Best Enzyme Peels

Updated September 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

22 Models Considered
7 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
353 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best enzyme peels

Last Updated September 2020

Every skincare routine should include the essential step of exfoliation, which reveals youthful skin beneath dull layers. Exfoliation can promote optimal skin health by clearing the buildup of dead cells, which are a common cause of dehydration, acne, and premature aging. Chemical peels are often used as exfoliating agents, but they can be irritating for many skin types, which is why enzyme peels are such a popular alternative.

Enzyme peels gently penetrate the upper layers of the skin. They rejuvenate and deeply clean the skin without traumatizing the surface. Instead, enzyme peels remove only skin cells that are already dead, meaning they leave behind no telltale redness. They also help improve elasticity and texture for a smooth, glowing complexion.

Finding an enzyme peel that works for your skin type and concerns is important. In this buying guide, we’ll discuss the most potent formulas available for purchase and the various skin issues they can remedy. You’ll find our five favorite enzyme peels in the matrix above.

Enzyme peels can be performed year-round and can even be used in conjunction with microdermabrasion.

Benefits of enzyme peels

Enzyme peels can help with a range of skin issues. They are especially effective for those with sensitive skin who often have trouble finding a peel that is gentle enough. They are also safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women who can’t use chemical peels.

Chemical peels use acids to remove living cells along with dead cells, causing potential damage depending on the strength of the peel. Enzyme peels only exfoliate dead cells and no live tissue. There is no downtime and no irritation with enzyme peels. However, it’s a good idea to have your skin evaluated by a dermatologist to confirm that an enzyme peel is right for your skin.

Enzyme peels are activated by water. For this reason, enzyme peels are most effective on damp skin. Generally, they should be left on as a mask for 15 minutes. You can use enzyme peels to:

  • Fade discoloration and hyperpigmentation
  • Clear clogged pores and remove blackheads
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and minor scars
  • Remove dull skin to reveal a brighter layer that glows
  • Improve skin texture
  • Prevent acne
  • Improve product absorption

The power of pumpkin

This pumpkin enzyme peel by Peter Thomas Roth is a three-in-one powerhouse. It exfoliates with pumpkin, has subtle peeling power with AHAs, and polishes with aluminum oxide. Pricey but effective, it comes in a sizable five-ounce jar. Reveal softer, glowing skin with this grainy mask that smells like fresh pumpkin pie.

Key considerations

Enzymes are naturally occurring proteins in fruits, vegetables, and meats that accelerate chemical reactions. They act as digestive aids when consumed, and they are often used to ripen fruit faster, tenderize meat, and produce fermented products. Most enzyme peels are fruit-based.

The dead skin cells on the top layer of our skin contain a protein called keratin that causes skin to feel rough. Enzyme peels work to dissolve that protein into smaller particles, which creates a smoother surface.

Fruit enzyme peels are considered the lightest and least invasive of all facial peels. They are ideal for those with sensitive skin or a low tolerance for acids. Whereas alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) promote the growth of new skin cells, enzyme peels refine pores and slough off dead skin without increasing sensitivity to sunlight. Picking the right enzyme peel for you means picking the right enzyme for tackling your skincare concerns.

The common active ingredients in enzyme peels include:

  • Papaya: Papain is the active enzyme in papaya, which is effective for reducing redness and acne marks. Papaya peels are a popular choice for softening sensitive skin.
  • Pomegranate: Pomegranate enzyme peels brighten skin with lactic acid, salicylic acid, and alpha arbutin to hydrate while combating oiliness.
  • Pineapple: Bromelain is the active enzyme in pineapple. It tingles upon application and can reverse free radical damage while dissolving dead skin and even acne scars.
  • Pumpkin: Pumpkin has high quantities of AHAs, making it one of the strongest fruit enzymes. Pumpkin peels are ideal for clearing extremely clogged pores.
  • Blueberry: Blueberries are full of powerful antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients that promote youthful skin. The active enzymes in blueberries can also soften oil in the pores.

Features

Scent

Many enzyme peels have a fruity or botanical scent due to their fruit enzymes, but you can find scent-free peels for extra-sensitive skin.

Consistency

The consistency of enzyme peels is sometimes scrub-like with a grainy texture. Other peels have a smooth consistency that’s similar to a gel or mud mask. Sometimes enzyme peels come in powder form, which is mixed with water to form a paste.

