Enzyme Peel vs. Chemical Peel: What’s the Difference?
A good skincare routine usually incorporates a peel eventually. However, looking for the best skincare peel for your needs can be tricky when places advertise both enzyme and chemical peels without explaining the difference. Today, let’s break down both of these peel types and see how they differ while examining which might be best for you.
What Are Chemical Peels?
It’s usually easier to grasp enzyme peels if you understand what chemical peels are first. While both products are skincare treatments that form a light, removable layer of material that you peel away from your skin, they provide their benefits in dramatically different ways.
As their name suggests, chemical peels provide skincare benefits through a mixture of chemicals that are infused into every peel product. However, don’t think that chemical peels are automatically bad for your skin. In most cases, the “chemicals” mentioned are fruit acids, although many top products also use synthetic acids for more effective results.
Chemical peels use a collection of intense acids to exfoliate dead skin cells and also sometimes remove an upper layer of living skin cells. They’re particularly good at penetrating multiple layers of the skin, affecting a deep cleanse. Chemical peels often use ingredients like:
- salicylic acid
- lactic acid
- glycolic acid
- other types of alpha-hydroxy acids
- beta hydroxy acids
Regardless of the exact ingredient makeup, chemical peels all work through dissolving certain proteins and lipids that keep dead skin cells close together. These skincare peels scrub away lots of dead skin, debris, and toxins to produce a softer, more radiant layer of new skin.
Although these types of peels can be very effective, they also have several downsides. They’re more intense than what an enzyme peel will provide and may require longer downtime in between uses. So you shouldn’t be exfoliating with a chemical peel repeatedly within a short timeframe. Furthermore, many top chemical peels will be provided by aestheticians or physicians instead of done at home. There’s just more of an opportunity to accidentally hurt your skin using these peels than their counterpart.
However, if you do find a home-use chemical skin peel, you'll need to perform some aftercare for your skin, like applying soothing cream or moisturizer. Still, they can be a godsend if your pores feel clogged and you just want everything to be clean and aired out after a day in the dirt.
- Provide a deep cleanse for the skin
- Can remove lots of dead skin cells
- Can help your skin texture feel softer and look more radiant
- Can be used for a long time
- Can sometimes cause soreness or sun sensitivity
- Can be hard to find self-applied chemical peels
Who Should Use Chemical Peels?
Chemical peels are ideal for people who:
- Are focused on long-term skincare results. Because chemical peels usually have glycolic acid, they provide deep cleansing effects each time they’re used. All those deep cleanses will build up over time for longer-lasting results. Chemical peels encourage new skin cells to grow and penetrate into deeper layers. The more you use chemical peels (normally over months), the more your skin will get used to them and the softer and brighter your skin will stay over time
- Like peels that last a long time. Unlike enzyme peels, chemical peels have longer and more stable shelf lives. If you find a home use peel you enjoy, you’ll be able to rely on the container for a long time to come instead of having to go through the whole supply within a short timeframe
- Want to work up to harsher/more effective skincare treatments over time. You can purchase different acid peels at different levels of glycolic acid or other ingredients. So you can start with chemical peels that are a little better for new or sensitive skin, then progressively increase in peel efficacy until it’s more intense
What Are Enzyme Peels?
Enzyme peels are a lot gentler than chemical peels and can be more easily implemented into your skincare routine as a result. Enzyme peels use fruit enzymes that are taken from many fruits, including pomegranates, papaya, pumpkins, pineapples, and more.
The enzymes contained in these ingredients perform a gentler cleansing action. They still break up dead skin cells, but they do so without as much shredding or burning as a regular chemical peel. They also don’t usually get rid of any living skin cells, as their enzyme-based performance depends on certain proteins being present to work.
This allows enzyme peels to thoroughly cleanse your skin without as much irritation or skin sensitivity. Furthermore, many who use enzyme peels report additional benefits like the reduction of scars and age spots, smoothing of age lines, and better texture. Your face’s skin will likely look warmer and brighter while feeling softer as a result. These peels work without damaging your skin, too, so feel free to catch some sun after using an enzyme peel.
Some enzyme peels are also used for things other than exfoliation. For instance, peels like Suki Skin Care’s Resurfacing Enzyme Peel can help improve collagen production to firm and strengthen your skin and smooth out your complexion. It provides a myriad of health benefits to your skin without actually using a harsh exfoliant: a perfect match if you have more sensitive skin than most. Made with natural ingredients, it can provide ancillary benefits like:
- skin resurfacing
- skin brightening
- reduce fine lines
- skin tone evening
- pore cleansing
- blemish and blackhead reduction
- acne scar reduction
Or you can check out SukiSuki’s Renewal Bio-Resurfacing Facial Peel, which is made with several classic ingredients like glycolic acid. But it’s suitable for virtually all skin types. It can additionally provide powerful antioxidant protection, accelerate collagen production, and help to refine your pores to create a more radiant complexion.
However, enzyme peels are not quite as deep cleansing as chemical peels. This means that enzyme peels are a little less effective at clearing up things like face oil or acne. They also need to be used more frequently since the results they provide aren’t as long-lasting. Thankfully, it’s easier to find self-applied enzyme peels.
Also, enzyme peels can only be used at room or body temperature and may be compromised or damaged if they get too hot or cold.
- Gentler on the skin
- Provides good cleansing effects
- Can your skin’s appearance by reducing age lines, age spots, scars, and more
- Generally very healthy for your skin
- Effects are not as long-lasting as chemical peels
- Have to be used under strict temperatures
Who Should Use Enzyme Peels?
You might prefer enzyme peels if you:
- Have sensitive skin or skin that is easily irritated. Enzyme peels are simply much gentler on your skin and a lot more comfortable to use. Enzyme peels don’t remove any live skin tissue, so the only thing you should feel when you apply an enzyme peel is a mild tingling. This also means you don’t have to perform as much skin aftercare with enzyme peels as you do with chemical peels
- Are pregnant or breast-feeding. Chemical peels’ ingredients can sometimes be absorbed into the skin. Pregnant women may not want this effect, as certain chemicals could cause damage to the baby. Enzyme peels are made with all-natural ingredients and don’t have these same potential side effects. You should still consult with a medical professional before using any kind of peel while pregnant, of course
- You like to perform a daily exfoliation routine. Chemical peels are simply too intense to use every day. But enzyme peels are gentle enough that you can use them each day and enjoy fresh, radiant skin when you walk out the door. Granted, this does mean you’ll need to carve out a little extra time in your preparatory routine
Which Is Better for Your Skin Overall?
Both enzyme and chemical peels can be good choices for your skin depending on your unique skin chemistry and skincare needs. Enzyme peels are certainly healthier for your skin almost across the board, assuming you have regular skin and don’t need any particularly deeper cleansing. Enzyme peels don’t use any harsh chemicals and don’t remove any live skin cells from your face.
While chemical peels’ effects aren’t harmful in the long run, there’s still no doubt that not removing live skin cells is better for your skin overall.
However, chemical peels might be a good choice for your skin if you do need a deep cleansing. For instance, if you have really wide pores that constantly collect debris and facial oil, a chemical peel might be a little better at digging deep into multiple layers of skin and getting all that gunk out. Enzyme peels might still be able to do the job, but only after multiple applications and a longer span of time. A single chemical peel session will leave your skin truly feeling cleaned out… and a little more sensitive than normal!
Ultimately, enzyme and chemical peels alike can be valuable tools and excellent additions to any skincare routine. Carefully consider which one will suit your skin type best before choosing and you'll have a great experience. Know Your Beauty!