a term that you hear in science class when talking about digestion and food science. So what are they doing in our skincare? Let’s start with the basics. Enzymes are catalysts. Catalysts are molecules that dramatically speed up the process of a chemical reaction. Many biological mechanisms would not occur without natural catalysts a.k.a. biocatalysts a.k.a. enzymes. The technical names of enzymes frequently end in “-ase” so they are easily identifiable on an ingredient list!
When used in cosmetic products enzymes help induce exfoliation. The most common skincare enzymes are from plant origin: papaya, pumpkin, and pineapple being some of the most popular. Enzyme exfoliators are another class of exfoliation (physical and chemical being the other two) that eat and digest dead skin cells.
However, unique to enzyme exfoliation, this is a proteolytic process. Biological catalysts are made of proteins, so enzymes are able to act as catalysts in biological processes that involve proteins which makes them a proteases! Following this? Protease enzymes break down the protein found in the outer layer of our skin making this a gentle exfoliation process. This goes with the common idea in chemistry that “like dissolves like”.
(“Prote- = protein, “-ase” = enzyme)
Review: Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel
I’m a big believer in the double cleanse, and while I have many favorite oil-based cleansers I switch around water-based cleansers frequently trying to find a favorite. This past fall I finally found my perfect cleanser. The Mario Badescu ($14 at Ulta) Enzyme Cleansing Gel is like putting green silk on my skin every morning and night. The gel doesn’t foam up much but glides gently over the skin to remove dirt, makeup, and oil easily. Initially, when I picked up this cleanser I knew I wanted to try a Mario one and honestly picked this one because of the science-y name and the green bottle figuring it can’t be horrible for $14. Luckily, this the cleanser contains a solid ingredient list and is perfect for my skin this winter.
Ingredients: Aqua (Water, Eau), Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, PEG-8 Stearate, PPG-2 Hydroxyethyl Cocamide, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Carbomer, Sodium Chloride, Parfum (Fragrance), Phenoxyethanol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Triethanolamine, Diazolidinyl Urea, Mica, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 19140 (Yellow 5), CI 42090 (Blue 1), CI 15985 (Yellow 6)
The ingredient list is pretty standard: water, humectants/moisturizers, polymers, mild surfactant, pH balancers, preservatives, and colorants. The key ingredients and enzymes are Carica Papaya Fruit Extract and Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract. Since enzymatic exfoliation is super gentle on the skin this cleanser is ideal for daily use and all skin types. There is a slight fragrance but not enough to irritate the skin nor linger around after rinsing.
I’d highly recommend this cleanser for anyone looking for a well-rounded product that will give them soft and clean skin daily.
Have a favorite enzymatic product? I’d love to know! I’m on the hunt for a great enzymatic mask to use during facials.