Enzymatic Exfoliation with a Myriad of Fruit Extracts

Enzymatic Exfoliation with a Myriad of Fruit Extracts

One of the most interesting ingredient innovations has been enzymatic exfoliation through the use of fruit extracts in skin care; a natural, gentle and effective way to exfoliate the skin without the use of any harsh chemical exfoliants. Let’s dive into how these work exactly…

Blueberry, Pineapple, Kiwi, Cherry: aside from being very tasty what do these healthy fruits have in common? Fruit enzymes! Enzymes have been on the scene for a while now but have gained more interest in the last few years with more skin care products coming out containing different fruit extracts. But what are enzymes and what are their skin care benefits? 

Firstly, enzymes are proteins that catalyze reactions, making it possible for these reactions to occur very quickly and at normal temperatures. Our bodies make use of enzymes all throughout and are pretty essential for life – like the digestive enzymes found within our guts that help to break down all sorts of different molecules that we ingest from our food.

Fruit enzymes of importance are called proteolytic enzymes and work to break down proteins like keratin, helping to improve the overall look of skin. Keratin is the glue that holds together the dead skin cells that make up the top most layer of our epidermis. By removing this top layer you are revealing newer dermal cells and improving the texture and radiance of the skin. The most common enzymes being bromelain from pineapple (INCI: Ananas Sativus (Pineapple) Fruit Extract), papain from papaya (INCI: Carica Papaya Leaf Extract), and pumpkin enzyme (INCI: Cucurbita Pepo (Pumpkin) extract). However, there are also other lesser known enzymes coming from other different kinds of fruits.

Exfoliation with enzymes has become very popular as it is a gentler method of exfoliation because it acts upon the uppermost surface of the skin, and works over a period of time. With each application of a product the enzymes get to work breaking down the keratin holding the dead skin cells together allowing for a gradual sloughing off of cells. Whereas chemical exfoliants are more aggressive since their mode of action is an acidic breakdown of more than just proteins and can increase irritation in people with sensitive skin. Therefore enzymes are a great alternative for people with sensitive skin, those who are more prone to irritation or who simply want to dip their toes into the world of natural exfoliation. Étymologie is a big fan of enzymatic exfoliation and you can find papaya extract in their Active Clay Cleanser, as well as banana, guava and mango fruit extracts in their Vitamin B3 Balancing Masque.

These extracts don’t just contain enzymes either, but also phytochemicals such as amino acids, fruit sugars/acids and glucoceramides, which are a plant derived lipid. This larger profile of supporting phytochemicals help to enhance the overall exfoliating effect of the enzymes. Pumpkin extract for example contains B vitamins, alanine, folic acid, phenylalanine, vitamin B1 and zinc, all of which help to soothe irritation and redness whereas papaya extract has astringent properties. These extra “goodies” help to support the skin as the newer skin cells are brought to the surface bringing about a more radiant and smoother appearance to the skin. Mother nature never disappoints with her apothecary of wonderful actives!

By Jamie Stanton, @Jamie_the_Chemist 


Wilma F. Bergfeld, M.D., F.A.C.P.; Donald V. Belsito, M.D. et al. “Safety Assessment of Carica papaya (Papaya)-Derived Ingredients as Used in Cosmetics”, Cosmetics Ingredient Review, Nov 21, 2019.