Packaging

Enzyme peels usually come in jars or tubes. But some peels are packaged in pump bottles or even glass bottles with a dropper if the texture is more liquid.

Other ingredients

Vitamins and other plant extracts are often added to enzyme peels to introduce additional antioxidants and other nutrients to the skin. Jojoba or almond oil may be added for the purpose of moisturizing the skin as the enzymes exfoliate. Enzyme peels may also include white clay, minerals, and milk proteins.

DID YOU KNOW?

Some enzymes can slow the growth of facial hair. There’s even a method of hair removal known as enzyme hair removal.

DID YOU KNOW?

In the aesthetician world, an enzyme peel is known as an “express” option, with minimal healing time and maximum results.

Enzyme peel prices

Prices for enzyme peels range anywhere from $5 to $60, depending on the quality and potency of the ingredients and the quantity of the peel.

Inexpensive: Affordable drugstore enzyme peels come in larger quantities but usually contain less concentrated amounts of the active enzyme. You can also find single-use masks in this price range. Inexpensive enzyme peels cost $5 to $15.

Mid-range: Many skincare and spa brands offer mid-range enzyme peels. These peels tend to have good amounts of active enzymes and come in larger quantities. Mid-range peels cost between $15 and $30.

Expensive: More expensive offerings have purer amounts of key ingredients and may combine multiple enzymes. Additional ingredients like hyaluronic acid are common in high-end enzyme peels. Expect to pay $30 to $60 for top-of-the-line enzyme peels.

All-natural glow

Alba Botanica is an all-natural brand often found at health food stores thanks to their fair pricing and high-grade products. The Pore-fecting Papaya Enzyme Hawaiian Facial Mask is no exception. After just five minutes, skin regains its glow thanks to papaya enzymes. This brightening mask has a refreshing tropical scent and no artificial fragrance.

Tips

  • When using pumpkin enzymes, mix the peel with honey instead of water. This will act as a buffer while maintaining the peel’s strong exfoliating properties.
  • Store enzyme peels in a cool, dark environment to avoid product instability and faster expiration.
  • Apply a hydrating but gentle moisturizer after using a peel. Other skincare products are absorbed more deeply following an enzyme peel.
  • Try an enzyme peel at home instead of a professional treatment if you have an upcoming event. Chemical peels can require a long recovery time and detailed aftercare, while enzyme peels are completely low maintenance, with no irritation or redness.
  • Always apply sunscreen with a high SPF if you’re going to be out in the sun after an enzyme peel.

A less common but very effective enzyme is mucor miehei extract, which comes from Japanese mushrooms.

Other products we considered

If you’re on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice quality, consider the Andalou Naturals Bioactive 8 Berry Fruit Enzyme Mask. Don’t be fooled by the low price tag – this enzyme peel blends the powerful antioxidant and regenerative powers of eight different berries with healing honey and brightening vitamin C.

Another popular but pricier choice is the Naturopathica Pear Fig Polishing Enzyme Peel. This enzyme peel is from a brand admired by skincare professionals. It uses pear and fig enzymes to promote collagen growth, while lactic acid stimulates the skin’s natural hydration from within. It works best when applied in the shower, where steam can activate the unique fruit enzymes.

Overuse of enzyme peels (more than twice a week) can cause dry or dull skin as too much exfoliation can damage the skin’s natural protective barrier.

FAQ

Q. Who are enzyme peels best for?
A.
Enzyme peels are best for those with sensitive skin or individuals who have tried acid peels and realized their skin can’t tolerate it.
 

Q. Is it ever not safe to use an enzyme peel?
A.
If you’ve recently used a strong facial scrub, have any open wounds on your face, or have been picking at acne, the peeling sensation of an enzyme mask might be too strong for you to use.
 

Q. Do enzyme peels hurt?
A.
Whereas other peels can sometimes be painful, enzyme peels do not sting. These tough exfoliators are always gentle.

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The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
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The team that worked on this review
  • Ciera Pasturel
    Ciera Pasturel
    Digital Content Producer
  • Katherine Morris
    Katherine Morris
    Editor
  • Melinda Snowden
    Melinda Snowden
    Web Producer

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