Enzymes, proteins with a wide range of biological effects, can be said to be the molecules of life. In fact, nothing in biology could occur without these vital biochemicals and, while most of us never give them a thought, deficiencies are real and can result in disease as well as accelerated aging.
And enzymes are not just important for inside the body; they play a role in keeping the outside healthy too. When enzymes don’t function as they should, skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, dryness and acne can result. Without enough enzyme activity, the production of important dermal molecules like collagen and hyaluronic acid can be suppressed. And under deficiency conditions, the ordinary flopping off of cells in a process called desquamation slows down. That can result in the accumulation of flakiness or what is called an ashy appearance to the skin.
One of the best ways to maintain effective enzyme levels on the skin and in the body is to eat them. Fruits, veggies, eggs, oysters and raw fish are especially packed with enzymes. Careful with cooking though, even warm temperatures can destroy enzyme activity.
A key parameter for keeping skin enzymes active is pH; acid conditions are required for skin enzymes to perform optimally. Regular use of alpha hydroxy acids can help as can avoiding bar soap and cheap cleansers, which tend to be alkaline (non-acid). Because skin oil (sebum) is acidic, ingesting essential fatty acids and fatty vitamins like A and E that support the secretion of epidermal lipids can be helpful.
And while topically applied enzymes won’t help increase levels on the skin, they can have a beneficial effect on the body’s largest organ’s appearance. Topical enzymes have been shown to enhance skin firmness, thickness, and hydration. They can soften and smooth skin, help zap zits and fade dark spots and improve exfoliation of dead cells, eliminating the appearance of dry, flaky skin.
Did You Know…
The first recorded use of enzymes in cosmetics was in 17th century Asia when Japanese royalty discovered that by adding bird feces to their cleansers, they could make their skin bright and beautiful, as well as clean. As it turns out, avian excrement is a rich source of various enzymes that support exfoliation, lighten skin, reduce excessive oiliness and speed up the healing of blemishes.