The Secret to a Good Facial at Home

The secret to a good facial at home are enzymes! I’m going to explain how they work and give you some pro tips on how to use them to give yourself a good facial at home. When used correctly, enzymes can make all the difference in whether or not you can pop pimples or push out blackheads. They also work well to soften and gently exfoliate the skin.

When I think of how enzymes work my mind always travels back to my grandfather who made many of our meals using a meat tenderizing powder. It came in a shaker and he would sprinkle it on the meat and then put it between two pieces of parchment paper and bang the hell out of it with a mallet. Every bite was soft and delicious without any chewiness….errt! Back to reality…what I do during a facial is almost the same thing. I even bang on my clients skin to plump up the collagen. 

How Do Enzymes Work 

yeastThere are several types of enzymes that are used in facials and each one affects the skin slightly differently. Enzymes are the key and your skin protein is the lock. Once the enzymes begin to work they unlock the surface proteins. Enzymes breakdown protein and since that is what our skin is made of, it is a great way to exfoliate and soften the skin. To visualize what enzymes look like you can think of those little packets of dry yeast. Enzymes are inactive until you activate them with moisture and warmth just as dry yeast are in hibernation until moist.

How To Use Enzymes in a Facial

You will want to mix enzyme powder with water or an activator to create a pudding-like paste. You would apply this paste to the skin and use steam to begin the process. For enzymes to work they must have moist heat to stay active, hence the need for steam. 

I typically use gloves (nitrile) to massage the enzyme paste onto my skin. Otherwise my fingers become slimy*. I recommend to use a constant, rhythmic motion with your fingertips while massaging the enzyme paste around your skin. If you feel a tackiness or sticky feel in an area, it is important to add a bit of water to your skin or get closer to the steam. This tackiness means that the enzymes have temporarily stopped working. Depending on the sensitivity level of your skin you would use enzymes for between 3-7 minutes (never more).

Photo by Mélissa Jeanty

*Have you ever washed your hands with soap and water and it feels slimy and no matter what you do you just can’t get the soap to wash off? That is what enzymes feel like when they’re on your fingertips. Basically, you will feel a slimy sensation because the enzymes are eating off the outer surface of your skin.

What Types of Enzymes are Best for Facials

PineappleThroughout history, the 3 main types of enzymes used in facials have been bovine, bromelain and papain. However, I haven’t seen the use of bovine enzymes in quite a few years. It may be a result of the vegetarian and vegan movement. Although, bovine is a by-product from cow pancreas most spas probably don’t want to have to worry about listing it or upsetting someone by using it.

Pineapples are more than just a tasty snack; they contain a powerful mixture of enzymes that can help your skin feel soft and look great. Now you know the secret to a good facial at home! Bromelain is a protein-digesting enzyme that is isolated from the stem or fruit of pineapple plants. When applied to your skin, bromelain works by breaking down dead skin proteins, promoting exfoliation. In addition, bromelain is a potent anti-inflammatory compound, meaning it will help to minimize the redness and irritation that often comes with exfoliation. Products containing bromelain should be used right away or stored in a cool area. The enzyme rapidly degrades at temperatures higher than 100 degrees.  

Similar to bromelain, papain is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from the papaya plant. This powerful enzyme has been used for thousands of years in South America as a meat tenderizer. Papain has the ability to dissolve damaged keratin from the surface of your skin. This can remove small bumps and potentially help scars to fade away. While papain works wonders in most people, it is a potent allergen for a few, so test a small area first before applying it to your entire face. 

Eating Enzymes for Digestion

Both bromelain and papain can be taken with food to boost digestion. These enzymes work by digesting food even before your body gets a chance to break it down. Taking bromelain with food can help to reduce upset stomach and symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders. 

You may have seen Beano or other chewable tablets that come in handy containers to keep in your purse or pocket. Beano uses an enzyme called alpha-galactosidase and you can take it right before you eat foods that would normally bother your stomach to reduce the chance of gassiness. This enzyme breaks down veggies before the bacteria in your intestines start to feed on them. 

All in all, bromelain and papain are multipurpose enzymes; you can use them to give yourself a good facial at home for a gentle exfoliation or in the morning, sprinkle them in your smoothies to help with digestion. 

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