I remember the first enzyme mask I ever had, I felt slightly like an extra in Alien and I didn’t quite know what was going on. But after a lot of research and training, I’m absolutely blown away at how impactful enzyme therapy is because of the reaction it stimulates for our skin.
What’s an enzyme
Enzymes operate like a lock and a key.
The key is a protein, which is made up from many building blocks underneath it called Amino Acids. The lock, is the enzyme.
When a key turns a lock usually it will open up a door. Enzymes have the same reaction – when the protein hits the enzyme, the enzyme will ‘unlock’ creating a reaction and opening up a doorway to another environment. This is called an enzymatic reaction. The reactions are a rush of activity as the enzymes allow messages to be communicated across the body, alerting different body parts to actions they need to take to help us. There are known to be over 75,000 enzymes in the human body which are classified into three main groups:
- Metabolic enzymes that run our bodies,
- Digestive enzymes that digest our food
- Food enzymes from raw foods that start our food digestion (we create enzymes in our bodies, but we can source enzymes from food too. Obtaining enzymes from raw food is important, because this is where enzymes remain in tact – enzymes are destroyed at high heat, so if you’re trying to obtain enzymes through food that you’re cooking the life out of, chances are there aren’t any active enzymes there to help you)
But for those of us with acne, a particular focus on enzyme therapy can be one of the superhighways you can take to clearing your acne to better skin.
How does it work?
We have hundreds and thousands of enzymes in our bodies creating different enzymatic reactions. In enzyme therapy, the enzyme that is activated is called transferase.
Transferase is a reaction that transports messages from our skin to our other body parts through changing one molecule to another molecular compound.
Two of the most natural forms of enzymes are protein based enzyme foods known as protease, namely papain (papaya) and bromelain (pineapple). That’s why you might see so many popular mainstream Papaya / Pineapple face masks bandying about the internet.
However in the enzyme mask I use, the protein used to stimulate the enzymatic reaction is egg protein powder.
What is the actual mask?
The enzyme egg protein powder, is mixed with a dermomask gel to liquify the substance which turns into a very thick paste (or you will have a paste from making your own at home mask).
How and where is it applied?
The mask is then applied in areas that impact the lymphatic areas to stimulate the correct enzymatic response. Why is applying enzyme to your lympatic system region important? Find out in this article (it will also show you why you need to body brush your boobs).
The paste should be place underneath the collarbone, up the neck, to the back of the ear to the hairline and of course cover the whole face.
This is me with my enzyme mask paste freshly on at my DMK enzyme therapy treatment.
What happens next is the reaction. The enzymes react and take action for about 40 minutes, which is the duration you should have your mask on for it to be effective.
So what reactions do enzymes stimulate that are so important?
Kicking P.Bacteria’s Butt
The transferase kicks in, and starts to send messages to your lungs requesting it to pump oxygen to your pores and stimulate the lymphatic flow whilst at it. You will start to feel a pumping sensation while this is happening (at about the 15 minute mark) meaning your body is responding and ready to start flushing oxygen to the surface.
For those with cystic acne, this is critically important. The oxygen flushes to your skin from the inside. Now it will give the P.Bacteria a good kicking whilst it’s at it. Those with cystic acne, you most likely have a P.Bacteria infection – you can read more on what it is and how to tell if you have it here. We all have P.Bacteria (yes, even people with clear skin) but P.Bacteria starts to really thrive, grow and stimulate cystic pimples when it is deprived of oxygen. In acne, our hair follicles are blocked by the excess in oil production stopping oxygen from hitting the pores. This is when P.Bacteria grows, flourishes and causes the cystic acne. The enzyme though, can flush the oxygen up to the skin and support the dismantling of the P.Bacteria.
Getting rid of congestion
The enzyme reacts to also pushes the blocked pores out onto the skin so you’re getting rid of the congestion. It will push the backed up oil, out onto the skin so it’s not sitting in the pores clogging your skin up. So this is generally why you might have a slight breakout after a treatment.
This is the result you definitely want though – because the clearer your pores are, the closer you become to clearing acne. Because once all of your pores are free of the oil build up, pimples and pustules, you are more than halfway to curing your acne. The next stages after that are scar revision and ensuring healthy oil function.
Removing dead skin cells
The enzyme mask will harden throughout the course of 40 minutes, and you will feel a slight ‘pulling’ when it sets. It does feel a bit like wearing cement, but this just means it is working. It does feel slightly cool to feel an look like an Avatar character, although you might not feel like it at the time.
The other thing the enzyme mask will do, is eat up dead protein and dead skin cells. The process of getting rid of a build up of dead skin cells is called ‘desquamation’. In the case of acne itself, we have an overproduction of skin cells so tend to have more of a build up of dead skin on the surface, so we have more of an onus to exfoliate (not heavily!) effectively to get rid of the dead skin cells without damaging our skin. The reason we have a build up of dead skin cells, is because we have what’s called skin dysfunction. Our skin cells (which are called keratinocytes) when in homeostasis (balanced function) will go through their normal skin cell lifecycle of 6 weeks from cell ‘birth’ to cell ‘death’ (apoptosis). We do get rid of approximately 30,000 dead skin cells a minute all by ourselves. But this process is distorted when we have skin dysfunction, as we might be over-producing skin cells and therefore end up with more dead skin cells than we should have. This process is called hyperkeratinization.
Enzymes are protein eaters. And in the case of our skin, they act like little dead-cell scavengers. They eat up the dead skin cells so they can make room for the generation of new healthier skin cells which you will definitely need to nurse your skin back to health.
Yup so you can see why I mentioned I look like a carton character. This is what the enzyme looks like at the end before it’s taken off. It hardens up and you can see where my capillaries are running underneath the enzyme.
Recipes for enzyme therapy
- Professional enzyme treatment
I use this DMK enzyme therapy treatment for its effectiveness. I have an in-clinic treatment at least once every two weeks and have a take home treatment (not as potent) for each week I’m not at the clinic. If you do suffer from acne, it is best to see a dermal therapist before you start looking at starting enzyme therapy (even at home treatments) as the reactions can be quite strong that you might not be used to.
- At home DIY enzyme treatment
Papaya or Pineapple Enzyme Mask Recipe:
- Wash cut and dry the insides of a quarter pineapple or papaya (organic is best)
- Blitz in your blender so the consistency is pulp like, just like a facial
- Place over the face, 5 minutes should do. If it starts to tingle and sting because of the acid, wash off and pop on a moisturiser (even a soothing yoghurt mask would do wonders after that) or coconut oil
- Do not get it in your eyes! If you do, rinse immediately
I strongly recommend for enzyme therapy you see a dermal therapist or skin expert (not any old beautician please!) but someone who has delivered enzyme therapy before. It is a fantastic, and intense treatment. It is not a treatment ‘just’ for people with acne, this is a treatment that can boost and maintain healthy skin (if that’s what you really want).
What my skin looks like after an enzyme treatment. You can see my veins and capillaries running up my chest and neck where the oxygen has flushed to the skin giving my lymphatic system a good movement.