Enzymes and chemical peels are two of my favorite exfoliating treatments to perform on my clients. I love how enzymes always smell so lovely, and chemical peels do major work when trying to manage stubborn skin conditions. So, what’s the difference between them? When do I choose one over the other for my client? As the Lead Educator, I get asked this all the time at Skin Therapeutic, so let’s dive into this topic.
FIRST OFF, WHAT ARE ENZYMES?
Enzymes are used in skincare or treatments to prompt exfoliation. They are a large group of proteins that are typically found in fruits and plants, and (basically) they munch away at the keratin in dead skin cells on the outer most layers of the epidermis. This helps the cell turnover process and reveals a brighter & more vibrant complexion.
OK, GOT IT. NOW, WHAT MAKES CHEMICAL PEELS DIFFERENT?
Chemical peels are the more aggressive way to exfoliate the skin compared to enzymes. Depending on what classification of peel you’re using, it can lift hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration, help manage acne and oil production in the follicles, and even out skin texture. Peels soak into the skin, through many layers of the epidermis, and deep peels can even penetrate into the dermis, so they are much more invasive than enzymes. Some chemicals used in peels are naturally occurring, like Glycolic Acid is from sugarcane or strawberries, and others are synthetic alternatives, like Resorcinol or Hydroquinone.
EXCELLENT! NOW, DIDN’T YOU SAY EARLIER ABOUT DECIDING BETWEEN ENZYMES AND CHEMCIAL PEELS FOR YOUR CLIENT?
AND DID I MENTION THAT YOU CAN USE THEM IN THE SAME TREATMENT?
WELL, YOU CAN!
There are plenty of different enzymes and peels out there, meaning there’s probably more than one that works for any skin types or condition that walks through your spa doors. For example, pumpkin enzyme is amazing (and one of my favs) because it is a natural brightener and helps lift superficial hyperpigmentation. It can be used on darker skin tones and those with sensitive skin! I love pairing enzymes with superficial/light acids, like Mandelic or Lactic in low strengths, because the enzymes digest all the dead cells and allow the peel to penetrate a little deeper into the skin.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU USE THIS KIND OF TREATMENT?
LET’S TALK ABOUT EXFOLIATION.
Basically, enzymes and chemical peels are two forms of exfoliation. The biggest difference is that enzymes work on the superficial levels of the epidermis, whereas chemical peels seep into the skin and can work much deeper. Exfoliation is SUPER important because it sloughs off the dead skin cells and keeps them from clogging pores and causing acne, keeps your complexion glowing (instead of it looking dull and lack luster,) and allows the cell turnover process to keep an optimal rate - about a 28 day cycle. So, getting an exfoliating facial with enzymes and/or chemical peels would be best about once a month. If you get this type of treatment more often, you will run the chances of over-exfoliating the skin, which can have major adverse effects.
YOU CAN NEVER OVER EXFOLIATE.
WRONG! Don’t do it. It takes forever to get the skin’s balance back in order once this happens. Over exfoliation can force healthy skin cells (those that haven’t lived their full cell cycle) to come off the skin, which brings younger cells to the surface that are not ready to be exposed. Over exfoliated skin can appear red or pink, often times looks like combination skin with dehydrated areas mixed with over production of oils trying to compensate, and feels raw and sensitive.
If you over exfoliate the skin, you disrupt the microbiome and put the pH out of balance, which allows bacteria, pollutants in the air and other harmful things to penetrate into the skin, allowing them to reek havoc on the cells. I see this ALL THE TIME with new clients because over the counter skincare exfoliating products are too harsh and they are not reestablishing the skin’s barrier with the appropriate products.
I SUGGEST USING THESE PRODUCTS TO HELP BALANCE THE MICROBIOME AND GET THE SKIN BACK TO A HEALTHY STATE:
HA-B5 Hyaluronic Vitamin Gel - Super hydrating formula that creates a barrier over the skin to encapsulate and moisturize the skin.
Vitafuse Lotion - We take the fight against damage caused by free radicals seriously. This light, vitamin rich lotion hydrates while it restores. Pro-Vitamin B-5, along with vitamins A, K, and Carrot Seed Extract bring nourishment to the skin.
Water Resistant SPF 30 - Sunscreen is a vital part of a skincare regimen to prevent dark spots and sun damage. The risk of unwanted damage is extremely high after a chemical peel, enzyme treatment, or exfoliating facial, so you need to have a dependable SPF to apply before a client leaves your facility.
IN CONCLUSION, EXFOLIATION WITH ENZYMES AND CHEMICAL PEELS ARE WONDERFUL TREATMENTS FOR MOST CLIENTS. JUST DON’T OVER DO IT! EDUCATE YOUR CLIENTS ON HOW TO EXFOLIATE BETWEEN APPOINTMENTS WITHOUT UNDOING ALL YOUR HARD WORK.
PS. Remember: ALWAYS consult with your client and review their intake and consultation forms to make sure they are not allergic to any ingredients in either the enzyme product or the chemical peel. If you don’t know the ingredients of the products you are using, contact the manufacturer for the full ingredient deck.