Acids vs. Enzymes
Acids work best at low pH but this can disrupt the skin barrier at high % concentrations and cause some level of irritation (or a profound inflammatory response for some sensitive and darker skin tones). Enzymes work with the skin's natural shedding process to gently remove the outer layer of skin without causing much irritation.
Most enzymes work closely to the surface whereas acids depending on the strength, molecular size and pH can work deeper into the dermis.
Hydrated skin is critical for enzymes and the enzymatic mechanism to work effectively. This is not the case for acids, they can work on dry skin.
Enzymes work across most skins whereas sensitive skins may find AHAs/BHAs too strong or require a period of acclimating the acid into their routine.
Work to digest proteins that hold our shedding outer layer of skin together, gently dissolving them and sloughing this loosened outer layer away.
However unlike most acids, these can also double up as powerful antioxidants too. Papaya, Pumpkin and Pineapple enzymes being some of the most popular gentle exfoliators often used in skincare.
A favorite enzyme for me is Pomegranate Enzyme (through a fermented process), this doubles up as a powerful antioxidant and a potent skin brightener with its tyrosinase inhibiting qualities.
Acid exfoliation on the other hand, works by lowering the PH of the skin and blasting through the surface skin cells causing denaturing of proteins between cells and a loosening of the adhesion between cells.
Through this process, it forces the skin's natural shedding process by loosening dead surface skin cells.
There are two main types of acids: AHA's and BHA's. Both are regarded as working deeper than enzymes to stimulate cellular renewal. At low concentrations, AHA's work on the surface of the skin to dissolve dead skin and debris while BHA's penetrate deep into the pores to prevent breakouts.
What’s the difference between acid exfoliation and enzyme exfoliation?
Both are examples of effective exfoliation mechanisms.
However, enzyme exfoliation is effective, gentle and safe for all skin types, whereas acid exfoliation can sometimes be too intense for sensitive skin types and those with rosacea concerns.
Emogene & Co. Enzyme Resurfacing Facial Mask uses pineapple, pomegranate and papaya enzymes to gently digest and lift dead skin cells to reveal a brighter, more even skin tone.