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Enzyme Masks Give You Glowing Skin & This Trick Makes It More Effective 

Image by Thais Ramos Varela / Stocksy
November 8, 2019

Enzyme masks or peels have become a very popular trend of late in the natural space. For good reason: These little organisms gently exfoliate skin to give you a brighter, happier glow—but usually aren't as harsh or abrasive as a scrub. They work by simulating a biochemical response on the top layer of the skin, encouraging cell turnover and allowing younger, plumper cells to come to the top. Plus the enzymes are sourced from some of our favorite superfoods and fruits, like pumpkins, cherries, papaya, and the like.

I try to do one once a week or every other week (peek below for some of my favorites). Everyone's skin is different, and your tolerance for these treatments might be different from mine, but most derms will give you similar advice: Try any exfoliating treatments once a week to start, and then adjust as needed.

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And up until last week, I had been using them as I would any other mask: Slather it on, wait a bit, wash it off, moisturize. Until I met Chase Polan, founder of the natural brand Kypris. She let me in on a little enzyme secret: Wear it in the shower.

She went on to tell me that enzymes work better when the temperature of your skin is increased. It's one of the reasons that facialists often use steamers during their treatments (the other being that the steam helps open up pores, which coincidentally doesn't hurt here either). I did a little digging, and she's spot on, too: Enzymes' chemical reaction that causes exfoliation becomes faster and more powerful with increased temperature.

According to research from Worthington Biochemical, they show that if you increase the temperature by 10 degrees, the efficacy of the enzymes goes from 50% to 100%; meaning, the enzymes are at full capacity. But even small changes in temperature, like one or two degrees, can increase efficacy by 10% to 20%. (If you opt out of my shower trick, however, even your skin's base temperature is good enough to start this process; the shower just helps.) Also worthy of note: Because enzymes are so reactive to temperature, you should make sure the mask is stored in a cool place, so as not to make it less effective.

At this point, you might be thinking, A mask in the shower? Isn't that a recipe for a goopy, wet mess? How does it stay on? Fair questions, dear reader. My solution to this is I will do it only on days when I don't wash my hair (I have long, curly hair and don't shampoo and condition daily). Since your hair isn't wet, you're not going to have water sopping down your face while the mask is on. And then, while I wait for the mask to do its work, I usually inch to the corner and do some body exfoliating. If you're one to always wash your hair, I'd suggest tossing your hair up, wear your mask, and then wash everything post-treatment.

And did it work? Most enzyme masks, I find, have a slightly tingly, warming effect—not intense, but it's a much different sensation than wearing a charcoal or aloe mask. And the shower trick did amplify that feeling. When I stepped out of the shower, I noticed my skin did look a bit brighter and felt so much smoother. And here's the thing: This trick is so easy. It wasn't life-changing results, but for how much effort I put into it (like, none), of course I'll continue doing this. You're already taking showers regularly—and if you're like me, you're also doing weekly face masks. This combines them in one easy step. Talk about multi-masking.

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Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.